by Jessica Thiefels | July 10, 2019

To stay relevant, many businesses need to undergo a complete digital transformation. A 2018 survey from Tech Pro found that 70 percent of respondents said their company had a strategy in place to tackle traditional problems with innovative, digital solutions -- or were actively working on one. 

Though these changes are positive, employees may struggle to get on board. From fear of losing their jobs to a simple discomfort with change, motivating employees during a digital transformation can be difficult. This means employees need to be motivated and agile; adapting your leadership style to address that need is critical.

Scott Terrell, CIO of HealthMarkets, is familiar with the needs of digital transformation. He explains: "I believe it is important to be prepared to improve your personal leadership style and abilities. Digital transformation depends on excellent leadership because it will significantly change the way your department functions."

What's more, failure is inevitable during times of change; just another reason for employees to  be motivated  and feel supported: "You need to expect that you're not always going to get something 100 percent right all of the time -- there will be times you fail. But you must know how to adjust and manage through those setbacks," says Terrel.

Get employees ready for the changes to come and motivated to move through failures and set-backs, with these best practices.

How to Help Employees Manage a Company's Digital Transformation

Communicate early and often

Let your staff know about the technological changes long before the transformation actually takes place. Neil Harvey, chief technology officer of Kirona, recommends communicating with staff in short bursts. Harvey says: "…communications should take a little and often approach, rather than a single blanket announcement. The key is to communicate to staff what is being deployed, why it is being deployed, and how it will affect each individual employee, which may mean tailoring the communication to different staff groups.

After announcing the digital transformation, ask your employees for feedback regularly, and take the feedback on board.

Be prepared to answer questions about the new technology such as:

● Will this technology make my job obsolete? 
● What are the benefits of this technology? 
● What does this mean for my role? 
● How are things going to change? 
● I don't know how to work with this technology. Is this a problem?
● This technology won't help the areas of the business that need it most. Why aren't we focusing on those areas?

Staff members are on the ground every day, and therefore more likely to know about the areas that need optimizing. Don't let your vision of how the transformation should go get in the way of learning what truly needs to be prioritized. 

Empower your employees with goals

If you want employees to play an active role in transformation, they need to know what is expected of them. Yet, only 21 percent of employees feel they have the performance management needed to do their jobs, according to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace. Part of great performance management is setting employees up for success with clear goals that define what is expected of them. This also acts as a road map that allows them to do their best work.

Heading into a period of change, set specific goals, both on a team and one-on-one employee level. Make this process collaborative, suggests Gallup: "Collaborative goal setting ensures that employees have a voice in setting performance expectations that are fair, relevant and challenging. The process creates buy-in and helps employees define success in their roles." During a trying time, this can make the difference between employees who are engaged and those who are disengaged.

Upskill your team

In 2019, 82 percent of mid-level jobs require digital skills, a 4 percent increase from just five years ago, according to Capital One. As such, the World Economic Forum estimates that 54 percent of today's workforce will need significant reskilling by 2022.

Motivate employees during times of digital transformation with upskilling, which allows them to feel confident with the new pace of business. While you'll need to train employees on new software, offer remedial training opportunities, as well, based on requests or the skill sets needed for each team. This shows that you care about your employees' success and are willing to invest in their growth.

Motivate employees during transformation

Change is difficult in any organization. Avoid major challenges by communicating with employees early, empowering them to be a part of the process, and upskilling where possible. Use this as a baseline and make changes as needs come up throughout the process. The best thing you can do is stay connected with your team from start to finish.

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and Fast Company. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.