Fourth of a four-part series.

If you want employees to improve their digital skills as part of a digital workforce transformation, your training needs to be digitally minded, as well. It’s also vital to get employees engaged to move them in a digital direction.

As explained in my previous blog posts, training needs are best identified by maintaining a continuously updated depth chart as part of a master digital workforce transformation plan. To digitize your training effort, consider the following approaches and tools:

  • Communicate your vision for the digital journey. Illustrate the steps your business is taking to achieve digital excellence, using visual aids (such as maps) and job reference guides. Keep explanations of new digital tools and processes simple so they are more easily understood.
  • Create communities of practice and user groups for various technologies or systems, as well as events such as hackathons. Doing so will uncover talent and experience, and enable experts from various realms to meet and share ideas. These opportunities for collaboration can fuel “crowd learning” and help you identify employees who will fare best in digital work environments, such as Agile scrums.
  • Create a buddy system. By pairing employees together, such as developers, designers and quality assurance professionals, one of our insurance clients boosted on-the-job learning and improved quality by ensuring the workers trained each other in their respective skills and checked their partner’s work at every logical checkpoint. Forming new teams over time enables you to disseminate skills throughout the workforce and produce a pool of backups if staff members become unavailable.
  • Employ gamification techniques to improve the learning experience. Scenarios can be used to mirror actual business situations or workflows, further focusing the learning on mission-critical roadblocks or needs. Allowing employees to create their own endings to games or simulations can encourage them to brainstorm new digital business solutions. One of our retail clients created a game in which a legacy team reviews the work of a digital team and identifies practical ways to improve a new product or service. The more helpful changes the legacy team suggests, the more points they win. If the legacy team finds no problems, the digital team wins. The result: The legacy team learns more about the potential of digital technology, and the digital team learns about the process and data flows among the legacy systems, as well as the corporate culture and the practical realities of their employer’s business.
  • Contextualize learning by describing digital skills, technologies and workflows as they apply to your specific industry. The digital transformation required in retail will vary significantly from that required in, say, banking. A mobile app for the banking industry, for example, will require a much different look, features and regulatory and auditing capabilities than an on-line shopping app. One of our travel and hospitality clients used design thinking – a human-based framework for iterative thinking about complex, multi-disciplinary problems – during the development life cycle of its digital check-in/check-out capability to improve customer satisfaction and increase employee efficiency.

Increasing Employee Engagement: Social Media

While effective training can go far in moving employees in a digital direction, businesses also need to encourage employee engagement to ensure workers interact fully with digital tools and capabilities. The more employees engage with digital tools, the more information you’ll be able to gather on their skills, strengths and work styles, and the better you’ll be able to monitor progress on your digital workforce transformation.

One approach to encouraging digital employee engagement is to use social media tools, such as Yammer, to encourage an employee-led, “ground up” approach to developing the company’s strategic digital plans. This not only encourages collaboration but also makes it more likely employees will “own” the plan and work more effectively to make it succeed.

One of our customers orchestrated a social media forum filled with games, competitions, brainstorming and polls for employees, contractors and customers, aimed at developing a next-generation IT automation strategy.  The result was a plan better suited to the company’s actual needs, and that the workforce felt “they” developed for the company.  The new system took 40% less time to deploy than expected, and increased the percentage of documented IT processes that are automated. This reduced costs, increased agility and reduced manual errors.

In fact, we’ve inserted gamification into the Yammer social network to encourage an interactive approach to strategy development. The system awards points redeemable for cash, mementos and tickets to sporting or entertainment events to those whose suggestions gained the most “likes.” We’ve seen a significant rise in employee satisfaction scores ranking senior management communication and empowerment, and expect that will lead to higher productivity and retention over time.

Using Sensors to Increase Engagement

Another idea is to introduce the use of wearable sensors to analyze employee interactions and experiences. A major bank, for example, asked its call center staff to wear sensors on their employee badges that recorded their tone of voice as they went about their day-to-day work. The data showed that top-performing workers were the most likely to frequently converse with colleagues. As a result of this finding, the bank began scheduling workers’ breaks in groups rather than individually. The result: a 10% increase in productivity among call center employees.

In some of our labs, we use location and activity sensors to better understand our employee’s physical and online activities, and use the results to automatically send relevant literature to them.

It’s crucial to be completely open about your collection and intended use of this data, as well as any Code HaloTM data you collect. For example, at the bank, the sensors did not record the content of the conversations – just tone of voice – and the recordings were anonymized. Emphasize to employees that you want to use this type of information to improve the business and develop the strongest career track for each of them.

While the number and scope of the changes covered in this blog series may seem daunting, you don’t need to wait until you have the “perfect” transformation plan. Begin with changes that you think will provide even slight improvements in productivity and drive new thinking. You can then build on your successes to involve more stakeholders, more types of information, and faster feedback loops to more quickly fine-tune everything from hiring to training to work assignments.

This is the final post of a four-part series on digital workforce transformation. For a summary of the five key ingredients of workforce transformation, see the introduction to this series. For a closer look at depth charts, see part 2. For a full treatment of the master plan and technology foundation, see part 3.

Anbu Muppidathi

Anbu Muppidathi

Anbu Muppidathi is a member of Cognizant’s executive leadership team and is a senior leader in the company’s Digital Systems and Technology... Read more