Digitization is a word on everyone’s lips. Today, more than ever, organizations are rapidly digitizing, as work-from-home and flex work protocols create a huge need for flexible, digital operations and infrastructure. 68% of organizations are moving to implement digital operational processes, which greatly change how people work. 

While digitization hugely impacts organizations, often offering cost-savings, reduced time investment from employees, and better customer service, it also means big change. Digital transitions are periods of intense change and stress.

Many employees will resist that change, and you may find resistance to be highest at the top. Implementing a successful HR program to ease the digitization process is critical to ensuring that digitization is a success, and that your organization moves through it with your greatest resource – the employees – still in place. 

This HR checklist for small businesses will help you determine if you’re ready to start digitization or if you still have work to do. 

Get Everyone Onboard 

Most small organizations can quickly and easily identify leadership, which consists of founders, managers, and team leads. In some cases, you also want to look at key people such as individuals who are looked up to, top performers, or individuals who otherwise drive their team. The advantage in small businesses is that everyone is close together and you can likely easily identify who will and will not make a difference.

McKinsey & Company identifies having leadership on board as one of the most important aspects of a successful digital transformation. If the people in charge, or the people driving the organization, are hyped about something, everyone else will get behind it too. But, small companies don’t really work that way. Everyone is working side by side, and chances are, you wouldn’t want to keep a big decision secret from everyone until you have time to convert leadership, even if you could. 

Here, it’s a good idea to deliver information to everyone as part of the decision-making process. Depending on the stakeholders and owners, this can take one of several routes, but should normally include: 

  • Reasons for the change 
  • What changes will be made
  • Who will be impacted 
  • How it will affect those people 
  • What jobs (if any) will be made redundant and what opportunities are 
  • What new roles will open up 

Involving your team as part of a decision is a powerful way to get them onboard and engaged, because they are part of the process from the start. That allows you to deliver the value proposition to the employee before the decision is pitched as final, so that everyone can pitch in and be involved.

Most importantly, if everyone knows what’s happening, who’s affected, and what their options are to stay with the company, you’ll reduce issues relating to churn as employees leave the company while anticipating being let go. 

Build a Strong Connection Between Digitization and Goals 

Digitization is often an important and necessary step for the organizations adopting it. No one decides to go through expensive and “traumatic” changes to business processes and solutions for nothing. Every digitization effort you put into place links to a real and tangible business goal. Share these goals and share how new tools help the organization to improve, compete in its market, reduce costs, and improve the employee experience.

Here, it may be a good idea to share projected benefits to reductions in manual data entry, cost reductions, improvements in Co2 footprint, or how digitization might make some jobs easier and more efficient, freeing people up to add value with their time. 

Update Processes to Incorporate Digital 

Any digitization project must include a comprehensive digitization of the organization. The processes people use to work must be updated to not only mention digital but incorporate it completely. Processes must be worked into the tooling, so that most people naturally follow process just by using the tools. 

Deliver Training for New Digital Programs 

Moving to digital tools can be an extreme change for some. HR can support this change by identifying how and where people need training and delivering that training before rollout finishes. Some training programs might include: 

  • Using software 
  • How new digital processes work 
  • How automated processes work 
  • Cybersecurity and password protection 
  • Using new hardware 

People have to know how to use new programs before they can work on them effectively. Teams should have a strong understanding of basic usage of any new software before it’s delivered, with opportunities to improve learning.

It’s also important to ensure that everyone understands what’s going on. Switching from manually approving accounts payable to automating most steps can be confusing to people in charge.

Automating digital document backups can be confusing for people accustomed to making paper copies. Ensuring that everyone is aware of what’s going on and has the tools to understand the technologies in place is critical for driving value with new solutions. 

Create a Digitization Team 

Most organizations will need some time to fully digitize. This can involve identifying processes for digitization, improving those processes, and then automating them.

It can also involve digitizing hundreds of thousands of paper records, creating new storage solutions, identifying bottlenecks and issues resulting from new technical demands, and making changes to prioritization as the organization’s needs become more apparent.

Most small organizations should create a cross-functional digitization team composed of HR, IT, and Operations, with people capable of making decisions, changing implementation, and managing the process. And, if you do have to scan and back up thousands of documents, you need a team in place to manage that as well. 

Involve Key People in Decisions and Developing Change 

Most people are well aware of what they need and how to improve their work. We hire experts to do work because they are experts. Yet, many digitization projects “talk down” to experts, forcing new solutions on them with little to no input.

Involving key people in decisions relating to software options, online storage, cloud tools, VPN, and other solutions can greatly streamline the digitization process, because people are empowered and involved. If people know that they are choosing a solution to improve their work, they are engaged and not just planning to adopt, but eager to do so. 

While this sort of hands on approach to digitization requires that leadership be on board with it, it can greatly improve the whole process. Why? Involving employees is one of the most powerful things you can do to shift mindsets away from “digitization is replacing workers” to “digitization is aiding workers”. 

Digital transformations can greatly change how and where an organization works. Digitization can enable your organization to seamlessly work from home with secure VPN connections and virtual computers.

It can automate print processes, so your organization goes paperless, greatly changing the work of accounts payable and payrolling. It can automate sales processes, integrating sales, finance, and marketing onto a single platform.

Whatever it does, it will bring change, and managing that change is critical to ensuring a successful transition. Remaining open, communicating clear expectations, offering alternatives, delivering training, and building trust in new processes are some of the most important roles of HR during a transition.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick