From automation to enhanced customer experience, the need for digitization is rapidly accelerating in the freight forwarding industry. Due to a combination of stiffening competition and rising customer expectations, it’s becoming more important than ever to invest in software to take your organization to the next level.
However, simply building or buying a tech solution isn’t always enough to transform your company. Getting your team to leverage your tools to their full potential is crucial to producing results and yielding a return on your investment.
“You can have the best workflow automation process set up in your business, but… you’ve got to entirely rethink your way of working… if you’re slowing everything down on the back end, it’s not efficient.”
Sean Crook, Director of Neolink
Here are 3 ways to lead digital change management at your organization.
Identify the right leaders
Whether formal or informal, leveraging workplace influence is vital to launching a cohesive shift at your organization. When identifying effective change agents, look for individuals who you see advocating for practices to move the organization forward.
The “perfect candidate” will vary depending on your company culture. While some individuals are drawn to extroverts with strong leadership tendencies, others might prefer credibility and technical expertise. To choose an effective advocate who works horizontally across the organization, you’ll need to pay attention to what your employees respond to.
In addition to recruiting advocates, prepare your executive team to lead by example. In a survey conducted by the MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting about the adoption of technology in business, only 38% of respondents said that digital transformation was a permanent fixture on their CEO’s agenda. Ultimately, employees will be looking at top leadership to validate the plan and gauge whether their adoption efforts will be recognized.
For that reason, not only does your executive team need to approve the plan and budget, but they also need to buy in publicly. Make sure they understand the reasons behind the change, as well as how it connects to key goals and metrics.
Establish open communication
As with any organizational change, communication is critical to success. Before implementing your digital transformation, invest the time it takes to get your employees on board. After all, devoting resources toward aligning your team early in the process is better than dealing with resistance and confusion later on.
Present the strategy behind the change
Review the problems or inefficiencies in your organization that you plan to address with your new solution. Are you spending too much time working on manual tasks? Has human error increased due to communication issues? Is employee turnover or customer churn increasing?
Whatever issues your organization is facing, be sure to lay them out clearly and quantitatively. Then, explain how this technology will help remedy them. Make sure to facilitate additional meetings on a department level to discuss nuances. Although it’s important to provide context on the big picture, employees also want to know how the change will affect them specifically.
In the MIT Sloan/Capgemini study, 63% of executives and managers said that the pace of technology change in their organization is too slow. The most frequently cited obstacle to digital transformation? Lack of urgency.
By showing employees how integrating tech will directly benefit the organization, you’ll motivate them to prioritize quicker adoption.
Bring employees into the conversation
Once you’ve presented your plan to employees, give them a chance to ask questions. Be transparent in addressing concerns, and provide clear expectations for when you begin the transition. Look out for any naysayers, or individuals who seem especially resistant to change. Note that you may need to make an extra effort to win them over before their skepticism discourages the rest of the team.
On the other hand, recognize that there will likely be some potential downsides to the change, especially in the short-term. Be transparent about the negatives, and talk about how you’re planning to address them. It’s okay not to have all of the answers at the start, but make sure your conversations reflect the detailed discussions and thought process behind the decision.
Support employees throughout the process
Changing long-held habits can be tough, and it’s important to allow your employees enough time to adjust. Especially when it comes to technology, some of your team might be a lot more comfortable learning a new tool or system than others. That’s why supporting employees is a necessary (and ongoing) step in ensuring team-wide adoption.
Invest in training
When faced with tight timelines and resources, it can be tempting to cut back on less “productive” activities like employee education. However, insufficient training may cost you much more in the long run. In fact, bolstering your team with experience and technical know-how is key to undergoing a successful digital transformation.
Shane D’Aprile, director of OrangeLime Consulting, pointed out this growing necessity in the industry in a recent webinar. “As the tools become more tech driven, right, we need to either bring people on that are more… comfortable with using those types of tools, or you’ve got to raise your own team up to understand how to use [them],” he said.
To make sure no one gets left behind in the transition, invest in training that works for all of your employees. Consider custom options for different learning styles. While some may prefer on-demand videos that they can replay when they get lost, others might learn better with live training where they can ask questions throughout.
One teaching strategy you can implement is “see one, do one, teach one.” Often practiced in the medical field, this method is just as it sounds: observe a procedure, execute the procedure yourself, and teach another trainee how to perform it.
Based on findings about the power of hands-on learning, SODOTO is believed to transfer knowledge more efficiently than lecture-based teaching. Although some medical professionals have more recently sparked debate over concerns of patient safety, it’s still an effective strategy for lower-risk activities like software training.
Regardless of the training strategy you implement, make sure to follow up continuously after the initial push. For team members who learn better independently, try to provide learning materials and training guides for them to study on their own. You might even consider getting access to a help center they can visit to ask questions as they come up.
Budget time and resources to implement the change
In an attempt to save money and move faster, many organizations sabotage their own digitization efforts by assigning managers change management tasks in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities.
Recognize that your leaders have a limited bandwidth, and prioritizing one effort often means deprioritizing another. Before you launch (and throughout the transition), check in with your managers to gauge their workload, and be ready to provide additional resources if needed. If they’re already overwhelmed by their current projects, less concrete tasks like training and support will likely end up left by the wayside.
Finding and buying the right software is key to digitizing your freight forwarding operation. However, it’s only the first step.
Thorough preparation and follow-through is crucial to achieving a successful digital transformation and making the most out of your technology. It also helps to get support from the experts as you navigate the process. As you search for the right solution for your company, look for a partner who will support your organization in adopting change.