How to win over key stakeholders during digital transformation

Digital transformation requires buy-in at all levels of your organization. Here's how to create a tailored communications and engagement plan for four crucial groups
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As COVID-19 accelerates the need for workforce reinvention and digital transformation, CIOs and tech teams have an urgent and multi-faceted mandate: They must quickly provide virtual services, drive e-commerce, enhance the consumer experience, and improve digital revenue generation. This mandate is forcing CIOs in nearly every industry to step up their game.

With their organizations facing multiple complex changes, CIOs who focus on the people aspects to ensure successful adoption will stand out from their peers and demonstrate their value.

To succeed in this new environment, CIOs and their teams must not only find ways to sustain energy and commitment for the long term, but also engage, educate, and equip the organization’s primary stakeholders.

Each stakeholder group, or energy center, has its own unique needs, and each has the ability to help the organization achieve optimal strategic impact.

[ Are you struggling with any of these transformation stumbling blocks? Read also: Digital transformation: 5 reasons why it still fails. ]

During a technology transition, here’s how CIOs can create a tailored communications and engagement plan for the following four energy centers:

The C-suite

Position C-suite leaders to take a visible and active role in advocating for change. Employees want to hear from senior leadership, and executives must communicate regularly in an authentic and inspiring way that links tactics to outcomes and the company’s fundamental purpose.

To help build awareness and advocacy across the organization, C-suite leaders need to communicate their vision, along with a compelling reason for change. All members of the executive leadership team should use consistent and coordinated messaging so that employees hear the same thing, regardless of where they sit in the organization.

Leadership tip: Use every channel at your disposal to reach others in the organization and provide opportunities for two-way dialogue. This will enhance your visibility as a leader, help you understand how well the change is taking root, and determine any course corrections that may be needed.

The "magic middle"

This group is composed of leaders and managers who are one to two levels up from the front-line employees, and three or more levels down from the C-suite. Their potential is “magical” because they are uniquely positioned to make things happen. That is, they are close to the day-to-day business, including employees and the end consumer, and as a result, they become the eyes and ears of the organization.

As the eyes are ears of the organization, the "magic middle" are uniquely positioned to make things happen.

Because they report to more senior leaders, they also have a line of sight into the company strategy and vision. As such, they are often tasked with translating company initiatives to their teams in a way that inspires action and commitment. Middle managers are often forgotten, but it is essential to equip and empower them to help translate the vision into the day-to-day.

Leadership tip: Invest in training for this group, even if that training is as simple as providing a “meeting-in-a-box” that includes key messages, a basic presentation deck, and frequently asked questions. This way, mid-level leaders have consistent messages and answers that they can cascade to their teams.

The manager/coach

Direct supervisors help employees make the transition to new technologies and ways of working through role-modeling new behaviors, coaching conversations, and providing incentives and rewards. Help them understand the essential role they play in driving successful change adoption by providing manager-specific training and tools.

Leadership tip: Create tools that include the same key messages about the vision for change that were communicated at higher levels, but also provide more tactical, hands-on information related to the new behaviors required to implement and sustain the changes.

Frontline employees

At the end of the day, individuals need to make the decision to change. 

At the end of the day, individuals need to make the decision to change. When you place the employee at the center of communications and training activities, you can set clear expectations and encourage them to be a part of the transformation process by conveying what’s in it for them. Make sure you understand the needs of all of your stakeholder groups, including those who are directly and indirectly impacted, and involve them in your engagement initiatives. Finally, create regular feedback opportunities so that leaders can hear directly from employees.

Leadership tip: Remember to pay attention to resistors – those closest to the change may have good reasons for resistance that need to be surfaced and addressed.

When it comes to digital transformation, if you build it, there are no assurances they will come. People are the key ingredient in making transformations successful.

COVID-19 has increased our reliance on technology solutions, and savvy technology leaders have the opportunity to seize this momentum to make a significant impact on their organizations. But you must bring your people along on the journey – because in the end, it is your people who will make or break the organization’s success.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Andrea Grossman is a senior consultant at Notion Consulting. She has 20 years of experience leading complex, large-scale, cross-business change initiatives in a variety of functions. Prior to joining Notion, Andrea led change initiatives in the financial services industry.