Digital transformation: How to avoid team burnout

Keeping up with the many emerging innovations that comprise digital transformation can quickly lead to burnout. Here’s how to keep your IT team engaged and productive – and your DX initiative moving forward
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Digital enablement has become a core tenet of every part of a business – and staying on top of rapidly evolving innovations in digital transformation has never been more stressful for tech teams.

Tech workers feel immense pressure to integrate every new technology at once and are increasingly exhausted managing the constant selection, implementation, and ongoing support of all these innovations. Such workloads are not only unsustainable, but they also aren’t scalable when it comes to driving business outcomes.

As an IT leader, you should check in regularly with your employees as feelings of burnout are on the rise – primarily due to excessive stress and fatigue. It’s not always easy to spot an employee running on fumes, but even subtle changes can indicate frustration.

[ Also read IT leadership: How to defeat team burnout. ]

If the team is working on an especially time-intensive or rigorous project, pay close attention to how employees react to it. Are they becoming easily overwhelmed, frustrated, or even withdrawn from their work? It may be time to touch base with your employees and ensure their workloads are manageable.

Also, be aware of inconsistencies in work or errors, which could indicate exhaustion. Sudden diminished work quality from an employee who has routinely delivered exceptional projects and assignments is almost always caused by burnout. In my experience, this is a big indicator that it’s time to check in with that employee and revisit expectations.

Here are three ways to effectively scale your organization’s digital transformation while mitigating excessive stress for your employees:

1. Clarify the scope of business

If they don’t understand the scope, teams have too many competing priorities. When implementing new technology, you must be willing to honestly assess and shift operations as needed, especially regarding goals and KPIs. Every innovation cannot be integrated all at once.

2. Know when to prioritize old vs. the new

Maintaining an “all hands on deck” approach to old technology processes is inefficient while attempting to evolve with innovations. Understanding how to effectively divide and conquer with tech teams on old and new technology clarifies expectations and alleviates the burden on employees of trying to manage both simultaneously.

3. Pivot when necessary

Constantly shifting an internal structure to keep up with digital transformation and the newest customer demands while staying ahead of cyclical developments plays a major role in mitigating employee burnout. By pivoting the focus from large-scale implementations to more easily aligning internal systems with business needs, employee workflows are better streamlined by integrating new technology – making the process less of a major undertaking.

One of the main goals of new technology is to make people’s lives easier. Implementing digital transformation is driven by tech employees, and championing their efforts is imperative to preventing burnout.

The entire organization succeeds when tech employees can effectively implement new technology, are comfortable with their workload, and ultimately are proud of their contributions.

[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

Steve Watt is the senior vice president and chief information officer of Hyland, a content management services provider in the US. He has worked at the company for more than 18 years and is responsible for leading the organization's IT strategy.