One of the key cultural attributes of successful digital transformations, which we identified in our recent research on Culture for Digital/AI, is empowerment. The term and the concept are not new. In fact, many employees in organisations today sort of expect to be empowered to do their job. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence, the need for autonomy and empowerment becomes even more pressing.
Why does a successful digital transformation require empowerment?
- The purpose of most true digital transformations is to provide customers (in the broadest sense) a seamless experience. To do this, employees that are closest to customers need to be empowered to make those decisions that will benefit customers. They need to be in a position to influence the digital transformation in alignment with customer needs and feedback.
- Many digital transformations fail because they forget to listen to employees. Processes are digitised and implemented in a way that is not completely aligned with the transformation’s purpose. They miss on key elements that would make it better, but that employees are not able to share because they are not truly listened to.
- Digital transformation is not a technology project but a business project that needs to be embraced by every employee. Empowering employees to be part of the transformation is a key success factor. They can put their skills and expertise in service of the transformation.
What empowerment looks like in practice
Leaders and managers must learn how to:
- Set clear goals and communicate clearly
- Share information generously and transparently
- Release control, trust their employees’ skills
- Allow for mistakes
- Keep employees accountable
Employees must learn how to:
- Take initiative
- Think ahead and think more strategically
- Use their judgment and go off script – and make mistakes
- Be bold
- Assume responsibility for outcomes
The biggest impediment to empowerment that we find in our clients is the fear that many managers and leaders have to let go, to trust employees and release their need for control.
A number of personal beliefs need to be present in organisations for empowerment to be healthy. Some of them include:
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