When dragging your organisation into the digital world, remember the end goal

Paul Boag

Digital transformation teams and Chief Digital Officers are all well and good. But in the end you want every employee to be using digital tools on a daily basis. That is going to take training and education.

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The idea of digital transformation seems to have rocketed up the agenda of many c-suites over the last year. It is heartening to see their enthusiasm and desire to adapt to better serve connected consumers. But in our enthusiasm many are in danger of missing one of the primary objectives.

To make use of digital and meet the needs of connected consumers it is not enough to create a digital silo or write digital strategy. We need to empower every employee to make use of the tools we as digital professionals take for granted.

The goal should be to make digital as ubiquitous as electricity within our organisations. We use electricity without thinking about it and could not operate without it. A digital organisation operates in the same way. Digital is a part of every aspect of the business and is essential for day-to-day operation.

This all sounds reasonable. But what is your plan for ensuring all your employees are comfortable and familiar with digital tools?

In my experience most organisations have a somewhat half-hearted approach to digital training. They may provide CMS training and have a few guidelines hidden somewhere on the intranet, but that is all.

If we want digital transformation to happen education and training needs to be at the heart of everything we do.

This kind of training and educational program takes one of two forms. Active training and passive education.

Active training

Many organisations provide basic digital training. Training about content management systems, writing for the web and even social media. But these are not enough.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not criticising these kinds of face to face training sessions. They are invaluable. People can ask questions and have their hand held through the process. In fact I would encourage organisations to widen the training they offer.

My problem is that they are forgotten if people don’t have the opportunity to use what they have learnt daily. We need to supplement face to face training with other material.

Time to improve our documentation

Good documentation is an important part of encouraging digital adoption in organisations. Done right they support face to face training and provide an alternative for self learners.

The problem is that most documentation sucks. Written by people with no background in teaching, they are often dry, confusing and over the head of most employees.

If we are serious about becoming digitally centric organisations we need to step up our game. Take a look at the documentation provided by groups like the Government Digital Service or Mailchimp. They have put a lot of effort into making these documents engaging, informative and easy to understand.

Organisations like Mailchimp who get digital understand that good documentation is an esential component in success.
Organisations like Mailchimp who get digital understand that good documentation is an esential component in success.

Instead of just writing reams of text, we need to craft learning experiences. Experiences that make use of imagery, video and interactive lessons. We need to take all we know about making engaging user experiences and apply it to our own training material.

Good training is no excuse for bad software

Talking of improving the user experience, we need to improve the usability of our internal systems. Much of the training and documentation we provide could be irrelevant. All we need to do is take the time to improve the user interfaces of the software we use in-house. After all, why do I need to go on a training course to use your content management system when I can pick up Squarespace.com with no help?

Passive education

But sending your employees on a training course or putting some pretty documentation on the intranet is not enough. It will not by itself help employees to become comfortable with digital. They also need to be apart of an ongoing programme of education. In other words we need to be drip feeding them digital best practice and showing them how digital could help in their jobs.

Through internal blogs, newsletters and even podcasts, we need to expose them to all that digital offers.

This approach will not teach them specific skills. But it will excite them about the possibilities of digital and give them ideas about how it can help them in their role.

This sounds expensive

You would be forgiven for thinking that you will never get the funding for this. You have no idea how frustrating I find that. I can get organisations to pay me for a digital strategy. I see huge investments in some new technology that nobody knows how to use. But getting management to pay for good training material is an uphill battle.

This despite the fact it provides considerable productivity savings. More than that, education is the biggest factor in making a company more digitally friendly.

Of course moaning about this not happening is no answer. Instead we need to start small. A small set of training materials on one specific subject area. Then we need to canvas opinion and track its success (or otherwise) to justify further investment. Only then will we start to embed a culture of digital education within our organisations.

If want help making this case and running a proof of concept project, get in touch.