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Internal Comms: The Key to Aligning Digital Transformation and EX

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

13 Sept 2023

How to harness internal comms to align your digital transformation and EX strategies, engaging your people like never before.

It’s hard to imagine a time when employee engagement has been more important. The way we work is changing fundamentally, with new locations, work patterns, technology, and employee demands. 

All of this gives rise to a new reality. It’s one where companies have to reimagine the employee experience and work harder to communicate a shared sense of purpose. 

There’s so much at stake. Happy employees are more productive, they contribute, innovate, and collaborate more successfully. A study by the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School found happy workers to be 13% more productive

On the flip side, if they feel isolated, unheard, or undervalued, they find it harder to stay motivated. Employee engagement levels fell to a new low in 2022, with Gallup reporting that 18% of workers feel actively disengaged in their jobs.

Organizational and cultural impacts of digital transformation

Changes to established work practices can be daunting. This is particularly true in the case of digital transformation.

What’s considered less frequently are the organizational and cultural impacts. As companies transform entire business models and reshape processes, they often overlook the need to realign their organizational culture.

A strong company culture is essential to foster employee satisfaction and retention, so it’s vital to understand how it’s going to change during digital transformation. Not only that, organizational culture plays a pivotal role in leading technology change. 

Let me explain. 

Empowering employees to adapt 

When employees are asked to adapt to new ways of working and serving customers, there can be a lag in the company policies that help them do it. 

During transformation, a positive and supportive workplace culture can be eroded if employees find it hard to adapt. In fact, change can be met with internal resistance if it’s not communicated properly. That’s why internal comms is an indispensable tool to manage change of all kinds. There are practical reasons, like:

  • Communicating must-know information 
  • Getting feedback and employee insights 
  • Creating a forum for knowledge-sharing 
  • Explaining the implications for customers  
  • Training and upskilling  
  • Dealing with new security risks  

While these functions are important, the role of internal comms, more broadly, is to help employees adapt on their own terms. By giving employees ownership, internal comms empowers them to make a difference. It’s about including everyone in the journey to transformation. 

Fostering inclusion

The idea that decisions are being made outside employees’ control, with little input from them, creates the impression that they don’t matter. After all, digital transformation should benefit employees by making their lives easier. 

For employees, feeling they’re not in control and don’t have ownership of business goals is far from ideal. When employees understand why decisions are made, and what the potential benefits and challenges for them will be, they feel included. 

Be proactive about internal comms, even before change happens, to plug knowledge gaps, avoid surprises, and ensure that employee experience doesn’t suffer. 

Creating a virtuous circle

Digital transformation is complex and takes place in stages with clearly defined milestones and objectives. 

Take, for example, when a corporate website is being overhauled to keep pace with evolving business needs. In a project like this, there can be huge potential for disruption, so it must be planned carefully. 

The stages could involve:

  • Defining the scope of the project plan  
  • Planning resources and building a team  
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities 
  • Managing the output against project timelines  
  • Troubleshooting and ensuring quality  

With so many stakeholders, achieving success will depend on creating a business-wide feedback loop. A virtuous circle, as it’s otherwise known, protects companies against organizational instability in times of complex change. 

Virtuous circle theory has four phases – perception, formation, transmission, and responsibility – and they are all designed to create a chain of events where one positive outcome promotes another. This makes it a great tool to have in your arsenal when aligning digital transformation and EX.

Getting buy-in to encourage adoption 

At the outset, digital transformation requires a clear vision, goals, and roadmap. But even the best-laid plans can be undone by a lack of employee buy-in. 

The answer is to create a change management communication plan that encourages trust. Use it to lay the foundations for change. 

The plan should include key aspects like:

  • The message and communication style 
  • The best channels to amplify the message 
  • Key people, mentors, and critical influencers 
  • Support teams to help ease concerns 

Culture plays a central role in successful change management. A culture that embeds trust and offers the safety to speak up will help smooth any major business transition. 

The goal of internal communications is to create an informed audience. Ongoing information must include clear goals, promote collaboration, and provide support to those affected by the transformation. 

To help employees navigate change, an organization must show compassion and convey it in both actions and words. Even when people are struggling to adapt, they will eventually buy in if communication is frequent, relevant, and empathetic.

Agility and transformation vision

In times of transformation, the best leaders and managers champion personal, one-to-one interaction that removes barriers to change. 

Those interactions are vastly improved by the use of internal comms and employee engagement tools that collect vital data on how employees are coping. 

The role of internal comms in change management is to help realign the strategy and culture of an organization. But unless the tools you use give you the insight needed, you’ll lack the agility to significantly improve employee experience. Honing your messaging to maximize engagement is tricky when you don’t fully understand their needs. 

Collaboration tools that promote interaction on common interests and challenges are another vital cog in the employee experience wheel. 

After all, this is about sharing your company’s transformation vision and also making sure everyone can have their say.   

Embracing tools to align digital transformation and EX

At a time when employees are restructuring their relationship with work, more companies are investing in digital tools to help them succeed. 

In a recent EX Report, 84% of surveyed professionals agreed that improving their ability to support remote, hybrid, and in-person employees is a top business priority. The same survey found that 52% of employees believe software related to their employee experience is dated and difficult to use.

When digital transformation is top of mind, reinforcing a positive and inclusive workplace culture is vital to success. 

Workvivo’s comprehensive employee experience platform makes use of the latest mobile and desktop technology to enable you to communicate clearly and effectively with all employees, align your digital transformation and EX strategies, and build a happier workplace.