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The “New Normal” of Digital Transformation: Reflections on 2020

As I sit in my quiet home office, I can’t help but reflect on the last year. Last fall I had just flown home from a crazy, energizing week in Las Vegas at HR Tech. I attended keynotes, sessions, and demos where practitioners, thought leaders, and vendors spoke about the need to think about how digital transformation is going to impact Talent Management. All with great recommendations and predictions about which technology would best address the needs of organizations. What a difference a year makes. Who could have predicted that in the space of a few months that our world could change so dramatically that it would redefine digital transformation as we knew (or thought we knew) it!

Strategy? What Strategy? Digital Transformation Strategy

A year ago, digital transformation focused on how we deliver technology to support how we work. Blurring the lines of consumer experiences and the employee experience. This year, my dog and I attended HR Tech from the comfort of my home office and with very few exceptions, every session I attended started by saying (Or, at the very least, implying) that the digital transformation strategy you were developing a year ago needs to change. In fact, with the pace of change, is it even reasonable to develop a strategy? A year ago, themes focused on how to apply technology to hyper-personalize every aspect of talent management and the employee lifecycle. A year later, it’s all about resilience, mindfulness, empathy, trust, and how technology will need to be able to address the ‘softer side’ of talent management. How can we take a very ‘human’ challenge and apply technology to address it, at scale, in a way that doesn’t ‘de-humanize’ it. A year ago, managers could drop by a team member’s desk for a casual check-in and organizations could hold in-person meetings to recognize individual contributions. These simple gestures made employees feel valued and had additional positive side effects like improved performance, increased engagement, and retention. So how can organizations fill this void now that they have had to quickly change to remote working or rapidly pivot their businesses? Organizations are now scrambling to find digital solutions that can act as a proxy for the, much needed, human connection that employees crave and have never needed more!

How can we take a very 'human' challenge and apply technology to address it, at scale, in a way that doesn't 'de-humanize' it.

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Check-Ins, Feedback, and Recognition: Non-Negotiable

Check-ins, feedback, and recognition are not optional activities and check all the boxes on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Where managers are concerned, these activities should be as important as anything in their day. They need to be intentionalsincere, and well planned. But they shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of managers. For a company to be firing on all cylinders, employees also need to play a part. The ability for both managers or employees to schedule check-ins, and for any employee in the organization to be able to ask for or provide feedback to anyone is key to growth and development. I recently heard it said that we should treat feedback as a gift because it allows us to see blind spots in ourselves. Without this, self-awareness and growth cannot happen.

Check IN. Don’t Check ON.

Applying technology to solve for these activities can help normalize them and help to build a culture of continuous learning and growth with expected side effects of better individual performance. And in our <ahem> ‘new normal’, where many of us no longer go into an office, checking ‘in’ and not checking ‘on’ is so much more important.

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