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Employee engagement necessary for digital transformation projects

With four generations of employees in the workplace and confusion about projects, technology adoption efforts can fall flat. Here's how you can reach your workforce.

ORLANDO -- Employees today face many challenges to productivity -- distractions from various channels of communication, disconnected systems, security and compliance risk, along with four generations of workers that work differently.

It's inevitable that at some point businesses undertake a digital transformation project and will engage employees to adopt new technology that will help them collaborate, be more productive and address these challenges.

Many businesses may choose to move legacy on-premises content management and collaboration platforms to cloud systems such as SharePoint Online and OneDrive, both part of the Office 365 Enterprise packages.

"It's often more cost effective to rent computing resources in the cloud rather than buy your own hardware and run it in your own IT infrastructure," said Geoffrey Bock, principal of Bock & Company, a consultancy and research company based in Newton, Mass.

Software updates also roll out automatically, and cloud systems are accessible where and when you need them.

Microsoft recently acquired Mover.io to provide easier migration capabilities to OneDrive for users currently using Box, Dropbox and Google Drive. It also released its own tools to enable SharePoint classic users to move to SharePoint Online and OneDrive, in addition to rolling out new features to the cloud systems.

But unfortunately for many organizations, their digital transformation projects don't go as planned. For every $1 billion invested in the United States, $122 million is wasted due to poor project performance, according to research from the Project Management Institute.

But by keeping employees informed and with some planning, projects can be successful, said Stephen Rose, senior product marketing manager for Microsoft 365, during a session on unlocking success in digital transformations at Microsoft Ignite 2019.

Understanding how employees work

There are currently four generations of employees that make up the workforce. They each have different ways of working and look at devices differently:

  • Baby boomers, 1946 to 1964 -- 4%
  • Generation X, 1965 to 1980 -- 38%
  • Millennials, 1981 to 2000 -- 40%
  • Generation Z, 2000 and later -- 18%

Boomers and Gen X rely on email as their mode of communication in the workplace, which millennials and Gen Z see as a way to send out a company blast telling everyone there are doughnuts in the breakroom. Millennials and Gen Z would rather use a method of direct communication.

As you think about change, think about these generational differences.
Stephen RoseSenior product marketing manager for Microsoft 365

Rose said he has a 16-year-old daughter who does not see a difference between a phone and a laptop. When he asked why, she said, "It's just a way to get to my shit in the cloud."

A business' number one goal is to hire and retain great talent, Rose said.

"These kids grew up in the cloud; they grew up using Office Online and Google Docs," he said. "As you think about change, think about these generational differences."

Driving digital transformation with employee engagement

There are a number of reasons why companies fail to get employees on board with digital transformation efforts, including not articulating the need for change, having no action plan and not giving employees the tools and capacity for change or a clear vision for the future, Rose said.

Employee engagement is necessary to drive digital transformation, and here are some tips to follow:

  • Start communication efforts early, and frequently. Use both traditional and digital methods to reach all employees. Give them information such as what's going on, what your vision is, how it's going to work and technology training dates.
  • Use a targeted mix of communication channels, such as emails, posters, meetings and videos to reach employees in each age demographic.
  • Be informative but don't overwhelm employees. If you send an email be sure to keep it brief.
  • Understand the change curve. It is normal for each employee to go through each of these seven phases: shock, denial, frustration, depression, experimentation, decision-making and integration.

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