The Most Critical Transformation Driver? Your Workforce

Digital transformation is often all about the technology—which is important—but it’s really only half of the equation, according to panelists at Adobe Summit’s Marketing Innovation track, which took place Tuesday evening in Las Vegas.

The Most Critical Transformation Driver? Your Workforce

by Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 03-13-2018

The hidden engine of digital transformation is your workforce, according to panelists at Adobe Summit’s Marketing Innovation track, which took place Tuesday evening in Las Vegas.

The discussion featured Donna Morris, Adobe’s EVP of Customer and Employee Experience, and Jamie Gutfreund, Wunderman’s global CMO. It was moderated by Katie Juran, Adobe’s senior director of diversity and inclusion.

According to Morris and Gutfreund, digital transformation is often all about the technology—which is important—but it’s really only half of the equation. The other part is talent. As a result, attracting the right people and getting your workforce future-ready are huge priorities for leaders.

“I’m always really surprised with the effort that clients put into selecting technology and not accounting for the impact that the tech will have on the workforce and company overall,” Gutfreund said.

Talent Strategy Follows Business Strategy

Adobe, for example, evolved its business model from a product in a box that was updated every 12 to 18 months to a cloud-based service. This required changes throughout the organization involving structure, skills, and competency, Morris said. For example, Adobe developers had to get used to working with agile software methodologies given the frequency of product updates, versus being on a year-plus cycle.

“There hasn’t been one single aspect of people and processes that hasn’t changed since we changed the business model,” Morris said.

Gutfreund pointed out that while an organization’s technology decisions often come from IT or the CTO, the people who feel them the most—the users—don’t always have clarity or a vision for what’s expected of them.

“People discount how important that is,” she said. “It’s human nature to avoid change. We are all in the human behavior business, and we need to change. It’s scary to drive that change, and the other side is scary, too.”

That’s why companies need to hire people and provide existing employees with the necessarily knowledge and skills to bring the business strategy to life. “When leading someone, you have to continue to paint what the picture is and where you are going,” Morris said, adding to ask the question: “How are you working collectively to get there?”

Step one, Gutfreund said, is to start with the vision. Companies need to determine what the best customer experience they want to create is and then figure out how to achieve that through technology.

Finding Change Agents

And don’t forget: Change takes time, Morris said. Her advice to leaders is to identify who the early adopters are within the organization; they will help drive change. These individuals can articulate what the overall organizational strategy means for their functions, specifically.

“The bulk of your people are going to follow someone else, and the early adopters are the ones you rely on to paint the picture and drive change,” Morris said.

In addition, be aware that a small percentage of individuals will be “naysayers” who can derail an organization’s ability to go in a new direction, she added. “If you can get 80% to 90% there, fine, but there’s a portion of your workforce that won’t ever get there,” Morris said.

Hiring And Keeping Employees Engaged

By taking care of employees, companies are actually taking care of their customers, Gutfreund said. When hiring, she looks for “people who are comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

A recent Wunderman study found that just 42% of people within organizations view themselves as game-changers—and the rest don’t. In other words, a smaller portion of people are comfortable with trying new things and taking risks. On top of that, 72% of organizations won’t sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term gains. So that begs the question: How do you keep employees engaged?

According to Adobe’s Morris, companies that have been around awhile, that have seen good days and bad days, are well-positioned to see when and where change is needed. Often the way to keep employees engaged is to ensure they’re building a culture that can change. “Culture changes, but values stay the same,” she said. “And companies that last a long time are really staying true to their core values. Use your legacy to your advantage.”

Companies also need to build a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, because bringing in different perspectives is going to be key to a company’s success.

“Companies have a wide variety of customers, and you need a wide variety of people as well,” Morris said. “Diversity and inclusion is about [everyone]. Everyone should feel like they have the opportunity to participate. And there needs to be systems and processes in place to allow everyone to participate.”

At the end of the discussion, Juran asked Morris and Gutfreund about their favorite questions for job candidates.

Morris asks: If I were ask someone who works for you, what are they going to tell me about you? “EQ is a big factor for me and how people perceive themselves,” she explained. “Someone’s self-awareness is indicative of who they are.”

Gutfreund likes to ask people what they read. “You can’t fake it,” she said. “And I want to make sure that whoever I hire is interested in something. Curiosity and the ability to be self-directed in your learning is important. Don’t be a know-it-all. Be a learn-it-all.”

Topics: Insights & Inspiration, Leadership, Experience Cloud, Trends & Research, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Future of Work, CMO by Adobe