Digital transformation has spurred new and innovative ways of doing business, both by increasing productivity and efficiency internally — and by creating better customer experiences across the board.

In short, transformation means change. And not just technological change.  All transformation can impact an organization. You need your employees to be agents of change in all they do, as much as you need technology itself to bring change.

But some people just don’t like change. In workplaces undergoing essential digital transformation, you’re going to encounter groups of resistance — disengaged staff or people who aren’t going to go along without a fight. These people are often — mistakenly — labeled troublemakers, and there’s an assumption they will always want to oppose management-directed changes, even when those changes seem positive to their work.

Disengaged employees, however, are sometimes the result of improper management.  It’s important to remember that the workplace culture has to be continually monitored and managed to ensure that the right attitudes flourish. It’s never too late to introduce your teams to a new approach, one that encourages engagement in the company’s transformation. With the right approach, your team will feel empowered to contribute positively to the end result.


Talk, talk, talk.

Tiptoeing around a problem of disengagement can perpetuate negativity, and that has an impact on whole teams. Frankly, it’s often the smallest issues that could be easily addressed that turn into the biggest problems. There’s a lot to be said for tackling these issues early on to prevent them from growing into big, thorny weeds that can choke your company.

The rationale I often hear for not addressing these issues is that managers don’t want to offend people or risk having the problem grow and spread. But it’s important to address an issue head-on — to sit down, start a dialogue with a disengaged employee and bring the issue into the open.

Be prepared to hear something you might not like but focus on your long-term aim — successful transformation for the entire organization.

Once you’ve listened to employees’ concerns, you can determine if these need to be addressed, and if so, how to address them most efficiently. The aggrieved employee will likely be happier feeling their concerns have been heard by management, sometimes even before a solution is in place. And this type of dialogue shouldn’t be be reserved for a crisis. By making open discussion part of your team’s culture, you’ll reduce the likelihood of groups or individuals becoming cynical or isolated in the future, and ensure they engage consistently — and positively — with the digital transformation journey.


Give them a role.

The most productive teams and organizations make everyone feel invested in change — after all, it affects everyone, and people are always more likely to stay on board when they feel they’ve contributed to the overall plan. So rather than presenting a final plan and telling everyone to get on board, why not set out the general objectives and direction you want to travel in, and organize subgroups so that everyone can ideate how you can travel together and “institutionalize” that change? Placing the least engaged members in prominent positions can have a dramatic, positive affect.   


Be trusting.

Responsibility for running a small but important project is one of the last things a disengaged team member might expect. Empowering the people that might be at the cultural fringes of your team might seem radical and risky — that said, there’s nothing that shows you want them to be an important part of your transformation more than asking them to help lead it.

Give them the tools they need to succeed and be sure to let them know you support them throughout the process. This will avoid the risk of them feeling lumbered or put upon with a big project, rather than empowered to be an agent of change.


Show recognition.

Most importantly, you need to recognize every sign of progress along the journey. Acknowledging wins, no matter how small, goes a long way toward building a more positive, open culture and engaged workforce. Recognize individual contributions more widely to the group, and make sure your employees’ work doesn’t go uncelebrated. You’ll be sure to see a transformation in them, as well as the technology.

Thimaya Subaiya is COO, Success Cloud, Salesforce. Follow him on Twitter at @ThimayaS.

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