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COVID-19: Navigating the impact to your business. See our top strategies

How Human Transformation Can Revive a Business

A successful digital transformation needs to consider the value of the people. 

Tim Buesing Alexander Jonke
Tim Buesing Alexander Jonke

In order to digitize and automate services, companies need to improve their employees' experience and effectiveness. Dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 accelerates the need for digital transformation, but any transformation must pay attention to the human element as part of the overall change.

Consider these five focus areas:

  1. Talent– remain competitive when external sourcing is limited and internal sourcing is not fluid enough yet.
  2. Insights – overcome barriers of incomplete, out-of-date and unstructured information about employees, their skills and preferences.
  3. Collaboration – stay close, transparent, and empathetic while building an collaborative, distributed work culture.
  4. Enablement – allow talent to self-service their needs and create networking and learning tools enhanced with machine learning.
  5. Management – give guidance and visible recognition to employees when work is more fluid and teams are more distributed.

How to prepare your talent for a strong recovery

Hiring across most industries has dropped, with open positions falling worldwide—64 percent in New Zealand,  39 percent in the U.S. and 22 percent in Singapore, according to job-search website Indeed. Many companies have excess capacity and employees face layoffs or fewer working hours. After mitigating the immediate crisis, now is the time to create a new purpose for underutilized resources. You might also need to invest in new capabilities.

  • Invest in cross-functional skill development: At the height of Germany's shut down, idle McDonald's staff temporarily shifted to busy Aldi supermarkets. Beyond these short-term mitigation measures, retaining well-trained talent stays paramount for your success. Offer new challenges to the right people to increase their retention. Support them in developing new skills, across disciplines, with a variety of challenges. Prepare them so they can take the next step, in a new role or team. Rebuilding your business will require talent that can think broadly.
  • Offer stretch assignments that address your post-crisis challenges: A marketplace of meaty problems from all departments lets your employees find a new starting point and purpose. Start with a simple listing website and rely on the employees to manually volunteer. Then gradually use more data to suggest and match supply with interest. 

Insights: How to understand employees and act during volatile times

Many organizations know surprisingly little about their employees. Talent often doesn't understand how to tell their company about their needs and interests.

Offer every employee an easy and effortless way to import skill and qualification data, share aspirations and motivations. Let them enrich and update their profiles using third-party data sources and career networks (e.g. using LinkedIn's API) and in-house collaboration ware (e.g. MS Teams).

Rather than running lengthy, annual engagement surveys, companies should collect unfiltered, regular and small batches of feedback. You can use more comprehensive engagement software like Glint or small, focused services like Friday Pulse.

Well-maintained profiles and anonymized large-scale data, procured with our ‘Knowledge as a Service’ will allow you to plan and manage your workforce better. You will be able to match employees with specific roles, speed up internal placements and maintain an accurate, transparent career framework.

Using digital marketing-like practices will enable your various departments to anticipate employees' development, support their next steps  to provide a superior employee experience.

Knowledge as a Service

Knowledge as a Serivce

Our offering can be orchestrated to build scalable enterprise-grade solutions like:

  • Chatbots – Support queries
  • Virtual assistants – Improve customer service while lowering costs
  • Research platforms – Help analysts make sense of a large number of documents
  • Search engines – Find documents based on relevance and summarize key points
  • Company profiles – Provide market intelligence 
  • Opinion synopses – Explain public opinion trends and drivers behind them

Collaboration: How to create cohesion and collaboration in a distributed workforce

As companies are jumping ahead in their digital transformation, employees see an uncertain future. They need more information than usual. Online coffee chats, team stand-ups and get-togethers were a great first step. However, digital fatigue is setting in as our brains need to work much harder to process non-verbal cues, build trust and relax into conversations. Despite this strain, employees still want to stay in the know. Communicating transparently and with empathy helps your organization retain talent and team cohesion. Both are critical elements of your rebound. Air BnB's co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky exemplified this when combining his message about layoffs with warmth, transparency and openness about the new strategic focus.

Remotely collaborating is another great challenge. Often it is a coming together of an improvised home office and virtual gatherings, working with a patchwork quilt of team ware and communication channels. Moments of informality, serendipity and idea cross-pollination are either missing or require conscious efforts. Although these are all ongoing challenges, most teams have adapted quickly and held productivity relatively high. A recent survey showed 85% of European companies felt they had the tools in place, and three out of five saw productivity to be resilient. Increasingly flexible talent can do their jobs more effectively, complementing face-to-face office hours with online collaboration from their homes. 

Now is the time to identify gaps and strains, lock in the 'good change' and make future communication and collaboration sustainable.

Enablement: How to continuously evolve and be future ready

Companies feel the pressure to reduce cost due to the economic downturn. Some of them have accepted slow and manual processes for a long time. Those are now in the crosshairs. 

Australia's second-biggest telco Optus accelerated their call center transformation by making Covid19-enforced 'working from home' their permanent operation model. Rather than starting with a long discovery phase, you can practice a lean approach. Identify automation and self-service opportunities within weeks. Use them to achieve quick employee experience wins. Look into establishing "light service design shops" and prioritize ideas you can scale across business units and regions easily. Let sophisticated API management and machine learning support the roll-out. After all, a Gallup survey recorded a majority of US employees looking for more working from home time. And a Gartner CFO survey revealed their intentions to cut on-premise investments in technology, reduce the real estate footprint and ask a percentage of the workforce to remain offsite permanently. Both sides will enjoy spending work time more productively while helping to keep costs low.

Rapid Response Team

Our Rapid Response Team

We do the following:

  • Demonstrates the power of computationally driven experiences in Digital Business Transformation through rapid prototypes.
  • Embodies radical customer centricity by achieving not only our companies’ needs but delivers value faster to their customers.
  • Accelerates our growing Computational Design expertise in tandem with our dataful design skills to enable our companies to become more AI Ready.

Management: How to mature your guidance & recognition in a distributed organization

Many corporate departments are still perceived as cost centers, as unable to frame or measure the value they create. This perception can lead to a lack of recognition and support from the rest of the business. Corporate functions might also lack incentives to fulfil their value potential. 

To realize their full potential, these departments need to transform the way they work. Give guidance via easy-to-understand metrics and recognize teams and individuals who have helped shape the new reality. Move your goals from deadlines and deliverables towards outcomes their customers (e.g. marketing or sales) or their employees (e.g. HR or IT) are seeking. Operate highly user-centric and in cross-functional teams. An example for this is Publicis Sapient's RRT - our Rapid Response Team. Prototype, test and receive quick and frequent feedback to iterate products and services. In the end, boundaries between capabilities and departments need to relax. While core capabilities remain with those who have the respective background, HR staff should be able to talk about technology and data, and IT staff to incorporate employee lifecycle needs. This cultural evolution will improve product quality and enable employees to work outcome-driven and value-oriented. 

Tim Buesing
Tim Buesing
Group Creative Director Experience
Alexander Jonke
Alexander Jonke
Senior Manager Strategy & Consulting