Why employee mindset matters in Digital Business Transformation

Digital Business Transformation: It is all in the mind, well almost!

Updated: Feb 12, 2018 10:24:36 AM UTC
Businesses looking to defend, differentiate or disrupt the global technology scenario are waking up to the need for talent possessing a high learnability quotient

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Gone are the days when professional success was measured by one’s ascent to the higher echelons in an organization. Today, success at work is determined by how well people can adapt to changes and the willingness to own their career trajectory. That puts the focus on learnability – the desire and the ability to grow and adapt to new circumstances and challenges in the career journey. More than people’s knowledge, it’s about how fast they can learn. Learnability is not a new concept. Companies have spoken about this many times in the past. But we today live in a time like no other, where rate of change has been cut down by many many years. Therefore the need to renew the focus on this topic again.

Learnability, a success imperative for Digital Business Transformation
According to a World Economic Forum prediction, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will include skills not yet considered critical to the job today. Add to this the implications of a fast-changing tech landscape triggered by the advent of new technologies, which have led organizations to accelerate their digital business transformation efforts.

Businesses looking to defend, differentiate or disrupt the global technology scenario are waking up to the need for talent possessing a high learnability quotient. These winds of change have brought with them an air of uncertainty – leading to talks on the future of jobs, and the anxiety among employees of getting redundant in the workplace. Therefore, to remain relevant to employers, employees must boost their learnability quotient and focus on continuous skills development. On their part, organization heads need to provide their workforce with an ecosystem that encourages them to learn different skills and adapt to new technologies.

Why it pays to peep into your employee’s mind?
Thankfully, an increasing number of organizations realize that the workforce is a key enabler in their transformation journey. There’s research galore that points at the need to bridge the digital skills gap – leading organizations to focus on upskilling and reskilling their people on the latest digital technologies. However, in order to stay relevant to their clients in this age of digital disruption, organizations must also look at their talent using a different lens.

How many companies today focus on developing the soft skills of their employees – especially their ability to learn and to be agile? Truth be told, not many. A tad unfortunate, since the combination of such traits in their talent can empower organizations to make huge strides in their digital business transformation journey. I strongly believe that in the unforeseen future, talent with a certain mindset will be a prized asset for organizations. These are people who have the resilience and the ability to shift from one skill to another with ease. The ones who are ever eager to learn from their failures – and evolve. That brings me to a set of much-talked-about insights into the talent’s mind.

The need to identify, and invest in the right talent: Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
Elena and Bob are colleagues at a popular TV Channel. A journalist by profession, Bob is known for his on-ground reportage, but struggles at preparing media analysis reports. He rues his career decision and often thinks of switching over to Advertising. On the other hand, Elena dabbles in media analysis. She isn’t an expert in it, but puts in a bit of extra effort every time an opportunity comes her way. To her, it’s just another aspect she wants to improve in her career. Now with the next round of appraisal coming up, Bob is wary of his job responsibilities. Meanwhile, Elena has kept her horizons open to new prospects.

It all boils down to the mindsets of these two characters. Bob, with his characteristic fixed mindset, keeps himself aloof from challenges that are likely to demean him. Blessed with an inherent growth mindset, Elena likes to embrace challenges and persists in the face of setbacks.

Research conducted by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck reveals some startling facts businesses could leverage to their advantage. People with a fixed mindset see their character, intelligence and creative ability as static traits – something they can’t change. They view their success as the affirmation of those inherent traits. To them, achieving success and avoiding failure at all costs are ways of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. On the contrary, people who have a growth mindset perceive their abilities to be learned traits which must be continuously exercised to develop over a period of time. Such people thrive on challenges and see failure as a stepping stone for success and for expanding their inherent abilities.

Organizations must understand the cultural and behavioral nuances of talent and the vital role they play in digital business transformation. They should view these two mindsets as the key indicators of their employees’ behavior, their relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts.

The way forward for organizations
Here are a few steps organizations can take to identify and nurture talent with a growth mindset:

1.   Reward learnability
Today, most organizations evaluate and reward their workforce on a scale of performance parameters. Compensation decisions are made on the basis of business outcomes their employees have helped generate. While that is fair, organizations would also do well to recognize vital traits like learnability and adaptability in their people. They must reward and incentivize learning and risk taking to ensure critical skills are adopted by their employees and the organization is equipped to adapt to future changes.

2.   Embrace targeted upskilling
According to a recent study, a measly 4% of companies ensure that their skills training programs are aligned with their digital strategy. This, despite the fact that 77% of the companies believe that missing digital skills are the key obstacles in their digital business transformation journey. The solution perhaps lies in adopting a targeted upskilling approach. Once companies identify growth mindset employees, the learning budgets should be spent on them first as they would be far more receptive to learning new capabilities.

3.   Identify and shift employees’ mindsets
Organizations must appreciate mindset diversity in their workforce. For instance, one set of employees might be jittery about the changing tech world – and look out for upskilling opportunities. On the other hand, there are employees pretty comfortable and content with their existing skill sets. People many-a-times are unaware of their fixed mindsets. Organizations can benefit if their employees recognize their own mindset and then utilize learning programs that help shift their mindsets.

These actionable insights will help organizations target their talent investments with greater impact and focus on the growth mindset of their people.

- By Rishi Bhatnagar, Senior Director - Capacity, SapientRazorfish, APAC

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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