Coaching for Digitalization Driving Towards Successful Change Management: Coaching for Digitalization Projects

A guest post by Joy Singh

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Digitalization is one of the biggest industry trends of the 21st century. However, the transformation presents companies with major challenges. Can a professional coaching method, supported by a dedicated digital framework, help firms and employees alike achieve sustainable change for the long term?

Coaching can help to guide an organization through a difficult transition phase.
Coaching can help to guide an organization through a difficult transition phase.
(Source: © Studio-FI - stock.adobe.com)

When the wind of change blows, some build walls and others, windmills. This Chinese proverb can also be used as a metaphor for the challenges of many change projects in the industry. As soon as change is imminent in an organization, there are employees who resist and others who want to channel the wind of change into positive energy.

For companies wishing to remain competitive in the future, continuous adaptation to new market situations is essential for survival. This means committing to digitize and digitalize significant operational processes in the medium or long term, given the great potential to increase efficiency and industrial plant availability. The reasons for digitalization are obvious. However, when it comes to implementation, especially when it comes to making it part of everyday working life, our experience over the years shows that a large proportion of digital transformation projects fail to achieve their goals because of missing employee support.

Digital transformation is often received as technology-driven optimization instead of a comprehensive transformation process that requires and drives significant change to the corporate culture.

Yet, a digital tool alone cannot make a difference if the employees choose to not use it — or worse, use it incorrectly, in which case it can even slow down the work process. In addition to working with the correct digital solution, the entire organization must embrace it and see it as an opportunity to grow.

Coaching for a Successful Transformation

Digital transformation is associated with a fundamental shift in production towards data-driven, computer-controlled manufacturing processes. When implementing these new technologies, companies generally prefer to use training courses for employee onboarding with the aim of building internal staff specialists in two to three sessions. They thus aim to build up new knowledge or urgently needed skills for a specific specialist area.

Consequently, the plan is typically to utilize these in-house specialists to familiarize a large majority of employees with the relevant tools and applications in the shortest possible time and with minimal effort. Unfortunately, this works to the detriment of the employees, who are often left alone to deal with any problems and concerns that may arise. Training courses are primarily designed to teach the basics, technical skills, and/or specialist knowledge. Operationalizing the learned skills requires an additional step, which is missed far too often.

Transformation programs, as the name indicates, require a multitude of changes without which the respective goals and benefits are put at risk. Implementation is difficult because most human beings prefer clinging to the tried and true. This is associated with fears of losing control, influence, or potentially their jobs.

Trust is the Foundation of Sucess – Also for Digitalization Projects

Coaching paves the way for necessary changes to be better accepted. The essence of coaching is to build skills and reduce potential resistance during the change process by focusing on getting the team actively involved in that process. With successful employee involvement, new processes can be established much more easily and quickly. The impression that something is being imposed on people, and that they are simply at the mercy of it, is where defensive attitudes develop.

This is what initial and early engagement helps to prevent, followed up with close monitoring and resolution of the team’s concerns and fears. This builds trust, which forms the foundation for the joint success of a change project, however large or small it may seem. Coaching experts need to take the time to get to know the em­ployees and familiarize themselves with the respective processes and workflows. That way, they can respond appropriately to individual concerns as they come up.

Change Management Done Right: Of Goals and Spirit

In employee meetings, coaching supports the development of perspectives that ultimately reduce negative behaviors and promote acceptance and support for the change. The more advocates there are in the team, the faster everyone involved feels that they are driving in the same direction.

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Having a common goal strengthens collaboration and team spirit among employees. This is applicable within smaller teams and for the collaboration between different departments. The moment the idea of a common goal registers, a high level of motivation can be realized from each individual to become enthusiastic about the changes and perhaps even to contribute their own ideas. This is the ideal basis for getting structural and organizational changes off the ground.

Sustainable Coaching…

Coaching goes far beyond training: Learning new applications is only part of the change. In fact, coaching is most successful when supported with a cloud-based monitoring platform such as DRIVE+ to provide a more comprehensive, long-term, and individual focus on the challenges of a company (or a team) going through a change initiative.

But what do we mean by that? We think of coaching as on-the-job mentoring, or mentoring that helps employees see and achieve success sooner. Successful change managers immerse themselves deeply in the company and become part of it for the duration of the project, even though they start off as outsiders.

… Instead of Short-Term Training

Efficient coaches then continually track the progress of a client’s change journey to prepare their team for next steps. Software packages like DRIVE+ are developed for this specific purpose. But investments in digital tools to enable digitalization and change are just as important. This has proven especially valuable in times of global travel restrictions and/or when the right person to coach a client is located in another country. By supplementing training with a well-structured and comprehensive coaching program, digital transformations can be significantly accelerated.

Digital transformation: To create sustainable change with coaching, it is essential to bring the entire team along on the change journey, however short or long that may be.
Digital transformation: To create sustainable change with coaching, it is essential to bring the entire team along on the change journey, however short or long that may be.
(Source: T.A. Cook)

Failure to achieve the goals of a digital transformation, on the other hand, means that the benefits are not realized as quickly, if at all. And, given the cost of digitalization, it is imperative that management attention is brought to the attitude, magnitude, and complexity of the change early on.

The Change Towards Digitalization is a Matter of Mindset

The emotional aspect associated with such digital transformation processes must not be underestimated. It is therefore inevitable to actively involve employees in the process from the outset, making them strong advocates for change by giving them self-confidence and motivating them.

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Even far-reaching changes are easier to implement when change is accepted. Compliance cannot be sustained just because it has been ordered, and target realization is much easier once the need has been understood and the journey endorsed by end-users. n

* The author is Senior Manager at T.A. Cook - Part of Accenture

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