Digital Transformation: Can remote professionals be the key to taking the next step in your business?

Digital transformation has become a priority for businesses in recent years, especially to seize the opportunities presented by a combination of digital technologies and their impact on all aspects of society.

All that attention to customer experience, more dynamic processes for Sales, Digital Marketing, Purchasing, new revenue streams, and systems that add information-based value have paved the way for these departments to go digital with success, but one of these departments may have fallen behind into the background… human resources.

A survey conducted by Gartner in 2017 with 2600 CIOs reported that they directed 18% of their annual budget on digital transformation and in this same study, the trend was that until last year this number increased to 28%.

Although I’m aware of the importance of studies like this and how much IT processes and technological innovations represent for a company, what I want to cover in this article is how important the Human Resources department is in this process! For an organization to undergo a complete digital transformation, this department must take the lead and incorporate a digital DNA within the organization.

Only taking on a new mindset will bring about a profound digital transformation not just guided on technology platforms and systems, but on the culture and corporate mindset as a whole, along with the organization’s activities, processes, competencies, and operational models. While technology makes innovation possible, it’s the ability of an entire organization to embrace this innovation that will make all the difference.

It’s about incorporating remote work as a latent need and believing that remote professionals can be the true digital transformers.

But before we even talk about Remote Work as an agent of this process…

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Get a better understanding of what Digital Transformation is.

A particular term that became very popular was digital transformation. It has been linked to business success in general, from blog posts, leadership white papers, lectures, digital influencers, and so on.

And by its very broad name, digital transformation encompasses several initiatives. But basically, it addresses the whole change initiative and the way a company and entrepreneurs interact with their customers, both external and internal. To do so, it makes changes in organizational processes in conjunction with technology, and from there the central objective is to improve operations and counter the growing threat of competition, new players, products, etc.

If I could risk a more assertive definition, I would say that digital transformation is a complete change in the way an organization makes use of technology in all its processes. It can break paradigms, alter processes, businesses, activities, operations, and infrastructure, and use digital technology to more effectively serve customers, save money and deliver a better experience to both internal and external clients.

Corporate culture as the support base in Digital Transformation.

As I mentioned earlier, digital transformation is not just about using technology, it’s about people, processes, skills, and culture, as all of this keeps a business running. To implement a successful digital transformation strategy, companies must ensure that their employees (and, in turn, their culture – “the way we do things around here”) support and allow them to consider it as a platform for innovation.

Both the cultural aspect and the technology requires equal attention from each leadership because culture will form the backbone of all initiatives that will be part of the change in an organization, especially when it comes to breaking paradigms about having employees who are not present daily in the office and indeed, working remotely. The fixed team cannot be caught in an archaic mindset. Also, if that happens they may even hinder the company’s digital transformation initiatives.

When we talk about, specifically, a digital transformation focused on distance work, the struggle is to understand the benefits and implications of new tools and processes, especially because older employees are used to the old ways of working.

If people have been working the same way for so many years, it’s understandable that there may be difficulties changing the “modus operandi“. Therefore, it’s imperative to prioritize shaping corporate culture for a digital future – and that starts with a Human Resources leadership.

Quite often here at Workana, we talk about the numerous benefits of using a remote workforce, including potential increased productivity and employee satisfaction through greater freedom and autonomy. Any organization that wants to use a remote workforce needs to break down the conventional barriers that hinder collaboration among employees. This paradigm shift can be done quickly by investing in a Digital Transformation strategy that encourages collaboration among team members and enhances the remote working experience.

It is estimated that almost 40% of Americans will come to work full time remotely in the coming years. We recently wrote about here on the blog about remote work being a viable solution to goal number 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to eliminate poverty all over the world, protect the environment and ensure peace and prosperity for all people by 2030.

In addition to these legitimate factors that focus the collective good and sustainability of the planet, it’s a fact that, by being able to work remotely, an employee has more free time, does not need to spend a huge amount of time commuting and all of this influences more efficient and productive teams, focused on results and happy.

Remote work is here to stay and is a solution that there’s no turning back from! Of course, not all functions in a company can be done remotely… we know that! But those who are susceptible to the use of technology and tools in their daily lives may indeed face a different journey from those that we know and consider conventional nowadays.

How remote professionals can be the keys in the digital transformation process?

Remote work has become popular, and with it, news about the advantages for those who stay at home are gaining prominence through social networks, blogs, magazines, etc. But for businesses, what are the advantages of hiring a remote professional?

Check out some of the biggest opportunities that can get your business off the ground:

1. Remote Professionals and Freelancers are in constant development

Companies nowadays need to find employees who can meet growing work demands, driven by the rapid growth of technological innovations. Technology not only allows people to transform traditional business processes from a sheet of paper into a cloud-based spreadsheet.

Remote professionals end up developing themselves more often for two simple reasons: the first is because they need to know about technology as a work tool, and the second is because they have larger free periods their personal lives and end up devoting themselves more to studies.

2. Reduction in monthly employee costs

Let’s think about it: If an employee goes to work remotely, you don’t have to afford the expenses of transportation, parking, or fuel that the company often reimburses or has a significant co-participation in, and that’s a big cost reduction in the budget! The same is true for food.

Besides, the company can hire employees who are in various locations on the planet, and these, in turn, live in more economical locations than large urban centers.

And, in this case, I can particularly give my testimony and say that I lived in Sao Paulo 3 years ago and only my son’s school would cost at least 3 times more than what I spend living in the countryside. So, if I have a job offer with a lower salary than I would earn while living in Sao Paulo, but that gives me the quality of life I have here, with no stress, no violence, and many other benefits, why not accept it? Advantages for both sides!

3. Absenteeism reduction

This is an undeniable fact! Being at home, we can deal with personal matters in the morning, at lunchtime or by the end of the day without having to miss work.

What was once a stressful situation for me, as going to the dentist or making an appointment with the doctor, now present no problems, and I can do it all without leaving pending tasks in my projects. I don’t have to miss work for doing some personal things, I just need to organize my schedule. Another side with advantages for both!

4. Pollute the planet less

Once again, if we don’t have to take a car every day or use public transportation, that means fewer CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere each year through the remote work initiative. And this is even one of the UN goals!

5. Productivity Improvement

Which is better? Spending two hours a day stuck in traffic or spending the same two hours looking for creative solutions for a particular project? Working remotely makes us more willing and productive, we take fewer breaks, we have fewer interruptions, and if the worker has their own office at home, the silence helps concentration!

Human Resources as the leader in the Digital Transformation process.

To ensure all business functions are integrated with new technologies and processes, and to make them work together for a digital future, companies need to develop new skills and promote this culture among their employees.

The HR department must be the leader in creating this awareness and building a strong case for change so that it can show others the benefits of this new way of working.

HR should be the transformative agent and redesign the retention and new talent policy, from recruitment to performance appraisal, building a compelling employee experience throughout its journey and creating value where it matters most – result-oriented.

Working remotely can be a barrier to collaboration if you don’t have the right tools. Employees may end up working in their silos without consulting their colleagues until the final stages of a project.

Home office and cloud working aren’t enough, it’s also necessary:

  • Make sure all systems are connected between remote and non-remote people to avoid communication problems and wasting time;
  • The tools you choose should enable instant communication to ensure your employees are linked correctly rather than working isolated;
  • Closer initial supervision and not relying fully on emails, texts and phone calls to keep track of work progress without any sort of involvement; 
  • Develop new leadership skills because, contrary to popular belief, the leader should further improve the way they relate to their teams. Knowing each talent – their technical skills and personality – is important for defining project-compatible work teams and getting better results;
  • Some initiatives like regular meetings, using technology as a video conference call, until everything is moving 100% is very important. And, once the entire team is feeling confident and autonomous, the project leader will only need to contact employees if they have questions or a clear problem rather than hold regular refresher meetings.

 The company needs to communicate the scope and desired outcome of this digital transformation journey, including the potential barriers that may arise along the way. It should also provide the necessary training on these new tools that will make it easier to communicate, work remotely, and share files in clouds.

Another cool initiative is to share digital transformation success stories, such as the one that recently took place at Unilever Brazil, with a mix of Job Sharing and Remote Work between the Human Resources and Marketing Directors.

We all know that changes cause some discomfort, as many people understand that innovations come to replace man with technology, and this isn’t the purpose of digital transformation, much less devalue work by adopting a home office policy.

If your organization’s digital transformation journey requires employees to change the way they work, as starting remotely full time, every other day or even as in this case as exemplified by Job Sharing, HR should lead this communication initiative and ensure that it can be understood by everyone, as well as being able to support these changes.

The goal of a digital transformation is to literally “transform” the organization, and that includes people, so, first and foremost, it’s critical to build a results-based approach and consider what will best support employee learning and development outcomes. 

Conclusion

There’s nothing to fear! We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and going through a period of resignifying economic and labor relations, using technology to improve processes, and, through it, to generate professional conditions that aim not only profit but an improvement for both the community and the environment.

Engaging company leadership so that they can understand their relevance to the team positively reflects the technological changes in the automation of operational tasks, increased productivity and greater flexibility in activities.

 So, what can we draw from these findings? Clearly, remote work is a reality, and cloud-based collaboration tools, driven by digital transformation across all the organization, are seeing increasing adoption rates to enable teams to work in a way that suits them best.

Here at Workana we are convinced that remote work is the next step for digital transformation in your business. We believe in it, and help promote it through our platform daily by connecting entrepreneurs from around the world and remote and freelance professionals.

Our main goal is to offer more and better opportunities for people, workers, and entrepreneurs who want to grow their companies.

 

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