In the ever-evolving landscape of business, the integration of new technologies is paramount for staying competitive. Yet, this digital transformation can exact a toll on the very heart of any organization: its employees. As they grapple with a plethora of software applications, juggling complex workflows and battling the fear of obsolescence, the strain on productivity and engagement becomes palpable. In this insightful interview with Vivek Behl, Digital Transformation Officer at WalkMe, we delve into strategies for reducing this digital friction, enhancing employee experiences, and ensuring the success of digital initiatives.

With a wealth of experience in the realm of digital transformation, Vivek Behl provides valuable insights into the challenges organizations face and offers practical solutions for navigating this transformative journey. From addressing employee resistance to harnessing the power of contextualized learning, Vivek sheds light on the path to seamless digital adoption and the future of the workplace.

Vivek Behl, Digital Transformation Officer at WalkMe

What are the most common challenges organizations face when adopting new digital platforms, and how do these challenges impact employee productivity and engagement?

One of the most challenging balancing acts in business is ensuring an organization constantly implements new technologies to remain competitive while managing the impact of these technologies on staff. While technology disruption is necessary to improve the business, it inflicts stress upon employees. 

On average, employees toggle between 27 pieces of software in their tech stack, which can overwhelm end users, reduce productivity and engagement, and ultimately lead to fatigue.

Additionally, when an employee encounters a complicated workflow in an app that has a poor, counterintuitive user experience, they are more likely to defer to using minimal features, delay the task, or abandon it altogether.

Employees have many reasons to be resistant to new technologies, such as the fear of job loss and the pressure to improve skills alongside frequent upgrades to information and communications technology (ICT) systems. Successful digital transformation hinges on human experiences. Therefore, these feelings must be addressed swiftly to enable employees to utilise their new digital tools effectively. 

As the Digital Transformational Officer at WalkMe, what strategies and tools do you recommend for reducing digital friction and improving employee experience during the implementation of new technologies?

Digital friction is the unnecessary strain placed on employees when utilizing technology. This includes the additional steps required to complete routine tasks, the need to switch between various applications to find information, and the complex workflows that consume valuable time – all detracting from more meaningful work.

To manage digital friction, I would recommend a combination of the following:

1. Digital Adoption Solutions

A Digital Adoption Platform behaves like a glass panel that sits across an organisation’s tech stack. It makes navigating web-based, desktop, and mobile applications easy for workers, especially for those undergoing change in their workplace. 

To reduce friction, digital adoption solutions employ contextual learning to assess user actions in real time, preemptively identifying potential points of friction and proactively delivering guidance. DAP supports user engagement through automation with features like smart walkthroughs, contextual guidance, and in-app support.

Consequently, this eradicates the need for recourse to customer support, participation in training sessions, or grappling with the challenges of the “forgetting curve” as they endeavour to navigate the platform from memory.

2. Digital Adoption Plan

Critical to a successful digital adoption initiative is a digital adoption plan; it is designed to help companies improve the adoption of digital tools. Organisations can rely on the plan to evaluate  how applications are being used, identify friction points, and note areas for improvement. The plan sets up a clear vision that highlights the user experience alongside the technical aspects of digital adoption. 

3. Reliable Vendor Support

When introducing new applications, the provision of comprehensive assistance from the technology’s vendor is of paramount significance. Throughout the implementation phase and its subsequent stages, vendor support should be accessible, available, and proactive in facilitating the adoption process. Deprived of adequate support from the chosen vendor, employees could feel frustrated and revert to outdated software solutions.

4. Open Communication Channels

Without clear, engaging, and consistent communication, organizations run the risk of losing users to old habits and poor morale. Leaders need to ensure that the benefits, vision and strategy associated with the change initiative are communicated to employees and other stakeholders for successful digital transformation. 

In your experience, how can employers effectively communicate the benefits of digital transformation to their employees and address any concerns or resistance that may arise? How can organizations leverage this feedback to make improvements and enhance productivity?

The vision of digital transformation must be supported by the necessary infrastructure and people. According to WalkMe’s State of Digital Adoption 2022-2023 report, 70% of enterprise leaders are unaware of who is responsible for digital adoption strategies in their organization. This makes digital transformation more challenging as the mindset shift for change must start with leadership and cascade down into the core of the company culture. Through thought leaders within the company, employees can be slowly converted into understanding the benefits of digital transformation.

To establish a reliable feedback loop, a Centre of Excellence (CoE)should be established. Employees from different departments who are engaged in the digital experience would be the ideal candidate to run the CoE. The team will facilitate assessments and identify pain points in the tech stack within the context of the jobs people are trying to get done. For example, the team would be part of pilot programs to pre-test new software and identify potential causes of digital friction that can be addressed in the training program as well as during assessment once the software is live. They would be the advocates of digital adoption efforts within their departments and sound out frustrations from the ground. 

Ultimately, if the tools are bogging employees down emotionally, you will not see positive results in digital adoption. Communication is key in ensuring that users of the digital tool are well supported in their adoption process and that concerns are addressed promptly.

Employee training and upskilling are essential during digital adoption. How can businesses ensure seamless training processes that empower employees to embrace and leverage new digital tools effectively?

In today’s business environment, employees must constantly learn new skills and tools. To keep up with this digital environment, employers need to reinvent their approach to employee learning, training, and development.

Beyond in-person or video training sessions that can be disruptive to the usual working hours, organisations should provide support in the flow of work to reduce interruptions in completing tasks. Organisations can consider integrating these features into their work applications:

  1. Contextualized, in-app guidance: Users are provided exactly the right information exactly when they need it. Contextualized learning helps employees stay focused on the task at hand, improving engagement as well as knowledge retention.
  2. Tutorials and step-by-step walkthroughs: Whenever an employee becomes stuck in a particular digital workflow, they can access interactive tutorials that walk them through the digital tool.
  3. Task automation: Automating tasks can benefit both users and the organization. It frees up user time for more valuable activities and streamlines the task in question.

Can you share some success stories where organizations effectively implemented digital transformation initiatives while maintaining high levels of employee productivity and satisfaction?

EDF Renewables, a North America-based power producer and service provider, employs hundreds of technicians in the field who use a software to complete essential day-to-day processes. Some of the processes are based on regulatory requirements for reporting, so it’s critical that the processes are completed correctly in this highly regulated, complex industry. Because the application has multiple elements, employees often experienced errors and resorted to submitting service tickets to get help or requested additional training.

To address the error issues, EDF built SAP simulations within WalkMe for employees. This provided and efficient way to get employees up-to-speed quickly to ensure compliance, avoid risk, and enable team members to focus on high-impact work. This approach allowed them to proactively minimize risks, save on troubleshooting expenses, speed up processes, and continuously improve employees’ experience.

After starting the initial WalkMe pilot for SAP ECC6, we saw service tickets drop by 90%, and newsletter views increased by more than 80% with the use of WalkMe on-screen pop-ups, proving that the guardrails worked.

Technology is constantly evolving, and organizations often need to update their digital platforms. How can they manage these updates while minimizing disruptions and maximizing employee productivity?

CHRISTUS Health, with its vast international workforce of over 45,000 associates, including 15,000 physicians, recognized the importance of training and communication in ensuring positive patient outcomes and a strong bottom line. 

Given the challenge of managing such a busy, and dispersed group, they sought an effective digital adoption solution, which they found in WalkMe. Through real-time, in-app guidance, WalkMe enabled busy healthcare professionals to learn while working, making the adoption of new technology more seamless. 

As part of this initiative, CHRISTUS Health introduced a new app for day-to-day patient care and back-end accounting processes, requiring both healthcare and administrative workers to be acquainted with the latest technology to streamline their workflows. To support their employees, CHRISTUS provided a customized personal digital assistant that offered in-app guidance, ensuring a smooth transition to the new technologies and empowering their workforce with the necessary skills to excel in their roles. 

In industries like healthcare, where technology is increasingly integrated, how can organizations strike a balance between digital transformation and the human touch in patient care?

In Singapore, the philosophy of “aging in place” drives many initiatives in the healthcare sector. Seniors are encouraged to age in their own homes or within the communities where they live in. Since the pandemic, there is also a growing demand for more convenient and personalised healthcare services.

The recent rebranding of Singapore’s HealthTech agency from the Integrated Health Information System to Synapxe, Singapore has demonstrated their commitment to revolutionising the healthcare industry with technology. In addition to the health applications for digital queuing systems, teleconsultations and for monitoring personal health records, Singaporeans who choose mobile health services are eligible for government subsidies. While the digital adoption initiative is commendable, it is more praiseworthy that initiatives have been implemented to ensure that senior citizens are not left behind. The government and tripartite partners have organised learning sessions to teach seniors how to utilise these apps and online services.

In the healthcare sector, while we are moving towards more independent healthcare, the goal is not to eliminate the human touch. Digitalisation is meant to reduce the workload of general consultations so that healthcare workers can dedicate more care towards complicated cases.

Are there any specific industries or sectors that tend to face more challenges during digital adoption, and what best practices can be shared to overcome these challenges?

Digital friction and stress caused by technology are experienced across all sectors. However, for organisations who have yet to begin their journey, we recommend they take some time to develop their vision and break it down into clear steps:

  1. Set desired business outcomes.
  2. Identify digital behaviours needs to achieve those outcomes.
  3. Select key metrics to measure the success of digital adoption.
  4. In addition to completion rates and time spent on each digital task, consider user behaviours e.g., At which points are employees dropping out on the work application?
  5. Boost user engagement through automation
  6. Smart walkthroughs, contextual guidance and in-app support can be delivered within an application to reduce friction in digital adoption. This should be customised to suit each target audience e.g., employees in the sales department and the HR department would be utilising the application for a different purpose.
  7. Continue to measure performances according to the metrics that were set up in the earlier planning stages. The digital adoption plan should evolve to support changing enterprise goals.

Looking ahead, what do you envision as the key trends and developments in digital transformation that will shape the workplace of the future, and how can businesses prepare to adapt proactively while maintaining a productive workforce?

In the State of Digital Adoption 2022-2023 report, we conducted a survey from March to May, 2022 with 1475 senior business leaders. At present, small enterprises spend approximately $2,300 on software (including licensing and cloud) per employee and large enterprises spend about $35,000. This translates to employees in small enterprises using an average of 21 applications a week and large enterprises using an average of 35 a week. Yet, 55% say employees do not have the necessary digital dexterity to use all their applications effectively and 78% expressed a lack of confidence that new technologies are used correctly by their employees.

Enterprises are beginning to realise the challenges they face with digital adoption and the limitations they face in their current approach. With the right strategies, as discussed in the earlier parts of this interview, enterprises can realise spectacular results from their digital adoption strategies. 

Ideally, over time we will see more organisations redistribute the responsibility for digital adoption from solely the IT team to share it across all business units. In addition, digital adoption professionals as a specific role will take the lead. The demand for such specialised roles will continue to grow as digital transformation gathers pace. DAP professionals will need to work with both business and IT colleagues to maximise the value of digital transformation investments.

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