Swift and far-reaching organizational change—primarily technology-driven—is a reality for any organization today. The increasing use of digital tools in the workplace, particularly AI-based solutions, mean leaders must create digital mindsets at work, which includes focusing on ongoing learning and upskilling.

The disruption in the labor market as a result of the pandemic was swift and palpable. Organizations pivoted quickly to keep their operations running smoothly, and workers shifted equally fast to keep pace with fluid dynamics in the workplace. Regardless of which side of the table you’re on, one thing is abundantly clear: the future of work has changed. But beyond the changes spurred by the pandemic, companies far and wide are also managing another powerful force shaping the future of work - the growing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace


Navigating change is hard, but navigating unprecedented change is understandably harder. To embrace the myriad changes that come along with AI, organizations will need to up the ante on digital transformation. And while it may sound counterintuitive, the power still lies with their people. 


Ultimately, companies looking to undertake a digital transformation need to start within and empower their workers to learn new skills – and motivate them to use those skills. “In digital transformation,” says Teppo Paavola, Chief Digital Officer at the Adecco Group, “technology is the enabler, but people make the difference.”

What is a digital mindset?

A digital mindset means different things to different organizations. 


The Harvard Business Review writes that a digital mindset is “a set of attitudes and behaviors that enable people and organizations to see how data, algorithms, and AI open up new possibilities and to chart a path for success in a business landscape increasingly dominated by data-intensive and intelligent technologies.” 


Alberto Giovanni Busetto, Group SVP, Data and AI with The Adecco Group, supports this thinking. “Having a digital mindset means being able to innovate, to do experimentation at scale and to make better decisions that are data driven,” he says.


While having a digital mindset begins with cultivating our ability to use technology, it certainly doesn’t end there. Beyond using technology, people have to be comfortable enough to use said technology to inform their actions, create new opportunities, and solve problems, all of which come together to drive growth. 


“Digital gives us the possibility to transform almost any process,” Paavola said.


Ultimately, digital transformation is as much about people as it is about technology. But it’s really about people leveraging data to keep their organizations competitive. 


Building a culture of learning 


Does your company build a culture of continuous learning and upskilling? These are increasingly important aspects of a creating an environment in which workers stay engaged, energized, and committed to your organization.

Learning should not be an occasional offering or opportunity presented to workers. Learning should be continuous and should be a habit. Ensuring that workers have easy access to information about training available, that they are encouraged to avail of learning opportunities, and are given the time and space to do so is essential. Otherwise, training and learning initiatives will seem like empty promises, and workers will not feel they should pursue them.

To encourage learning as a habit, remind workers of them frequently, via daily feeds, newsletters, email, or any other means your organization uses for inhouse communication. Encourage workers to share with their colleagues the training they have followed, what they learned, and how they are applying going forward.

Digital mindsets start at the top 

Like every aspect of the business, leaders must set the tone and be the face of change. If C-Suite execs don’t embrace change themselves, any initiative, whether it be digital transformation or otherwise, will fail. 

Build a safe-to-fail environment for workers

The fear of failure and judgment can be pretty powerful impediments to change, especially when it’s tangled up with one’s career and reputation. While this may be the biggest roadblock on the journey to digital transformation, it’s not insurmountable. The key to removing those roadblocks is to create an environment where workers feel safe enough to try and supported enough to fail. 

Let people do nothing

While the information age has made life exponentially easier for us, it has also led to unprecedented rates of burnout among workers. So much so that in 2019 the World Health Organization officially recognized burnout as an occupational health issue. That announcement no doubt also heralded the end of days for company cultures that focused solely on maximizing productivity with little regard for the individual. Busy isn’t always best, and leaders may find that the best way to foster creativity is to give their workers some room to breathe. 

Challenges of digital transformation

Change is never easy and change that’s mired in technology can be exponentially more difficult. Not only can it be difficult for many workers to grasp, but it also involves mindset shifts in attitudes, behaviors, values, and norms, which can be harder to quantify and, therefore, harder to manage and account for.  


Common obstacles to digital transformation success include the following.


Generational difference


While younger generations tend to be comfortable with technology and far more likely to embrace it, change wrapped up in technology may not come so easy for older workers who are less accustomed to the frequency of change.  


The use of tech, in terms of generational differences, goes beyond learning how to actually use new technology: It includes when to use it, and for what purpose. For example, older workers may prefer face-to-face communication with colleagues, or at least a phone call. Younger workers are more comfortable with email, and increasingly with texting in the workplace.


According to a Dell report, 80% of younger workers want to work with cutting-edge technology. For them, the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere using video conferencing a mobile apps, for example, and 71% of millennials report that how much an organization avails of technology in the workplace impacts whether they will accept a job offer.


Lack of a change management strategy


A clear vision of where the organization is headed is crucial to implementing a digital transformation strategy. To effectively lead change, leaders must first buy into its importance, keep their fingers on the pulse of changing dynamics, and remain proactive throughout the process. 


Driving adoption of new digital tools and processes


Older workers are more likely than younger generations to resist change when it comes to adopting new digital tools and rolling out new processes. The best way to overcome this resistance is to highlight the benefits of how technology can bridge the generation gap and make work more effective and flexible.


Nobody wants change for the sake of change. Highlight how new digital tools can enhance communication by making it possible to, for example, send a text message to have a simple question answered quickly rather than holding off for a face-to-face meeting; this also improves engagement among workers within and across departments. 


Company culture and mindset shift is challenging


Creating a digital mindset should be seen as organization change. The transformation will directly impact an organization’s culture, from how and where people work, how workers communicated, and how processes are established. While ignoring the reality of this primary tech-related cultural change will be detrimental to any organization, PwC's 2022 Digital IQ survey found only 56% of participating organizations had expanded their training initiatives when it comes to adopting new digital tools or new processes.

Examples of a digital mindset

Companies that are succeeding in the digital transformation are doing and will do so not only with the adoption of new technologies and processes, but by focusing on the people who will use and execute them. Many organizations are already providing examples of how this can work–but it is a task that should not be taken lightly. Here are two examples.

Digital Transformation Factory upskilling certification program at Axos

French IT services company Axos provides a good example of how digital transformation within an organization can be accomplished, even on a larger scale. CEO Thierry Breton, when he took over as CEO in 2008, saw that such a transformation was the only way forward. But there was some disagreement within the organization about whether a vigorous training programme was the best solution or whether workers learn better on the job.


The result was the Digital Transformation Factory upskilling certification programme, in which workers could earn certifications for which they were offered rewards. While the initial goal was for the participation and completion of 35,000 workers, within three years, 70,000 workers had completed the programme, far exceeding expectations.

Philips partnered with Cornerstone On Demand

Philips, a leader in innovative health services solutions, has transitioned its core competency from supplying health products to providing digital solutions. This created inevitable gaps in workers’ digital knowledge needed to keep pace with this shift. To create an environment of continuous learning, Philips partnered with cloud-based learning and HR software provider Cornerstone OnDemand to develop an AI-powered learning tool that can adapt to the individual requirements and learning pace of its users.

In addition, workers are able to share their tailored lessons with their colleagues—just as they might a playlist—which encourages learning as well as engagement among workers, as more advanced workers can help mentor their less experienced colleagues and new workers to the company are given a tool for not only learning but connecting with their new colleagues.



A digital mindset is essential going forward


Today and for the future, an organization that fails to prioritize and succeed in creating a digital mindset will fall quickly and permanently behind. This entails not only focusing on adopting new technologies and processes that rely on them, but ensuring workers are comfortable and open to the functions and efficiencies these technologies bring.

The challenges of cross-generational workers, hesitancy for change, and lack of sufficient training are obstacles leaders of organizations are facing in order to assure seamless, effective change. It is up to leaders to develop upskilling tools and approaches to make learning available, encouraged, and habitual across an organization.

These initiatives should serve to provide less experienced workers the ability to keep up with rapid change as well as to keep younger, more tech-savvy workers engaged and satisfied that they are working with a forward-thinking digital organization that keeps them on the cutting edge of technology and won’t cause them to fall behind in the digital world.

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