Mercedes isn't just building futuristic cars, they're enabling their human capital to transform their business. Source: Shutterstock

Mercedes isn’t just building futuristic cars, they’re enabling their human capital to transform their business. Source: Shutterstock

How to make human capital your greatest digital transformation accelerator

GOING digital isn’t easy but it’s something every organization must do. Businesses are constantly working on improving their organization’s ability to use technology to turbocharge operations and wow customers.

Those doing an exceptional job with technology understand that their employees — their human capital — are not only central to their digital transformation agenda but also help accelerate the achievement of milestones.

Daimler (Mercedes), HSBC Bank, and Boeing are all great examples of companies partnering with employees to leverage technology for smarter and more intelligent business outcomes.

According to Daimler’s website, employees form the basis of all their digital transformation efforts.

“We use the opportunities that digitalization offers to make the work of our employees easier and provide them with the tools and the knowledge by means of international roadshows, workshops, open spaces, and DigitalLife Days in order to help shape the digital future.”

The company constantly engages with employees through different mediums and platforms to constantly remind them that they’re now in a digital-first world and that their objectives must be aligned accordingly.

Daimler’s success with digital transformation is quite evident with its work in the connected cars space, building autonomous cars for the future, and pioneering vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications forward in the automotive industry.

Daimler (with its iconic brand Mercedes) never struggled to attract the right talent — be it for its engineering projects or to push forwards its digital agenda.

However, the company’s conscious efforts to help employees across the board understand the need for digital has helped visualize interesting future-states for the industry that are constantly being tested and improved.

When successful, each can provide a distinct competitive edge to the company.

While Boeing’s success with digital transformation isn’t as pronounced (going by projects that are public knowledge), glimpses into the company at events and trade shows showcase how the business is empowering employees to re-imagine the future.

At a recent conference, for example, CIO and Senior VP Ted Colbert spoke about digital transformation at Boeing and pointed out that the business is in the practice of training engineers in different aspects of business operations and management.

He emphasized that the company is careful to ensure that project teams are balanced well, involving all kinds of talent — engineering, design, business, and so on. In the business, leaders create an environment for each of these teams to succeed.

In its own ways, Boeing’s people efforts show that its employees are a critical part of its plans for a more digital future.

It’s consistent with advice from a recent Harvard Business Review article:

Cross-functional teams have the opportunity to unleash great results, but only if we ensure they are set up in the right way and given the support they need in order to work.

In the current business climate, companies need to make these cross-functional teams successful — or risk being left behind.

How to help your people help you with digital

When talking about digital transformation, there is one company — an institution, really — that is hard to ignore. It’s DBS Bank.

In an industry that faces the constant scrutiny of regulators, is known to struggle with legacy infrastructure built on archaic programming languages, and battles against thinning margins, digital transformation is quite a challenge. And yet, DBS Bank is making a name for itself — from digital kiosks to a digital-only bank, DBS Bank has it all.

According to DBS CIO Group Technology and Operations David Gledhill, the key to success with digital transformation is getting employees involved with projects but making sure that they don’t lose sight of everyday business objectives.

“Transformation could consume every hour of every employee in the company for the next five years. Obviously, we wouldn’t make any money and that wouldn’t be a good outcome,” explained Gledhill.

“So you have to balance it. And the way we balance it is through group scorecards, which really drive everything we do and clearly indicate to people the amount of time we expect them to spend on certain areas.”

At DBS, the top part of the scorecard is comprised of financial metrics, customer metrics, shareholder value-add, and revenue generation.

“The middle part is where the core of the digital transformation comes in, and we ascribe 20 percent of the value of the scorecard to this, which is then used to drive compensation for the company. Below that, we have the strategic initiatives we need to get done, and that’s another 40 percent.”

In DBS Bank’s approach to digitization is an important lesson: Know what your team must focus on.

Overall, for those looking for ways to make the most of their human capital, here are some tips:

# 1 | Enable and empower your staff

There’s a great deal of value in enabling and empowering your staff. True, it might need you to invest some resources into assessing the skills gap in your business, understanding their training and development needs, and providing them with resources to grow themselves.

However, the efforts are bound to pay off. Not only will it help you prepare them for the jobs of the future but also ensure that they’re able to contribute to the direction that the companies take in the future.

# 2 | Teach your staff to broaden their horizons

What Daimler and Boeing are both very good at are helping their staff broaden their horizons, and their ingenuity in that respect is paying off.

Both companies are not only disrupting their respective industries but also finding new and innovative ways to disrupt other industries. Diamler is moving into the mobility space while Boeing is beginning to explore new business models.

# 3 | Create a space for digital transformation

Digital transformation is easy but it can’t consume employees and interfere with their daily workflows.

Organizations that want to get more out of their employees in terms of digital transformation must create an environment where they have a time and a space to think and explore digital technologies.

“If you give precise instructions, the best you can hope for is what you expected. If you give the team more freedom, ideas may arise that go much, much further,” explained Daimler’s Chairman of the Board of Management Dieter Zetsche. Daimler’s DigitalLife Day is one way the organization helps find and promote these kinds of ideas.