Digital transformation is a people problem, not a technology problem

Josh Bersin on why we need to re-think the value propositions of the businesses we’re in.

By Josh Bersin
June 17, 2019
People working in office People working in office (source: Free-Photos via Pixabay)

Technology problems tend to be the main focus of discussions around digital transformation. In this talk, industry analyst and researcher Josh Bersin presents an alternate take, explaining that the more advanced technology becomes, the more complicated—and important—the people part of business becomes. Investing in employee growth and engagement will be at least as important as technology investments.

Highlights from Bersin’s presentation include:

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The problems companies run into once they decide on a digital strategy—how to organize, how to build agility in teams, and how to build a service-centric organization—aren’t technology problems; they’re people problems. (1:27)

Even though automation is creating new opportunities, there’s a significant number of people who need to re-skill. The World Economic Forum and a company called Burning Glass looked at the future jobs being created by artificial intelligence (AI). They found that most people can be re-trained in about 18 to 24 months, but companies haven’t figured out how to do that yet. Bersin notes that tools like O’Reilly Learning and other solutions will help fill these gaps. (3:13)

It’s hard to build an organization that’s a great place to work for everybody. If you look at the data on engagement and at the companies getting it right, the only thing unique about those companies is their leadership, their focus, their understanding, and their belief that people are the product. (7:17)

Companies don’t operate like hierarchies anymore. An organization might be managed like a hierarchy in job titles and levels, pay, and leadership models, but people actually work in small groups and iterate on small teams. This is a significant change to the world of work. HR folks need to rethink how they manage, train, support, and hire people around that shift. (9:09)

In talking with a highly engaged bank in Canada, Bersin discovered a good example of how companies are changing the ways they think of themselves. When he asked an HR leader at the bank what made it such a great place to work, she said, “we’re not a bank. We’re actually here to promote the health and wellness of our communities. We just happen to sell mortgages and have checking accounts as the way we do that, but that’s not our mission.” This is a new way of thinking that’s starting to catch fire—the way businesses manage people is really about rethinking the value proposition of the business they’re in. (13:58)

You can see Bersin’s complete presentation in the video above.

Post topics: Future of the Firm
Post tags: Radar Event

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