In 2022, leaders need empathy to drive positive digital transformation

Article by Angela Fox, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Dell Technologies Australia and New Zealand.

The past two and a half years have been a time of rapid change, permanently altering the way we do business; Businesses in Australia and New Zealand have embraced new technology to support business continuity during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, when companies focus on modernizing technology to overcome challenges and embrace the new digital economy, they often forget to support the most integral part of a business: employees.

Statistics from Asana reveal that in ANZ, nearly 8 in 10 employees felt burnt out. A new Dell Technologies Breakthrough study confirms it: Workers are burnt out. The pace of change within their organizations, combined with the ongoing fight against the pandemic, has been a perfect recipe for burnout.

Priority to employee well-being

More than half of Australian and New Zealand companies surveyed in the Dell Technologies Breakthrough study said the people they rely on for innovation struggle with burnout and poor mental health, and that their work suffers. 66% of companies said employees don’t always have the motivation to act on major technology modernization efforts in the workplace.

Technological change should not be something that employees “go through”. If so, they will either give up early or use only a fraction of the functionality of the new technology. A more empathetic approach from leaders creates the best possible experience for end users and creates a more positive and productive workplace.

Dell Technologies surveyed 10,500 people worldwide, including 400 Australians and 200 New Zealanders, from senior executives to IT decision makers and employees involved in digital transformation efforts at companies ranging from 100 employees to over 10,000. The results are clear: if organizations want to contribute to a better future for all, they must recognize that business success and the well-being of people are inextricably linked.

Innovation starts with empathy

In 2022, true innovation begins with empathetic leadership and technology that frees people from unfulfilling tasks, allowing them to focus on work that leverages their unique skills. Empathy can break down employee resistance to encourage acceptance of change, setting companies on a sustainable path to technological advancement.

Unfortunately, many Australian and New Zealand leaders seem to lack soft skills like empathy. In Australia, a 2021 survey by YouGov found that 65% of workers said their manager struggled with soft skills and reports that younger workers are increasingly looking for employers who lead with empathy and emotional intelligence. . In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern constantly speaks about the power to lead with empathy, saying, “We need our leaders to be able to understand the situation of others”.

A line culture that undervalues ​​consultation or makes employees feel too risky to speak up is a costly miscalculation that stunts employee development and hampers digital transformation efforts.

The Dell Breakthrough survey numbers are stark: 56% of respondents don’t think their organization knows what it takes to transform the workforce. 74% think their organization underestimates “staffing needs” when planning transformation programs.
The numbers don’t improve when we dig a little deeper. The shortcomings of a top-down culture have broad implications for the workforce and the results it is charged with achieving.

About 83% of Breakthrough survey respondents said their leaders overlook different perspectives or viewpoints. 36% of employees involved in digital transformation said their leaders see people as essential. 60% said they don’t see fair, merit-based or equal opportunity decision-making in their roles, and 38% said their leaders only consult with specific teams or disciplines.

Digital transformation requires cultural change

Clearly, culture change is necessary to build a productive and loyal workforce, and it requires the full support of management. To be successful, leaders must be sensitive to the impact of their words and actions on others and develop greater self-awareness. In the Breakthrough survey, more than half of top business decision makers admitted that they simply assume that employees understand why adopting new technologies and modernizing are essential.

Deeper, more meaningful communication helps leaders recognize subtle challenges, like the significant portion of the workforce that doesn’t like to rush or the potential conflict between organized and unorganized employees.

Genuine dialogue allows leaders to better tailor change programs to individual employee skills. When leaders take the time to find out how comfortable their employees are with change, they are better able to ensure the success of the large number of employees who may need more time, support or incentives to change their habits and learn.

In the modern workplace, people want to feel valued and supported; to get the most out of people as the world transforms, our leaders must transform with it.

About Dianne Stinson

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