24. May 2019

From uncertainty factor to motivator

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Digitalisation has long since become part of everyday life in business. Yet digitalisation initiatives often fail because they are not embraced by employees. The Basler Kantonalbank attaches great importance to staff motivation and the creative power of its employees and sees digitalisation as a far-reaching transformation process.

For many employees, digitalisation is initially accompanied by uncertainty. How will the company perform against the digital competition? Which jobs will change as a result of digitalisation? Which ones will cease to exist, and what new roles will be created? What will happen to their own position? An added concern is not being able to measure up to the new demands. Negative experiences with previous digitalisation initiatives often reinforce this sceptical attitude.

Companies must treat their employees’ scepticism seriously if the transformation process is to succeed. At the Basler Kantonalbank, we have therefore identified four fields of action that must be addressed in order to successfully manage the transformation process from within.

 

1. Field of action: Linking digitalisation with strategy

The question of which business models will survive on the market is as uncertain as the future of individual activities. There is no doubt about the strategic importance of digitalisation: We don’t know exactly what the digital future will look like, but we do know that the future will be digital.

We can reduce this uncertainty by making our own tangible contribution to the transformation process. Using digital information and digital communication, and the need for a continual willingness to learn, high levels of agility and cross-team cooperation all become filled with purpose when they are placed in the context of strategy. The new demands placed on employees’ competencies serve as motivators. Participating in the transformation process opens up opportunities for personal development.

 

2. Field of action: Changing the management culture

The uncertainty, complexity and speed of change associated with the digital age demand a high degree of agility, something conventional management hierarchies often fail to deliver. The pioneers of digitalisation therefore rely on decentralised decision-making, swarm intelligence, and iterative learning processes.

Traditional “command structures” are becoming less relevant; managers are increasingly acting as coaches. Changing existing organisations will, however, take time. Creative scope can be gradually expanded; networked working is to be specifically encouraged. In this way, a new understanding of leadership can be introduced step by step within the organisation.

 

3. Field of action: Creating opportunities

Digital literacy can be learned if appropriate support is provided. But going beyond this, a framework is needed to apply the acquired competencies in day-to-day work. New technologies and tools, which have long become widespread in the private sphere, are increasingly being used in the workplace. The workplace as such is being redesigned: Fixed desks are becoming “workspaces” and “collaboration areas” that, depending on the task at hand, offer the optimal form of working for flexibly organised teams.

Enabling new things to happen also means doing away with the old and thereby creating free space. This kind of decluttering is often the most difficult part of the process.

 

4. Field of action: Making the benefits tangible

People learn best through first-hand experience. In the ideal set-up, employees should be able to associate positive experiences with digitalisation. Unfortunately, a short-term approach to optimising the customer experience in the customer interface often results in frustrating additional work in the downstream processes. For the digitalisation experience to be positive, we must not neglect the optimisation potential of internal processes.

 

Transformation at the Basler Kantonalbank

At the Basler Kantonalbank, organisational transformation is in full swing across these fields of action. Digitalisation is at the core of the company’s growth strategy. The goal is to establish best practices in all relevant spheres of digital transformation by 2021. In addition to investing in expanding our digital offerings, the road map also includes developing and mobilising our employees’ competencies.

As part of the transformation process, our strategy has been translated into concrete terms as a digital mission. We then worked together with employees to develop ideas to shape the process. Our digital mission resulted in a new understanding of leadership, one that emphasises personal responsibility, a culture of learning, and interdepartmental networking. The competencies this requires are being fostered on an ongoing basis. Design Thinking and Scrum courses proved very popular. Developing key competencies in online marketing, user experience management, and data analytics was supported by targeted new hiring.

 

Actively using new digital possibilities at work

We have also embarked on journey towards a new world of work: Mobile devices enable flexible working; new office concepts have been piloted and are now being rolled out on a continuing basis. Digital collaboration tools to promote team cooperation have been made available. Employees can present the results of their work to the entire company in vlogs. Project and project portfolio management have been fundamentally transformed and are now based on Agile methods.

The new digital possibilities will be made available to all employees. To this end, the company suggestion scheme has been expanded into an active innovation management system: In regular design challenges, employees work in interdisciplinary teams and independently develop innovative prototypes to solve customer problems.

Last but not least, the Digital Lean Programme specifically addresses the digitalisation of downstream processes and has a positive impact employees’ day-to-day working lives.

These changes have laid the key cornerstones for the digital transformation of the Basler Kantonalbank. Like any process of change, digital transformation takes time and patience. It also requires a willingness to learn from mistakes and, where necessary, joint work to adjust the direction of transformation. With this approach, digital transformation is increasingly evolving from an uncertainty factor into a motivator and a source of personal development for employees.


Dr. Jan  Damrau
Dr. Jan Damrau

Dr. Jan Damrau has been responsible for group and business development at the Basler Kantonalbank for three years. Prior to this, he worked as a management consultant and business developer and oversaw the development new business areas and transformation initiatives in various financial services companies in Switzerland and other countries.