Investing in people is key to a successful transformation

People can be your most important catalyst for digital transformation or your biggest obstacle. When people-related challenges arise for transformation progress, the problems are often very easy to identify but much more difficult to solve.

The challenge is not awareness. Organizations realize that cloud transformations are difficult and that they need highly trained and motivated staff to carry out projects. But they are still struggling to develop the processes to create that staff and, as a result, achieve other project-focused goals.

“By celebrating accomplishments and innovation frequently, you reinforce role model behavior and build grassroots momentum for change initiatives.”

Where are the things

Based on our commitments to customers, we have evaluated the company’s progress in terms of capacity in the eight domains that make up the HPE Edge to Cloud Adoption Framework.

The People domain is the domain in which organizations struggle the most to progress, with an average maturity of 1.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, where a score of 3 indicates a cloud-ready organization (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Organizational maturity in the eight domains of adoption of the cloud operating model

That does not mean that they are bad employers. They may value the employees themselves and aspire to raise their overall level of talent, but still fall short in the overall delivery of talent-related initiatives. They can create talent development plans, but they don’t align them with cloud-centric initiatives. And they can commit to doing a better job of building a talent base, but they don’t exercise the organizational muscle to make it happen.

The difficulties that cloud-centric organizations have on the people’s front can be traced to four of these factors (see Figure 2):

  • Talent attraction and retention
  • Talent empowerment
  • Communication
  • Strategy and planning
Figure 2: Organizational maturity in the People domain

While most organizations at least try to address each of these factors, many do not have the deliberate plans necessary to drive complicated cloud transformations.

A methodical approach to identifying well-defined initiatives that can be implemented in measurable increments can go a long way toward addressing people-related obstacles to transformation progress.

Attract and retain: Compete for specialized skills

Start by attracting and retaining talent. In today’s competitive IT environments, it is critical that organizations attract the specialized skills they need. All companies compete for the same edge, public cloud, and hybrid talent. But organizations are struggling with traditional onboarding techniques. Job searches and executive searches often don’t reach people with the right skills. Compensation packages are getting expensive. Geographical requirements are often too rigid.

Across the entire population of organizations we engage with, those lagging behind in cloud maturity are simply not effective in acquiring the talent needed to get the job done and are not scaling up internal plans to retain the talent they do have.

Rather, leaders on the people front are developing systems to find this talent and keep it. They already have a strong foundation for talent and performance management, and are adapting it to meet the needs of new areas such as hybrid cloud security, hybrid networks, and the Internet of Things. Culture, salary competitiveness, and non-monetary incentives play an important role in an organization’s effectiveness in identifying talent and recruiting success.

Leading organizations are defining new job roles and practice areas, where exciting growth opportunities can be used to compete for attention. They are attracting talent outside of traditional full-time equivalent roles by developing strategic relationships for contractors, partners, and other non-FTE workers.

An insurance company we work with created a program to establish comprehensive knowledge of skills and competencies across the company that allowed them to develop a risk and succession plan and target selective areas in which to acquire public cloud skills externally.

Talent Enablement – Modernize Training to Accelerate Skills Upgrading

Once the workforce is in place, organizations must implement plans to hone skills in important areas of IT, from security to infrastructure to application development. Legacy stores generally rely on passive learning techniques such as courses, webinars, and prerecorded trainings. But they often have incomplete course catalogs because hybrid cloud and edge skills are rapidly evolving. That means they don’t have the offers available to train people.

Leading organizations in our client population deliver better results by creating learning journeys focused on more measurable active learning measures. Coaching and mentoring is a long-standing practice that builds trust in organizations incorporating new sets of tasks, platforms, and responsibilities. They are installing job rotations within roles and contexts.

They are also conducting so-called two-in-a-box techniques that bring in experts from an outside partner to work alongside the staff. These additional hands provide services while training staff to handle the tasks related to a new cloud initiative, essentially fishing while helping workers learn how to catch theirs. One of the top five US banks we work with used this approach, with an emphasis on active learning techniques and modern learning experiences.

Communications: lead and communicate through change

We found significant variation in communication ability across our entire client population, affecting the effectiveness of the transformation.

Transformations affect workers in different ways. Organizations that show maturity in this capacity are using new platforms, taking on new jobs, working new hours, and often reporting within newly configured team structures.

Where we see problems with communications, organizations are often doing a poor job explaining the new landscape and helping workers adjust to the new expectations. Leadership’s commitment to raising awareness and meaningful understanding of the changes that are taking place will help prepare and empower staff for the next phases of the transformation journey.

Organizations with effective communication strategies understand that it is important to use communications not only as a mechanism to update people on changes, but also to celebrate individual and team achievements. This can be done through internal channels such as collaborative communication platforms, newsletters, and internal acknowledgments. It also helps to leverage external channels like social media and LinkedIn to spread the word about successes.

By celebrating accomplishments and innovation frequently, you reinforce role model behavior and build grassroots momentum for change initiatives.

Strategy and Planning – Manage risk and create flexibility through succession planning.

Despite all the work organizations do to retain employees in roles that are critical to the success of the transformation, employees are still leaving. They may be making personal decisions that have nothing to do with their commitments to your company. So what happens if a key manager or critically important group of programmers choose to take on other jobs? Are you undergoing the transformation of the company?

Among our client population, leaders and laggards differ significantly in how they conduct succession planning. Laggards do not understand the risk associated with their human capital and are often not drawing up succession plans to absorb exits from critical IT roles. And without this plan, IT and business operations can be disrupted.

The first step in addressing this situation is to make sure you understand the skills and competencies that you have in all of your organizations. Prepare a risk assessment that assesses the impact on business and operational continuity if someone important leaves. From your risk assessment, you can create a succession plan and install cross-training plans to ensure that skill levels in critical areas are supported within your organization.

Leaders often go one step further. Advanced organizations with highly functional talent plans have a keen awareness of where these critical roles lie within new practice areas. They established mechanisms to identify and reward top performers in these critical areas.

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