Jan. 16, 2024 | Podcast

Episode 33: The Digital Disconnect: Don’t Leave your Employees Behind

Hear from West Monroe's Rick Sabatino, Director in Organizational Change Management, and Kim Seals, Senior Partner in Org & People

About the episode

Explore the essence of digital transformation. Rissa Redden is joined by West Monroe's experts, Kim Seals and Rick Sabatino, to unravel the findings of the 'Digital Disconnect' report. Gain insights into the human element of digital transformation, delve into how organizations are aligning their digital visions with practical execution, and learn how companies can effectively navigate this ongoing journey. 

Read our report, The Digital Disconnect: Linking Vision to Real-World Execution.


Kim Seals

Kim is a Senior Partner in Org & People at West Monroe. Kim’s passion for data and technology allows her to equip clients with data and insights to deliver tangible talent and financial outcomes from HR performance, talent strategy, and technology transformation programs.

Rick Sabatino

Rick is a Director in Organizational Change Management at West Monroe. Rick’s multidisciplinary experience in organizational change and development, business strategy, software product development, and IT allows him to facilitate collaboration across diverse areas of his clients’ organizations.


What are common challenges companies encounter when aligning their workforce with digital processes and procedures? 

Kim: One significant challenge we see is the failure to adjust reward and recognition systems to encourage desired behaviors such as collaboration, risk-taking, agility, and a customer-centric mindset. Without aligning incentives, employees may continue prioritizing activities that are traditionally rewarded. Additionally, fostering career mobility, where employees can explore diverse projects and acquire new skills, is crucial. Rather than a linear career ladder, considering careers as rock walls with varied experiences is essential. To successfully transition to a more digital environment, it's vital to actively involve employees and help them understand the significance it will have on their careers and recognition. 

Rick: It begins with a clear vision that extends beyond aspirations. Effective organizations foster collective conversations, ensuring alignment in goals and discussions. Especially in the era of remote work, these conversations hold teams together. The vision should be more than buzzwords; it must paint a compelling picture of the transformative journey, acknowledging its inevitable complexity. Embracing a culture that permits failure is crucial for innovation in digital transformation. Changing the nature of conversations, allowing room for experimentation, and aligning initiatives with the vision are key to propelling organizational energy towards successful transformation.

Our latest research, The Digital Disconnect, found that only 21% of organizations say the full C-suite is accountable for digital transformation, while 29% said it's the responsibility of a separate transformation team. Why is it important for the full C-suite to own digital? And what steps can executives take to help disperse accountability for digital transformation throughout their organizations?

Kim: It's crucial to ensure all employees are on the same transformative journey. Having one executive or group spearheading a transformation may lack the shared ownership and clear vision necessary for success. Establishing a shared vision requires careful consideration of accountability—defining who owns each aspect of the journey. Alignment among leadership on the vision is vital, with each functional area playing a specific role in its achievement. Change management efforts upfront are pivotal for setting, aligning, and clarifying the shared vision, fostering accountability, reducing confusion, and minimizing risks to achieve the desired outcome. 

Rick: Digital transformations, when done effectively, impact numerous areas of the organization, making it challenging to delegate to a separate group. The C-suite, responsible for the overall well-being of the organization, should not detach from the process. Attempting to develop and deploy organization-wide transformations from within a specific team may lead to skepticism and resistance among those directly affected. This approach often results in a lack of engagement and accountability from the teams implementing the changes. To avoid issues like resistance and poor adoption, the C-suite should take direct accountability for digital transformation, ensuring the entire organization is actively involved and committed to the process. 

In our report, we discussed that companies often heavily invest in technology and data but leave investing in their employees for later. Kim, I’d like to hear your perspective on this approach as well as on its outcomes/pitfalls.  

Kim: Navigating the human aspect of transformation is uncomfortable and nuanced. Unlike technology or data, people possess emotions, skills, and capabilities that require thoughtful and direct consideration. This discomfort often leads to postponing the human element, opting to address technology and data first, which might seem more straightforward to tackle. How companies approach and integrate the human dimension is a critical consideration in the transformative journey. 

Our research clearly shows that one of the biggest reasons why this approach to transformation often fails is because companies are not aligned on the shared vision and accountability. Thus, the key to successful digital transformation is keeping shared vision and alignment upfront and keeping people at the forefront throughout the whole process.

In our survey, we asked the executives to define digital, and the responses were evenly split across various options. Only 30% seemed to understand that digital encompasses the whole organization and not just the point solutions or back-office processes. Rick, can you share some examples of companies that are transforming digitally successfully?  

Rick: Digital transformation unfolds gradually through measured steps. Successful examples include a company that transformed its technology organization by incorporating managed services providers, enhancing digital capabilities in incremental stages. Similarly, a retail organization is systematically restructuring operations, allowing for cross-training, introducing digital tools, and enhancing the front-end experience through careful steps. While the incremental changes have proven successful, the long-term impact depends on sustained organizational commitment to the journey, as organizations take on ambitious visions one step at a time to achieve real and measurable results.

The Digital Disconnect: Linking Vision to Real-World Execution

Executives are aligned on their digital vision, but execution is falling short. There are three main culprits.

Read The Research

This is Digital

West Monroe's team of experts and guests pull back the curtain on how to build digital throughout an organization. Through real-world examples, you will learn how to spot digital transformation in real life, and how to make small decisions every day that make a big impact on growth.

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