We’re lucky to be alive during a workplace tech revolution. As the majority of the world’s population was practicing social distancing and work from home, numerous organizations shifted to a digital-first strategy. Even before the pandemic, employees were leveraging technologies to optimize business operations. These technologies offer the possibility of greater efficiency and stronger customer engagement. Nowadays, organizations are using various technologies to connect and automate functions to make them more efficient. This includes enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, dashboard, and the list goes on. What is A Digital-First Workforce? When you first heard digital-first culture, you may have thought that people were just referring to all the successful companies of the 21st century. However, in reality, digital-first cultures are a completely separate approach for most organizations. Digital-first doesn’t necessarily mean that your workforce utilizes virtual meeting platforms or has managed to adapt the most popular management tools or software. Instead of just adopting the latest technologies, a digital-first workforce refers to an organization-wide mindset that truly appreciates the value of assessing and implementing technologies. A company will only have a digital-first workforce when they place training, education and experiential learning at the forefront of their digital evolution while also being swift enough to align themselves with the continuous shifts in the digital world. The Importance of a Digital-First Mindset As Pablo Picasso foretold in 1964, the effectiveness of computers is limited to ‘only give you answers’. In other words, technologies are only as useful as the people who adopt and apply them. To truly transform a business into a digital-first enterprise, the people in the company should be able to transition to a digital-first mindset. In its simplest form, this mindset is such that it instinctively searches for digital-first solutions for every challenge or opportunity. A digital-first mindset can lead your workforce to explore, adopt and apply technologies in certain situations. Such mindsets can lead us to speedy operations by which employees can easily coordinate with others and act quickly as opposed to waiting for traditional workflows and sequential communications. Digital-first mindsets can drive engagement while also boosting collaboration and transparency and allowing management to make decisions based on data. This approach helps to incorporate cutting edge technologies into every business process. However, the challenge most organizations face nowadays is how to develop a digital-first workforce? It is quite clear that training for technologies is only as effective as an education and doesn’t really create a lasting change in the way people work. Here’s how you can develop a digital-first workforce: 1. Develop the Motivation and Imperative for Reskilling Even though employees are typically well aware of how digital changes occur in an organization, traditional work cultures have them wait for the IT department to spark the change through training and system integration as opposed to proactively learning it themselves. Most employees don’t really realize how much power they have to increase the gains they can produce with digital technologies by increasing their digital acumen. These workers need to see how digital disruption can create a sustainable platform, one which is applicable to their skills and the requirements of the industry. Since Y2K, 53% of the Fortune 500 companies were either acquired, went bankrupt, or simply ceased to exist. The ones that are still active have managed to thrive in the increasingly digitally native industry. That said, the employees of these companies need to grasp that reskilling is an important prerequisite to staying relevant in the now ever-evolving market space. 2. Don’t Focus On Building a Mindset With Knowledge A digital mindset can be described as one where you instinctively start searching for digital solutions to a problem at hand. To establish such a mindset, we should first rewire our brain to think differently than how we do in the traditional marketplace. This rewiring may occur organically by putting in a few years of conscious effort, or it could be quickly adopted by going through numerous digital workflows in an immersive experience. This experiential approach to learning can enable employees to understand, practice, and implement a digital-first mindset in a real-world situation. 3. Develop an Effortless and Continuous Learning Rhythm There’s no doubt about the fact that technology is going to continue to evolve at a rapid pace and it is crucial that employees start adopting a continuous rhythm of learning. The practice of unlearning and relearning should, therefore, become their second nature, just as it has become a seamless part of modern high school generations. As your workforce learns the educational requirements of their digital-first workplace, you should also learn how to keep the communication flowing. You see, educating your employees is only going to get you halfway through because they also need to have a good understanding of what goals their company is trying to achieve with digital technologies. Simply put, besides education, your workplace also requires productive meetings, team education assignments, and team-building processes centered around a new technology you plan to implement. 4. Maintain a Focus on Core Technologies Establishing a digital-first mindset may be important, but more importantly, we need to focus on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You see, there can be no digital transformation without adopting the right technologies. The foundation of every company should therefore strongly focus on implementing technologies so that employees can easily integrate with workplace tools in their job. Employees should be able to work with technologies to communicate, collaborate, create, and search for content while applying data and information to make their jobs more efficient. 5. Develop an Ecosystem of Developing Digital Culture Even though most organizations can be seen to be relying on digital tools and platforms to complete daily objectives, most of them have failed to introduce their workforce to a structure that allows them to fully understand digital tools and why they are being used. Without laying down a proper roadmap of an organization’s vision, goals, and digital strategy, your workforce will not be prepared for success. The culture of a workforce is developed by their everyday practices, and these practices will, in turn, be developed with the help of the behavior of leadership. The leaders in a company should consider institutionalizing relevant processes and methodologies such as decision making based on data, design thinking, and agile process to inspire new habits throughout their organization. This is the only way leaders can inspire a digital-first culture. A digital-first culture begins with education. Companies need to set aside time for their teams to practice new tools, have a better understanding of technological trends or experiment with current technologies. In doing so, their employees will be able to strategically use digital tools to complete business goals. Here’s are just a few ways how you can introduce your workforce to an effective digital education: Sponsor and encourage your employees to get certifications for specific skills or programs. Each team should have managed to achieve at least one certification for the technical field they operate in and should be supported and encouraged to pursue other opportunities. HubSpot Academy and Drupalize Me are two example platforms that have proven to be successful in the past. Organizations can also host workshops themselves to teach or develop their workforce’s skills. A few companies allow each of their functions to take turns at demonstrating their expertise in a job and teach these processes to other teams with the help of webinars or blogs. Companies can also just as easily plan for development meetings on a regular basis so their employees can discuss what they have learned, how it ties into their function in the company, while also getting their team members involved in the whole process. By establishing such groups, your workforce can get excited about learning digital technologies. Final Thoughts The existing workforce of a company is typically best positioned to spearhead transformation since they have a good understanding of the organization intrinsically. They already know its purpose, strategies, strengths and weaknesses. If you manage to arm them with a fine understanding of technologies you plan to leverage and help them adopt digital-first mindsets, you have a great shot at staying competitive in today’s industry. Once they have been supported and upskilled to work with digital technologies unconsciously, you will finally be able to position your organization to grow in the continuously evolving industry landscape of today. We hope all of the above information motivates you to transition your company to a digital-first business. In doing so, your brand will be well on its way to reaping the benefits of today’s digital era. If you wish to learn more about the latest trends in digital marketing, visit my website or feel free to contact me to keep the conversation going.