The Human Side of Digital


Hopefully, the zeitgeist of 2020 won’t happen again, at least not for many generations. We’re living through historically tough times that require strong leadership.

When you look back on 2020, you’ll want to know that you did something proactive to help your people and advance your business. This is what we mean when we talk about “the human side of digital.” It’s about helping people and organizations evolve to not just handle uncertainty in the workplace, but to perpetually thrive in the new normal by applying brain science to digital transformation.

Make the Implicit Explicit

If you’re a business leader in 2020, your teams are likely on an emotional roller coaster. Anxiety and uncertainty are at all-time highs, which means oxytocin and serotonin are at all-time lows. People need to know that, as a leader, you understand what they’re going through, even if you don’t know what to do about it. With questions swirling about the pandemic, social unrest and the economy, simply sharing that you’re willing to help in whatever way possible can help to deactivate the fight-or-flight-or-freeze triggers we experience as humans.

This is why companies are showing a renewed interest in examining their organizational cultures, values, diversity and empathy.

The reality is, corporations need to build competency in resilience and adaptability, whether it is merger and acquisition activity, business growth, technology upgrades or digital transformation. In all cases, transformation must address workplace culture and what it means for retaining and optimizing key critical assets: people.

The Time is Now

Today, the need for an evaluation of your organization’s culture is even more critical because all your human capital (people, including your high potentials/performers) may be on edge. Leadership has never been more vital. It’s time to ask whether your organization’s design has the structure it needs to reach the desired, new reality. And it’s time to scientifically assess your organization’s values as well as how those values are brought to life through experiences. These things do not happen on their own.

Leaning into the current climate is not just about implementing pandemic-safety protocols and virtual-collaboration tools. And it’s not just about creating a new African-American network resource group or community of practice. It’s about looking at your company’s values and thinking about how you need to live out or change those values through the corporate culture. And it’s about doing it now, while your consumers, partners and clients are doing it, too.

The Soft Stuff Is Actually the Hard Science

Addressing the “human side of digital” is critical to success in today’s economy. When a company applies neuroscience, the psychology of human dynamics and empathy to digital transformation, it creates a paradigm that fosters resilience and adaptability. When it invests in coaching and executive insights designed specifically to support virtual and mindful leadership at the top and invests in cultural and behavioral assessments, it has put in place the structures that will help it continuously adapt to whatever the future may bring.

Enterprises that address the human side of digital create psychologically safer environments – a prerequisite for organizational agility and high-performing teams.

Real Client Examples: Emotional Agility & Conversational Intelligence

Let’s take job security in our current climate, for example. People may have uncertainty about whether the latest hiring freeze, wave of layoffs, or even furloughs is really going to be the last step in rapid cost take out. They may have a form of “survivor’s guilt,” when their friends and co-workers are released but they aren’t. Or they may have a family member who has been adversely affected during the pandemic. To create a more psychologically safe environment, leaders must empathize with individuals; that means leaders must be vulnerable enough to share what they are personally dealing with.

The application of brain science can help an organization manage the risks associated with the human side of digital and dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for your workforce to rebound from major unplanned or planned disruption. Leaders need to know how to tap into emotional agility, and we can help teach and coach conversational intelligence with our coaching tool kits.

At ISG, we believe in the power of listening. Often, leaders offer critical information through what they don’t say, and we know how to read between the lines. By noting various interactions, like those in meetings and calls, we are able to see where the real issues are and provide concrete, actionable methods to improve the situation, coaching and facilitating teams in real time.

Tune into my recent talk at ISG John & John Show on People and Culture, or contact us to learn more about our approach to the human side of digital and our expertise in digital operating models and enterprise transformation.