When we hear about corporate digital transformation projects, we usually imagine massive undertakings on an organizational level. What we don’t often discuss, however, is that these seemingly large projects are actually several small transformations that occur concurrently across different teams and departments.

Most organizations today work under strict hierarchies that divide not just responsibility and authority, but also communications and interaction between teams. This unfortunate status quo creates siloes across organizations that limit day-to-day efficiency, but also make undertaking company-wide projects a nightmare when there is no cohesion.

Even though digital transformation projects—adding digital communications, integrating new tools, and more—are meant to help collaboration and improve overall efficiency, they can fall flat when they’re not coordinated. This is where your Human Resources team becomes crucial. Thanks to their unique position, HR teams can act as bridges between teams and ensure that digital transformations are smooth, and successful.

Silo Walls Are Hard to Tear Down

It’s not uncommon for organizations to structure themselves into neatly divided silos. Rapid growth and expanding responsibilities for different departments make it easier to keep every group focused on their own work, separate from the bigger picture. Indeed, silos do offer some benefits—the ability to focus on a single issue at a time, better intra-team communication, and a clearer hierarchy—but they create more problems than they solve.

Consulting firm McKinsey estimates in a recent study that less than 30% of digital transformations succeed, while only 16% have markedly improved performance. The problem is also worse as companies grow, with small organizations (fewer than 100 employees) having 2.7 times greater success than enterprise level companies.

The report is not all bad news, however. One important trend that shines through is that organizations that had managers ensuring collaboration between teams were 1.6 times more successful than those that did not. Silos limit your company’s ability to communicate at a vital junction—in the middle of a corporate makeover—and make it harder to successfully complete your digital transformation.

HR Can Build Bridges Between Teams

One of the most important aspects of any successful transformation project is clear communication, not just within teams, but across different parts of the organization. This coordination doesn’t come from the bottom up, but rather from the executive and management teams down. However, team leaders aren’t always looking at the bigger picture, but rather their own teams. HR, on the other hand, works for the entire organization, and has a much better idea of what is necessary.

One of the biggest responsibilities HR has is to communicate with every team in an organization to understand their needs, concerns, and general levels of engagement. Additionally, they must be in contact with executives and understand their companies from head to toe. This means that HR teams often have data and insights that few others, even at the highest levels of management, have.

From quantitative data about productivity to qualitative information about employees’ concerns, needs, and preferences, HR teams can help transformation projects by supporting team leaders through the often-complex processes.

More importantly, HR is uniquely positioned to be a beacon during the turbulent transition process. HR teams are often in the best place to coordinate efforts across departments, as their interests lie only in improving overall happiness and productivity, and not on achieving individual success for their group. As such, they can act as a go-between for management and individual teams and be a coordinator of overall efforts.

Nevertheless, while digital transformations are broad undertakings, they are stressful times for smaller teams. Here, HR’s role is to support each team and understand how their needs fit into the larger scope of the project. By coordinating at multiple levels, HR also helps ensure that the digital transformation’s goals and needs link up.

Perhaps most crucially, then, HR’s role is to break down the walls each team has built for its silo and create better communication between teams during times of synchronized evolution.

Organizational Change is Hard, but Possible

Creating the right basis for a successful digital transformation is no easy task. From ensuring you have the resources you need to actually carrying out a complex plan, it requires an immense effort. However, keeping your teams walled off from each other can only make things harder for you.

By entrusting HR to take the lead and build communication channels that can support this massive undertaking, you can improve your odds of success, and more importantly ensure that your investment will pay off with sustainable improvements.

Written By
Hadas Almog is the VP of Global Human Resources at WalkMe, the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP). With two decades of experience transforming the standard for talent acquisition, retention, and digital transformation, Hadas has become a lauded force driving the future of work. A master of the intricacies of humans’ relationship with workplace tech, she offers an important perspective on digital adoption in HR.
Human Resources Today