The value of human interaction in the age of digital transformation

Since my arrival in Thailand in 1999, I have seen the talent development and training market develop rapidly from ‘content focused’ and lecture-based training to today’s highly dynamic, interactive and learner-centric development programs. As the digital transformation advances, we have seen more and more new digital tools becoming common use. The latest technologies have radically changed the way we learn, allowing for on-demand learning, anywhere and anytime. This new availability and convenience has therefore facilitated great online learning experiences for groups that can’t meet IRL.

On the other side of the spectrum, even with digital learning in full swing, I see an increased demand for developing some of the more “human skills” that are needed to thrive in the age of digital transformation. These are the competencies that might not be easily replaced by AI and Chatbots: empathy, collaboration, seeing-the-big-picture, critical thinking and active listening. Developing these and other typical interpersonal skills is not always simple with online tools because they require human interaction to be perfected.

For this reason, I’m very interested in creating better learning journeys to improve these “human skills”, designing opportunities for exploration, reflection and face-to-face sharing, as well as ensuring that the learning benefits are applied and can improve the company’s daily work. I think this phenomenon is blurring the traditional barriers between off-the-job training and what happens “in the flow of work” (cit. Josh Bersin) and the roles of L&D vs. Line Managers in terms of making learning happen.

The digital disruption has also accelerated the pace and rhythm of change in companies, where today’s managers and employees live in constant state of change. This situation often means that people start to lose sight of the overall direction – they can’t see the forest for all the trees; and when people can’t clearly grasp how their hard-work is contributing to the organization, the workforce has lower motivation, increased change fatigue or stress, and more ‘resistance’ to innovation.

In this context, I have observed a considerable increase in the demand for continuously ensuring managers and employees can “see the bigger picture” and can link the changes and the reasons for these changes to their own daily work. At the same time, companies also expect the big-picture vision to be understood in the same terms across all units of the organization to increase cross-functional collaboration and break down silos. This is in my opinion the top-priority for executive teams as their companies experience digital transformation.

The above dynamic was one of the driving forces of one of the projects that Enpeo was involved in. The program scope was supporting a leading manufacturer of infant formula in APAC to improve the regional supply-chain and manufacturing footprint, with the goal to reduce overall inventory levels and decrease the working capital needed in the business. In the first phase of the program, our job was to ensure that all project participants, coming from across the region and from many different functions, could approach the working capital reduction project sharing the same big-picture understanding. It was very important to us to involve all members of the project and ensure they understood the urgency, the roots of the current problems and the way to design the solutions. This approach would reduce the tendency of “silo-thinking” that otherwise made supply chain improvements difficult to execute.

Working closely with the regional supply chain director, we developed a 3-day workshop to build shared understanding of the core business needs and how supply chain improvements contributes to value creation in the organization. 40 project members experienced the Celemi’s Apples & Oranges™ simulation, followed by more detailed exploration and discussion to analyze problems and improvement areas. A graphic poster visualizing the APAC supply chain and manufacturing foot-print, with actual data on inventory days, was developed and served as a foundation for discussion and ideation. As a wrap-up for the ideation phase, teams developed their ideas into mini business cases and pitched back to the group and supply chain director. This ensured everyone could clearly establish a link between ‘technical’ changes and the overall business outcome measured in inventory day reduction and working capital reduction.

During the workshop, all participants appreciated working together using a design-thinking’ approach, surpassing organizational functions and team location. As a result of working as “one team”, the project advanced quickly and eventually accomplished almost 80 million USD in overall working capital reduction.

In the age of digital transformation, I strongly believe that humans are still at the center of learning and providing development opportunities is more important now than ever, be it through digital channels or more traditional approaches. However, to improve essential ‘human skills’ such as collaboration, critical thinking, interpersonal-skills, creativity and initiating change, the most effective way is interacting with other people to solve problems in settings as close to the real world as possible.

Martin Aldergard
Senior Partner, Enpeo Consulting – Celemi Solution Provider

Martin has more than 20 years’ experience in change management, corporate transformation, employee communication and leadership development from Sweden, China, Thailand and Vietnam. In 2002 he co-founded ENPEO Consulting, a consultancy company based in Bangkok and serve clients across Southeast Asia and beyond, specialized in ENgaging PEOple in change.

ENPEO supports a variety of initiatives, including cascading growth goals, bring new vision and strategy to life, embedding and living corporate values, critical product launches, re-branding, cost management, cross-functional communication, leadership development and high potential development.

2018-11-06T12:18:22+00:00 July 2nd, 2018|Case, Facilitator, Insights, Partner interview|