With the threat of climate change, the need to create collaborative, high-performance environments, and the rising fears around trends like AI bias, organizations must drive digital transformation agendas that not only create better financial performance and operational efficiencies, but also prioritize authentic ethical and sustainable agendas. This is needed to address the accelerating challenges facing society, while also meeting the needs of corporate stakeholders including investors, customers, employees, suppliers, and partners.
Alain Paolini, Associate Vice President at HCLTech, is responsible for business transformation and talent management. He believes that an organizational mindset shift needs to occur when thinking about ethical and sustainable digital transformation.
According to Paolini: “Instead of looking at digital technologies to solely save money or improve efficiencies, organizations should align these goals equally to what ethical or sustainable outcomes can be achieved.”
He added: “Digital transformation links financial performance with people’s objectives. Increasingly, sustainability performance should become part of the overall performance against which people are measured.”
For example, a manufacturing plant might adopt automation technologies to reduce costs and drive operational excellence. The result of this investment is less waste and energy use including materials, time, and money. When evaluating the business case to implement any technology strategy, materials saved should be considered an equally critical business outcome to how much time and money can be saved from the technology investment.
Improving productivity is another significant driver of digital transformation. For employees to enhance their productivity, clarity of roles and responsibilities is required. The clearer the roles and responsibilities, the higher employee satisfaction, and the less likely they are to behave either unethically or in a way that would be detrimental to the company.
“This will not only have financial benefits, but also sustainable outcomes, as productive organizations are better able to find the opportunities for improvement and execute these with the right people,” said Paolini.
He continued: “It’s not just about creating or saving resources, or being more economical, it’s about creating a high-performance environment that enables better collaboration among teams as part of a frictionless system.”
As an example, Paolini referenced another manufacturing facility that allowed its employees to drive their own definition of ways of working.
He said: “We empowered the teams to discuss how their roles and responsibilities would be impacted by the new systems and processes being implemented. As a result, they created a new way of interacting, different rules of engagement, and new commitments, resulting in a longer term, more sustainable ways of working that reduced lost time, waste, and errors by 30%.”
Purpose-driven employee engagement
To truly transform, organizations need the full and authentic engagement of their employee population. Driving an agenda that focuses on and addresses ethical and sustainability challenges is an effective way to mobilize employees. Embracing technology solutions that are focused on clear corporate purpose is a more effective strategy to engage a workforce.
“Organizations can embed and define clear ethical and sustainable principles that describe how they're going to execute transformation objectives. These need to be ingrained and embedded in the culture to help people make the right decisions during challenging moments.” explained Paolini.
Looking at this mindset in action, Paolini referenced a large company that specializes in window blinds and coverings.
He said: “Over a three-year period, we helped them reinvent their business model, implement a new business process blueprint, as well as a technology eco-system across 14 divisions. This impacted 11,000 employees across three different countries. The leaders in the organization prioritized ethical and sustainable decision-making during the process. This included deciding to pause implementation activities to address significant gaps in data management. By creating a strong Master Data Management (MDM) foundation, cleaning up data, and aligning to one common source of truth across divisions, the organization chose a more progressive outcome at the expense of the timeline. That decision also reinforced the role of the business (not IT) in owning core data in the enterprise, creating new roles, and a renewed commitment for alignment and performance.”
Paolini added: “MDM is about defining a common source of truth that becomes the foundation of financial, operational, and customer transactions across an ecosystem of divisions that make up the enterprise.”
This is a good example of authentic ethical and sustainable thinking. Many organizations will take the opposite approach and implement a data management tool without defining or aligning on the core data elements, such as unit cost, unit of raw material, or what gets included in behind the scenes operational calculations. This makes it challenging to share reliable information across an enterprise, align teams, and drive beneficial business outcomes.
For those organizations wanting to make a change, below is a step-by-step guide to implementing ethical and sustainable digital transformation initiatives:
Step 1 – Articulate the vision: Set the stage internally and make sure employees understand the impact of the planning digital transformation initiative.
Step 2 – Prioritize sustainability: Outline decisions that demonstrate how ethics and sustainability are a priority over other potential short-term objectives.
Step 3 – Be transparent: Provide visibility and transparency in explaining and advocating for the initiative and communicate any challenges of the journey along the way.
Step 4 – Identify advocates: Provide advocates additional responsibility, positioning them as champions and ambassadors.
Step 5 – Bridge the gap: Be sure to connect internal behaviors in the initiative with the messaging promoted externally.
Step 6 – Execute: Deliver on your plan for key initiatives. Commit to applying a sustainability lens to ongoing investments and decisions.
For more details on HCLTech’s sustainability ambitions, read here.