Three pieces of advice to communicate digital inclusion in transformations

February 16, 2022

The digital transition is moving fast and not everyone is following it as easily. Together with Motivaction, Omnicom PR Group is structurally investigating the impact of the digital transition on consumers. Digitalization is also the engine of change programs within organizations. Bauke van der Loo, Lead Employee Engagement & Change and Juriaan Vergouw, Lead Research & Analytics, discuss three insights from the recent ‘Smart Society Monitor’ research. They also discuss how to turn those insights into effective communication around digital change in the workplace.

Statement 1: All young people are tech-savvy

Juriaan: No, this is not necessarily so. By and large, most young people tend to be more digitally savvy than older people. This just doesn’t mean that as Digital Natives – raised in a digital world – they are all ‘technology forerunners’. So not all young people are tech-savvy. They do not need to know how digital technology works, as long as it works. Nor do all young people concern themselves with the possible consequences of their digital lifestyle. Unlike many older people, who do think about it. 

Bauke: When creating personas for the introduction of new digital processes and applications in organizations, we often look at things like function and position within the organization, what challenges people face in their work and to what extent they are open to change. Often, this analysis still includes age, but does not always adequately consider technical skills. Or the assumption is made: ‘this is a millennial, so he or she will quickly master this new tool’. This does not necessarily have to be the case.

Statement 2: Digital attitude determines attitude towards “The social dilemma

Juriaan: Yes, that’s right. The social dilemma indicates the extent to which digital consumers have a need for privacy, or whether they want to be social online. Two factors are important in determining whether or not you as a digital consumer are open or enthusiastic about technology (your digital attitude). First, the extent to which you are involved in and positive about digital technology and, second, the extent to which you value online social contact or, conversely, privacy. Not every consumer finds online social communication as important as well regulated online privacy.

Bauke: Yes, you see that in change processes within organizations. New technology as part of work processes is not immediately acceptable to everyone. Think of the beginning of the pandemic and working with video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams. This was accompanied by distrust. Is the boss watching on the sly? How do I ensure that company information is not accidentally shared? And this is different for everyone. One way of getting a grip on this is by looking at the different types of digital employees. 

Statement 3: The difference in digital agility among employees is primarily in age

Juriaan: Looking only at age is not complete here. Motivaction has been researching the digital attitudes of Dutch people for ten years. Their Digitality research plots Dutch people and their use of digital technology. This yields five different types of digital consumers. This classification can also be easily translated to internal target groups within an organization, right Bauke?

Bauke: Certainly, effective change communication includes the realization that there are different types of digital users in an organization and that this division is based on more than just age. By also looking at attitude and understanding what these groups need, you increase the chances that different groups of employees will come along with digital change and continue to feel connected to the organization. Especially in these times of hybrid working, it’s important to keep everyone involved and ensure inclusivity.

Tips for each digital target group

  1. Digital Conservatives: They find it harder to imagine the wider possibilities of technology and have limited online knowledge and skills. With this group, when making an internal digital change, such as taking up Yammer or switching to new software, you should take time to build trust and communicate well about privacy and how to safeguard it. So spare yourself the explanations, but instead spend some extra time on how to address any security risks. Also offer extra contact moments for explanation. Not only digitally, but also physically, and let any digital-savvy colleagues help you with this.
  2. Digital Interactors: This group is easy in the social use of online technology, but not very technically proficient. They prefer not to bother with understanding how the technology works, as long as it works. Therefore, ensure an accessible approach and emphasize the ease of use of the tooling in your communication. Make sure that they can get in easily. If we take the example of the rollout of Yammer, this could be by creating a group and posting the first posts by initiators to which they can respond. Give concrete examples of how useful and easy the new tooling is, for example through testimonials from other colleagues.
  3. Mainstream Digitals: This is the middle group that looks to other digital role models. This group is usually digitally less critical. Communication made for the other target groups can usually also be used for this group. Think also of using colleagues as ambassadors. For example, by giving them a face in kick-off meetings or interventions and having them discuss critical or difficult aspects of the change and how they dealt with them.
  4. Digital Functionalists: This group has a lot of knowledge of technology and knows what can go wrong. They are less interested in social use of online technology. This group is more open to communication about functional benefits and have less interest in communication about interaction possibilities. With hybrid working, it takes just a little extra attention for this group to motivate them to use digital tools also for interaction with colleagues. Here, too, employee testimonials about ease of use work well. Digital functionalists can, precisely because of their technological knowledge, help other colleagues to master a new system more quickly, for example.
  5. Full Digitals: These are the front runners who have no problem, for example, sharing personal data in exchange for new functionalities. For internal communication, this means that organizations for this target group must emphasize both the technical and the social side of technology.

Would you like to read more about the digital transition and how you can deal with this as an organization? Download the free paper.