Digital transformation is a lengthy, complex process. And as many companies are now learning firsthand, there’s more to it than moving to the cloud or implementing advanced analytics. To realize the full potential of digital transformation, companies must also understand how technology transforms corporate culture, work and management styles.
The insurance industry, now mid-stride in its transformation to digital, offers a typical example. A recent DXC Technology survey conducted in conjunction with IDC found that only 36% of the respondents from the European insurance industry have implemented a digital strategy. Telling, the report further revealed that companies must rethink attitudes about employees and workstyles to boost transformation efforts. Survey respondents asked about obstacles to transformation frequently cited nontechnical issues, such as an unbending corporate culture, staffing issues and a lack of innovation.
Issues like these sound familiar to Gavin Gollogley, head of digital for Asia at Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial. In a recent edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Digital Economy podcast, Gollogley explains that the workforce is changing as fast as technology, and there are many ways in which companies need to adjust their expectations and strategies. For example, he says, employers must realize that the era of long tenures and established career paths may be over.
“We are looking at people who may change their careers many, many times. I do hire a lot of people who’ve had four or five jobs and they’re only 30 years of age,” he says. At the same time, Gollogley says the agility and innovative capacity they demonstrate is essential. “These are exactly the kind of people Sun Life requires as part of our own transformation,” he says.
Gollogley says it’s imperative for Sun Life managers, especially those with decades of experience, to understand the importance of digital transformation and its impact. If they don’t, they can’t effectively help other employees make the shift. So, the company continually invests in new workplace ideas, techniques and thinking. “We put a lot of focus on education around certain practices on agile, on design thinking. For our chief marketing officers, we put them all on 5-month digital courses,” Gollogley says.
A particular challenge for insurers that recruit new workers is to help acclimate them to a culture that’s more conservative than a typical startup, Gollogley says. “[Culture is] the sum of employee experiences, and I think managers need to understand those experiences, particularly for millennials as they join an insurance company,” he says.
Similarly, new hires need to adjust their thinking, too. “We do want to get those innovators into the organization. We also need people who truly understand it is an insurance organization, that perhaps it does not move at the speed we would like it to move at. There will be frustrations if you come in with the mind-set of a startup,” he says.
Setting the direction for digital transformation will affect insurers for years to come. As plans are made and executed, it’s clear that insurers must understand how transformation influences the workplace and workers. Adapting to that change is just as important as every digital initiative on the drawing board. Maybe more.