How to Communicate Digital Transformation Internally

8 November 2021

Internal Communication

Almost every company faces digital transformation from time to time. From digitalizing processes to improve the customer experience to lowering the amount of administrative tasks for the employees by implementing a new software, digital transformation always requires your colleagues to change their way of working in one way or the other. You can install as many fancy new programs as you want, as long as people don't start working with it, you won't be able to achieve the competitive advantages you were aiming for. That's why digital transformation always needs good internal communication. But how can you make sure to reach all employees and motivate them to start working with the new software, get familiar with the new processes or embrace the new strategy?


Digital transformation isn't only a huge transition for any company, it's also a pretty big change for the employees. And, just as with any other change project, it's likely you won't only meet people that are just as enthousiastic about the change as you are. But employees that don't want to support your digital transformation project don't really help you on your way of implementing the change successfully. That's why internal communication is so important: By informing employees about the process and keeping them in the loop, by making the transition relevant to them, you avoid discussions and increase the chances of a successful implementation significantly. To a certain degree, digital transformation is the same as any other change project, but at the same time it's a little more complex. To understand why, let's have a look at what digital transformation actually means.


What is digital transformation?

Technically, digital transformation includes all technological changes to digitalize different processes within a company or an organization. But it doesn't stop there: Digital transformation almost always includes an organizational change, too. After all, the company needs to adapt to the new software or process, or even implement a new strategy. Only if the organization internalizes the technological change, the digital transformation can be completed.


That means digital transformation is more than just installing a new software and sending out the manual. To achieve the advantages you were hoping for, employees need to start working with it efficiently and adapt all working processes related to the change. And that might take some time, as employees are only humans, too. And humans like their habits. It takes them quite some effort to change them. Change is always scary in one way or the other, it's always something unknown that includes a certain degree of uncertainty. And that's definitely true for digital transformation.


Examples of digital transformation

Need an example? Digital transformation can be quite a buzzword, after all. But there are tons of good examples that illustrate how big of a change digital transformation actually can be for any organization. Before we hand you a step-for-step guide to communicate digital transformation internally, let's have a look at those examples: 

Let's start with what is potentially the biggest digital transformation of all times: the invention of the internet. Before there was internet, companies needed to do everything offline. And once the internet got more accessible to the average company and their clients, everybody had to adapt. Until the point where nowadays, we can't even imagine running a successful business without having a good homepage, working email address or online customer service, for example. However, implementing working online wasn't a process that took a couple of days or even weeks. It took years to get used to implement and optimize the new way of working, including the bigger reach companies suddenly had. And if we are honest, we are still adapting to the developments within the online world again and again: With every change Google makes, with every new social media platform popping up somewhere. 10 years ago, nobody would have guessed that somewhere in the future, serious business people would record TikTok dances for marketing reasons after all. 

Obviously, digitalization goes way further than only optimizing the company website. Digital transformation also includes the digitalization and automation of administrative processes for example. By implementing different administrative programs, companies were able to reduce the time and effort administrative processes such as archiving files, tracking hours, sending invoices or offers and more took. Depending on the software you use, you can simply enter the information of a new supplier into the system, for example, and the software is able to link all invoices and payments to this supplier, pulling in all needed information from the database automatically. By automizing these kind of processes, employees often have more time to focus on the one thing artificial intelligence can't replace: creativity within their jobs.

Businesses are not the only place where digital transformation happens. Ever thought of digital transformation in healthcare, for example? By digitizing patient data, it's become easier to share files when necessary. However, this digitalization didn't only require the people working with the new systems to understand how to enter the data, but also how to protect its privacy. Again, the implementation of a new technology required an entire sector to change their way of working, expecting from employees to find their way of working in the new, more digital environment.

Read more about digital transformation in the healthcare sector in our case study for the Dutch organization Parlan Jeugdhulp!

You might think that, if digital transformation is such a tricky subject, you'd rather not get anywhere close to it. Well, we got bad news for you: In our constantly changing world, digital transformation is necessary to keep up with the competition. The optimization and automization of processes and administrative tasks is the only way you can use the most valuable resource to its fullest: your employees.


So if you can't avoid digital transformation, how could you possibly make sure to implement a new software, strategy or process successfully and efficiently without resistance from the employees? How can you make sure they are motivated to digitize, taking into account their always-busy agendas? Because even though the digital transformation might save them time on the long term, it means investing time to getting to know the new situation in the first place.

Communicate digital transformation internally

The trick of implementing any change project successfully is good internal communication. By onboarding them early in the process and guiding them through the change, you minimize the chance of resistance. So all you need to do is sending the right message to the right people via the right channel at the right time. Sounds complicated? Let us help you out with our step-for-step guide to communicate digital transformation internally.

Know your target audience: The better you know your target audience, the better you can communicate. Before you start to communicate your digital transformation project, it's therefore necessary to analyze who you are dealing with. Who are the people that need to work with the new software, the new strategy or the new processes? What motivates them to come to work and do their best every single day? Potentially, you'll find out that not all employees form one homogenous target audience. In that case, you can segment your audience by information need, knowledge level or department, for example. Want to get to know your audience even better? Make personas! That way, you can personalize your internal communication campaign even better.

Turn your employees into ambassadors: Chances are, not all employees within your company will be just as enthousiastic about digital transformation as you are (or as their colleagues are). Of course, you could put a lot of time and effort in convincing those who don't want to change, and maybe you even have to. But you can also turn those who are looking forward to the change into ambassadors. By focussing on them in your internal communication strategy, they might help you convince those colleagues who are rather skeptical.

Make it relevant: When employees understand why something is important or relevant, they are much more likely to support it. That's why you should always start your internal communication campaign with why: Why is digital transformation the best thing to do? Keep the analysis of your internal audience in mind and try to make the change as relevant to your audience as possible. Remeber what motivates them to do their best every day? Maybe you could connect digital transformation to that motivation. 

Don't communicate everything in one go: There's a lot of information your employees need to be able to implement change successfully. That's definitely also true for digital transformation. But they certainly don't need all the information at the same time. As mentioned before, you should always start with why. Once your target audience understands the relevance of the project, they are ready to learn more about what is about to change. And last but not least, make sure they receive the right amount on information on how the project is going to be implemented and how they should act. Although some segments of your audience might not need all the information, you shouldn't skip a phase or jump back and forth between them. 

Want to know more about the ideal structure for your internal communication campaign?

Use the right media: Just sending an email to all employees might sound appealing as it's a pretty quick way of informing everyone. After all, they all check their emails daily, anyways, right? Well, please don't. Especially when a change project, such as digital transformation, requires some specific instructions or quite a lot of explanation, an email is not the way to go. Think about the best media per phase of your internal communication campaign. You could use an animation with recognizable situations for your target audience, for example, to explain why the digital transformation is important. Or an infographic to explain the different steps on the way to the implementation of a new software. If you want to increase the knowledge level of your audience about your change project, you can use e-learning in the how-phase of the campaign. By measuring the overall scores of your audience, you don't only know if they are able to work with the new strategy, process or software, but also what they did or didn't understand. This doesn't mean an email isn't an option at all, by the way. Just make sure to think about alternatives or a combination of media and channels to really reach your audience.

Make it measurable: Last but not least, make sure you are able to measure the results of your internal communication campaign. How are you supposed to know if you reached your target audience and thus communicated efficiently without measuring? And especially with such a crucial change project, you don't want to rely on your gut feeling. By keeping an eye on the progress of your campaign, you are able to spot potential painpoints up front and adjust your communication accordingly. Define clear goals and make them measurable by using tools that provide you with the data you need: Email programs that tell you more about opening rates and click-throughs, for example, or e-learnings that allow you to get insights of the knowledge level of your employees.

By keeping these steps in mind, you are able to communicate any change project, including digital transformation, internally. However, make sure to find the best timing and effort to put into your campaign based on the impact the failure of the implementation potentially has on the company. However, internal communication is always crucial. By making sure to have the right systems and tools in place, you are ready to communicate any upcoming change project at all times.


Are you planning to communicate some kind of digital transformation internally? Make sure to get your internal communication infrastructure in place! No idea where to start? Get in touch with our consultants. We are happy to help!

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