Despite the prominence of digital transformation in every facet of our lives, most organisations, including those that are considered “ahead of the game”, say their leadership pipeline and existing leaders are not yet prepared to fully tackle the challenges of digital transformation.
Mindset and skills challenges, including resistance to new ways of working and feeling overwhelmed by complexity, prevent many organisations from achieving effective digital transformation.

“In order to be transformation-ready, organisations need to create a culture of innovation, be open to change, prepared to take calculated risks and willing to fail fast,” explains Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of ManpowerGroup South Africa.

In the Industrial Revolution, for example, it took 50 years to redefine processes and take full advantage of technology. Transforming quickly can make the difference between success and failure, and needs to be continuous in order for organisations to stay ahead and remain competitive.

This means that organisations need to start embracing an open culture of innovation and portray a glass half full view that provides new ways of working. According to the ManpowerGroup “From C-Suite to Digital Suite Report (2017)”, the glass half-empty view indicates that only 47% of CEOs have started the digital business transformation, with the greatest activity occurring in the media, financial services, retail, and healthcare sectors. The glass half full perspective says 89% of business leaders are planning, testing or implementing digital initiatives and 34% have already seen a contribution to business growth.

“However, changing the way things get done can cause friction; it can impact decisions, hamper progress, and disengage people,” explains van den Barselaar. So, the imperative for the right leaders to drive the right behaviours has never been greater.

The gap between traditional ideas of leadership effectiveness and what it actually takes to drive sustained business performance in the digital age has become increasingly evident.

The good news is that that the impact of technology on organisations of every size and sector is infinite, and we know the pace of disruption is accelerating.

By 2020, almost 30% of industry revenues will come from new business models, according to McKinsey & Company, Disruptive Trends That Will Transform The Auto Industry Report, (2016). Rapid digital transformation is needed for forward-thinking businesses to capture opportunity and compete, and leaders must be ready to lead in the digital age.

“It was captured in the “ManpowerGroup From C-Suite to Digital Suite Report”, that companies that embrace digital transformation are up to 26% more profitable than their competitors, whilst enjoying up to 12% higher market valuation,” explains van den Barselaar.

South African organisations are at various stages of transformation – determining strategic importance and working out roles and responsibilities around this.

“Wherever companies are on their digital journey, the path is clear. They need to be more agile, able to deliver in the short-term while adapting for the long-term, and they must take advantage of new tools and fresh thinking that help maximise opportunities,” adds van den Barselaar.