Internal digital transformation: Innovation for a better employee experience
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Internal digital transformation: Innovation for a better employee experience

April 27, 2023 | Updated on May 3, 2023

Federal agencies are increasingly adopting innovative methods, like agile, that prioritize iteration and user experience to transform digital service delivery and better serve the American public. To meet this moment, the Partnership for Public Service hosted a four-part series of workshops titled “Agile Government and Digital Transformation” with Slalom and Fearless.  

This blog, the second in our series of four, draws from our workshop session featuring Brian Whittaker, chief innovation officer of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and founder of Humans of Public Service, Krista Kinnard, director of innovation and engineering at the Department of Labor and a 2022 Service to America Medals® honoree, and Partnership Vice President of Government Affairs Jenny Mattingley. 

Applying human-centered principles to redesign internal digital systems—those used by employees without an outward-facing service component—can create the best possible experience for an organization’s staff and internal teams. 

Three keys to launching a human-centered internal digital transformation are employee engagement, strong leadership and transparent communication. 

1. Employee Engagement.

Involving employees in developing internal digital solutions can lead to tools that reduce friction and ease work tasks. Key aspects of these efforts include: 

  • Directly engaging employees who will use the new digital system with an eye toward how digital transformation might best serve their needs.   
  • Speaking with employees about what is difficult about their work while being humble and curious. These conversations should seek to understand employees’ current experience, not to immediately correct or provide solutions.  
  • Integrating employee expertise and input to inform the design of technologies and change-management strategies.  

2. Leadership Engagement.

Committed leadership is key to successful internal change. Key priorities should include: 

  • Getting leadership on board early to help steward resources toward technology adoption and change-management. 
  • Finding trusted advocates in the organization who can help maintain momentum during difficult times or staffing transitions. 
  • Demonstrating in tangible and vivid ways how digital transformation will ease agency challenges while validating employee concerns about new digital systems that might significantly change agency operations. 

According to Krista Kinnard, the Department of Labor’s director of innovation and engineering, agency staff were at first uncomfortable with new automated bots that aimed to help streamline internal processes. When colleagues said they would not trust a bot, the Labor team held training sessions, and agency leadership showed the importance of the work by prioritizing their attendance. The result was increased adoption and a better understanding of what it means to use technology to automate a process. 

3. Communication.

The right framing goes a long way, and it is important to: 

  • Recognize that terminology matters. Jenny Mattingley, vice president for government affairs at the Partnership, has found people more willing to accept change when the project is structured and referred to as a pilot. If and when the pilot goes well and things start working smoothly, the project can drop this term. 
  • Communicate clearly that progress takes time. It will take multiple iterations before the team lands on what everyone is looking for. Agile digital transformation is not a shortcut, and everyone involved in the work should understand that. Transparency about timelines, successes and failures can go a long way toward building trust and easing adoption. 

For more, please read the other blogs in this series:

This post was authored by Greg Godbout, chief growth officer at Fearless, Triveni Patel and Amanda Starling Gould.  

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