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Thursday, September 28, 2017

5 Ways to Help Employees Keep Up with Digital Transformation | Harvard Business Review

"Ideas from the consumer products industry" according to Deb Henretta, senior advisor to General Assembly and Anand Chopra-McGowan, leads General Assembly’s global Consumer Product & Retail practice.
 

Photo: Harvard Business Review

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) landscape is in the midst of a significant shake-up. Coca-Cola recently reshuffled its leadership team to focus on growth, innovation, and digital. Unilever has acquired Dollar Shave Club, a young startup, for $1 billion in a move to introduce a new model of subscription sales. L’Oréal has made a strategic investment in Founders Factory, a digital startup accelerator. And at Greycroft, a venture capital firm, investor Teddy Citrin has laid out a veritable map for the further disruption of every consumer products category.

From our view and experience, what underpins the success of these new ideas and approaches is the abilities, skills, and mindset of the company’s workforce. In our work with leading consumer products companies around the world, we’ve identified clear practices and investments that bring a greater chance of success in organizing a workforce around the expectations and needs of the connected consumer. Here are five:

Commit from the Top
The rallying cry for new ways of working in the digital age must start at the top. At L’Oréal, CEO Jean-Paul Agon signaled the company’s digital transformation when he recruited Lubomira Rochet to be the chief digital officer and a member of the executive team.

One of Rochet’s first tasks was to create a leadership development program that equipped executives with the knowledge, mindset, and ways of working the company would need to grow in the digital age. The top 1,000 executives at L’Oréal have participated in a range of learning experiences, enabling them to build digital road maps for their regions and businesses and to model the behaviors that their team members must embrace to execute on these plans, such as a willingness to experiment, an openness to external partnerships, and more autonomous team structures. “A clear, easy-to-memorize digital group strategy is now vocally championed by leadership across the company,” Rochet says.

Another way to signal commitment from the top is if CPG leaders actually engage with the tools their consumers use. Pete Blackshaw, Global Head of Digital & Social Media at Nestle, advocates for CPG leaders to personally embrace the use of emerging digital platforms and channels in order to make this new paradigm real to employees, agency partners, and suppliers.

“I’m constantly using and testing new platforms — live video, posts on Facebook, Instagram stories, and more. Experiencing this for myself gives me that extra edge to ask the tough questions and challenge some of the sales pitches from agencies and tech companies trying to sell me that big campaign,” Blackshaw says. “Personal experience makes me a more effective marketer.”

Give Employees Direct Access to Consumers 
Fast-growing consumer products companies such as Warby Parker, Glossier, and Dollar Shave Club are upending the traditional retail model, which depends on a manufacturer selling to a retailer that then sells to the end consumer. Plug-and-play e-commerce technology, search engine optimization, and other distribution solutions are making it ever easier for products to directly reach consumers. 

This shift gives CPGs an opportunity to gain rich insight into the tastes and habits that drive their sales. Gaining this insight, however, requires a simultaneous shift in organizational structure to bring internal teams much closer to consumers. New and emerging tools such as social media listening, user research, and journey mapping can be powerful enablers to guide CPGs digital transformation.
One such example is Connected Home, a unit set up by British utility company Centrica to build “smart home” appliances. The team was structured to operate like a startup, with a particular focus on user research, feedback, and a commitment to lean operations. This approach helped Connected Home’s Hive “smart thermostat” device become a market leader in just a few years. Kassir Hussain, former director of Connected Home, told us: “In a space that can often be confusing and frustrating to consumers, our focus on regular user interviews, meetings, tests, and demos allowed us to build a product that was simple, easy to use, and addressed real consumer needs.” In a competitive energy market, the Connected Home unit has now become a major differentiator and profit driver for the parent company, Centrica.

Help Employees Embrace Agility 
Agility is key to success when undertaking digital transformations. Today’s technologies and consumer needs change faster than traditional business road maps can deliver, and employees need to be ready and empowered to move at this pace. The best way to drive this shift is to establish a set of tangible day-to-day activities and behaviors that enable employees to act quickly.

One such activity was introduced by Deb Henretta while leading P&G Asia. She pushed her teams to move to 24/7 monitoring of all digital assets — owned sites, customer sites, and social media channels. She introduced a set of live dashboards and frequent reports that helped the team keep a constant pulse on consumer behavior and activity. This was a pace far faster than the quarterly and annual reviews they were used to when all products were sold in a physical environment. But the team learned to keep a close eye on everything from page load times to consumer reviews to social media sentiment.
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Source: Harvard Business Review


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