Deconstructing Digital Transformation: A Q&A with Tricia Bielinski

Tricia Bielinski

Global HR Director, K2 Partnering Solutions

With more than 10 years in the recruitment industry, Tricia has held positions around the world in management of producing teams as well as establishing training and development programs globally. Tricia currently oversees the digital transformation projects and development of global HR policy and talent management programs. With any project she is involved in, change management is of paramount importance to a successful implementation.

Tricia’s role encompasses the development, management, and administration of all global HR policy and talent management programs.  She is involved in researching, creating, and implementing new initiatives to support transformation as well as thought leadership and strategy. K2 is a consultative technology staffing firm that got its start 20 years ago, helping businesses take advantage of transformational technologies. As a global enterprise today, K2 is expanding its expertise in staffing for AI, robotics, and digital initiatives.

Some would say that “digital transformation” is moving at lightning speed from business buzzword to business as usual. What’s your take?

There’s no question that we are very much in the digital era. From a personal perspective, everyone has experienced the impact. Whether it’s managing bank accounts from a mobile phone, real-time connectivity, social media or the internet of things, our lives are changing and the impact on business has been huge. For us at K2, from the perspective of the internal digital transformation efforts I lead, I’d sum it up as getting actionable business intelligence from dormant data. As an example, we implemented Wave Analytics (a product of about two years ago. That one initiative has made a huge difference for us in terms of the visibility we have into the data that runs our business. From that input and output, we gain insights into how we can better manage customer and employee relationships, how we can develop our employees, and lots more. That is just one small example of how digital transformation can impact a business. There are a lot of cloud-based tools, systems, and applications that make it easier to access information and take action on a real-time basis.


Where do you see the biggest obstacles to successfully launching transformation?

It starts with strategy because there are still so many unknowns. Even some Fortune 1000/2000 companies are unsure of their digital strategy. For example, cybersecurity is a huge area of focus for many, but there’s not a lot of strategy around it. We get lots of questions from CIOs and CTOs looking for our help in figuring out what comprises a comprehensive cybersecurity resource strategy. That’s why we refer to ourselves as a consultative technology staffing firm. We work with our clients to understand not only the talent pool, but also the necessary skills and certifications and what the right talent can do for our customer’s business. With so many unknowns, we have opportunities to add real value to these discussions.

How do you practically approach digital transformation at K2?

When you’re looking at your business, there’s always a bit of struggle to understand how to feed the business that is happening today and how to develop for the future. We follow the “three-horizon” business model that quite a few large enterprise companies use. Horizon 1 is extending our core business; Horizon 2 is developing new opportunities, and then Horizon 3 is the visionary stuff creating viable options from the vision. That is how we go about developing our strategy. From there, we develop long-term roadmaps and then prioritize the delivery of the roadmaps according to the business growth strategy and ensuring we have the resources in place to deliver on those plans.


Who is involved in developing your high-level company strategy as it relates to digital transformation? 

It’s really collaborative. When it comes to ownership, we start at the top with executive involvement, but we operate as a committee across multiple functions with weekly calls and monthly meetings as we move forward through the transformation process.

How do you get ready for the next stage of growth?

There has to be a strategy with an end goal. You can’t have an effective plan unless you know where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Then work backward from there.


How do you successfully navigate any significant business transformation, whether it’s digital or not?

Regardless of the initiative, it’s all about change management. Start early and leave enough time for the new process to be understood, to make improvements, and to get buy-in from senior and mid-level managers who are the drivers on the ground with our associates. You really need to underscore the why and how the change will impact everyone, because, inherently, people are resistant to change. You could implement a change flawlessly, but if you don’t have buy-in, you won’t be successful.


How have you advised your clients to pull together a change management team?

Credibility and communication are critical. Whomever you select to be part of your change management efforts should already be respected at the outset. Then they need to educate themselves, so they can communicate about the change. At the end of the day, you can order trinkets or mouse pads as part of change management, but whether you succeed or fail always boils down to the communication of the why behind the change. Never assume that people see the bigger picture the same way you do. They are more likely thinking about recruiting that next candidate or finding their next deal.

What’s the most common obstacle in digital transformation?

It’s around managing expectations and a thorough understanding of what the new business process will do for each person it impacts. You also need to back up the change with solid training. That includes resources and user guides that people can fall back on after the training ends, so they don’t feel left on their own. Don’t make the mistake of assuming people remember everything the first time they hear it. Continuous training and ongoing support is vital.


How has your own training evolved at K2 in terms of introducing new methods and processes?

Gamification and leaderboards can help drive the right behaviors and reinforce training but outside of that, you have to make the right resources available to your team when they need to get something done in a rush (and there’s always a fire drill). Can they get the answers they need quickly? Arm them with all the reference material they need and make it easily digestible.

Any tips for managing change across the globe?

When you undertake any change on a global basis, it obviously adds another level of complexity. Being face-to-face is ideal for training and communicating about change. You can do this virtually, of course, but it’s more challenging. Overall, I wouldn’t change my advice about constant and continuous training and communication, but the effort probably needs to be kicked up a notch if you’re dealing with a virtual workforce. Be sure to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.


What happens when the change is “over”?

I don’t know if it’s ever really over, but it’s important to highlight real results and the successes of any new process or system. People like to see proof that whatever changed is working. You want them to say, “Maybe it actually does work!” Constantly highlight what’s working and keep the door open to feedback and improvements. It’s rare that you nail it perfectly the first time out, so involve people and give them a voice in the process. Whether through super users or feedback committees, let people voice their concerns and opinions positive or negative. It’s good business practice. Besides, senior management isn’t the only source of good ideas, so you want to be open to that fresh perspective that gives you the opportunity to continually improve.

Since it’s clear that any transformation you undertake will be painful, why start?

Assuming you’re making money, you can continue to run your business the way you do today, but it’s important to stay relevant in the market and even ahead of the curve. In today’s digital era, it’s going to be pretty easy to become irrelevant. Take the staffing industry as an example. There are lots of threats from social networks to the hundreds of online platforms for direct sourcing all set to disrupt the recruitment process. How will these change the business? Could they totally eliminate recruiters? These are real issues we need to be thinking about. I personally believe you will always need humans to help humans, so recruiters won’t disappear, but it’s important to evaluate threats and take steps to remain relevant.


Any final thoughts or advice on transformation?

Whatever changes you plan, start slow and do your research. Run comparisons on the different programs and systems that are out there. Make sure you have all the information you need before you move forward. Don’t bite off more than you can chew at one time. That just creates pandemonium. And remember, there’s no magic wand. You still need to be disciplined about creating a plan and executing all parts of the plan with the right people on the team. Then roll up your sleeves to execute and deliver successfully. The need for diligence and hard work is as true in the digital era as at any time.

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