Updated: Mar 18
Culture Transformations, the Fuel behind Digital Transformations is a two-part series discussing digital culture and change. We explore the importance of culture development and how to achieve a digital culture in today’s workplace for successful transformation and sustainable change.
Technology-enabled processes are growing faster than ever in today’s business landscape, organizations are constantly trying to adapt to new trends as best they can. Many businesses still fall behind when it comes to tech integration and digital transformations. As we discussed in Part 1: Culture Transformations, the Fuel Behind Digital Transformations, when businesses are evolving quickly, leaders and their people often experience culture crashes. After understanding why digital cultures are important in driving capabilities for your business, you might be wondering where to start in building a digital culture of your own.
Let’s begin by saying that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for digital cultures, and with any important change, having a detailed plan in place is crucial. If you’ve ever put together a change plan, you’ve likely followed a similar series of steps to the ones I’m going to describe below. That being said, let’s look at what actionable tasks leaders can implement at each stage to get the ball rolling, rather than just reviewing the overall concept.
Step 1: Identify the change
Identifying the changes you think would best impact your business sounds easy at first, but how can you ensure that the direction you’re going in makes sense? Leaders can identify their ideal digital culture by first analyzing the key players in their industry and market. It’s hard to craft the ideal characteristics of your digital culture out of thin air, so referencing leaders in the tech industry while considering your own businesses goals, strategy and mission, can be extremely helpful during this process. A clearly defined digital culture framework to begin with, helps you pin-point which behaviours you should aim to instill in your team in order to achieve those key characteristics.
Looking at real life examples of best practices and trends in your industry or other companies you want to emulate can help you identify the do’s and don’ts early on. This research can also enlighten you on the types of workshops and training practices that worked best for achieving that digital culture. Don’t forget to keep in mind that what worked for one business, may not work for yours, every organization has their unique goals and people. Let the industry leaders and tech-groovy firms act as inspiration for crafting your own change goals.
At this point, it also makes sense to assess where your own organization’s culture stands. This will help identify the gaps between your current and target culture. Some of the ways you can do this is by creating a culture committee, conducting surveys, interviews, focus groups, and opening up communication between you and your employees. This is an essential part of this process, understanding the pulse of your organization lets you know if your employees are ready to undergo change and what support they’ll likely need for future changes.
Step 2: Focus on employee engagement
Employee engagement is always a hot topic, we know that it’s important to have, but achieving it can be a challenge. Digital cultures especially need engaged employees since teams and individuals are to eventually act more autonomously and use their own judgement in decision making. One way to excite your people about the digital shift is to provide incentives such as work from home for the desired behaviour you outlined in the last step. Leaders should also keep in mind that change drivers can go beyond the boardroom all the way to the front line, sometimes the individuals that will make the biggest impact are on not within your leadership group. Creating everyday opportunities for these individuals to serve as informal leaders and role models can inspire others to follow suite and act as communication portals, clarifying any uncertainties or misconceptions about the change.
Another common practice in implementing digital change is rotating employees into mentor roles, this can empower a wider community of people in your organization. When people feel that they are needed and have a special role in the change, they’ll be more inclined to take initiative and promote new practices. Developing your training materials at this stage is also a good idea, you’ll have access to input from key influencers by your side as you collaborate and determine which training techniques best suit your diverse group of people. Training individuals on new digital platforms and collaborative spaces will most likely be a long and strenuous process however, the hardest part will be developing the learning culture that reinforces these changes. It’s not just about being able to use new technology in the workplace, digital cultures cultivate a learning mindset that empowers people to capitalize on these tools. A culture of collective intelligence fosters other important skills such as ability to monitor the competitive landscape, problem solving ability, risk management, independence and much more; these are essentially the factors that will drive digital transformation. A blended approach including E-learning and traditional in-class training, is an example of how training can both promote digital cultures and increase employee engagement. Having a solid online platform that requires minimal technical skill to upload user-generated content can encourage employees to take initiative and collaborate with their community. The internal circulation of information gives people the autonomy to contribute to their colleagues learning experiences and ultimately the overall training process.
This entrepreneurial mindset can work wonders for shifting people towards a digital culture, if you want your people to be the forward thinking and innovative thinkers that companies with digital cultures have, you might need to step back and let your people discover change ownership.
Step 3: Reinforce and align the digital culture
Building employee engagement plays a significant role in shifting your organization towards a digital culture, but as soon as implementation begins to get off the ground, reinforcement should take focus. Digital transformations are more than introducing a new tech-savvy product/service or changing the way one department does their work, it’s a full business change that will span every operation. Here you can look at the bigger picture of your organization, are all areas aligned to the new changes? Reviewing the tools your business uses for performance measurement, training and development materials, values and incentives, are all aspects to consider. Some companies that undergo a digital transformation will revamp their vision statement to better reflect the changes they’ve made and to inspire people to take the digital transformation to new heights, beyond the short-term. For example, companies that mention innovation and creativity in their vision, may find it necessary to continue to upgrade technical equipment for their employees, ensuring the best and appropriate tools are leveraged now and in the future. They may also introduce programs where employees have the freedom to work on a creative or digital project of their choice each month, which reinforces both the characteristics of a digital culture and the original transformation as well.
Achieving a digital culture is complex but breaking down your steps into smaller components will make it seem less daunting and more practical. These key steps can be used as a framework to help you start thinking about realistic and achievable digital goals for the future of your business. It’s important to remember that digital transformations are about the people. A sustainable culture enables your business to leverage new technology for positive returns and has the power to protect your business from falling behind in today’s fast-paced digital era. Cultural transformations drive digital transformations.
Marketing & Communications Coordinator / Associate Consultant