Digital Workplace Culture – The Future is Now!
Are you envisioning to go digital with your company? Then you have probably set up a transformation strategy and have it planned through. Well done!
Yet have you also taken your current organisational culture into consideration? If not, then your transition towards a digital future will most probably be in danger.
Did you know that a recent McKinsey (2016) study has shown that the biggest hurdle companies have to face when going digital is actually their own culture?
Why is that so?
Culture is a relatively intangible notion. It indeed comprises some more tangible elements such as strategy, objectives and processes. Nevertheless, the elements that weigh the most in an organisational culture are more informal/ intangible dimensions such as engagement, beliefs, informal rules etc. Metaphorically speaking, one could talk about the hidden – and very much larger – part of the cultural iceberg.
Organisational culture sets the foundation for any company, it is its personality and it shapes how people act and behave on a daily basis. Culture is fundamentally linked to people. Managers/leaders play a big role in shaping an organisation’s culture as through their behaviours they (often unconsciously) show their employees what they value or not, how to behave and move forward. So the questions to ask are, whether the managers are pushing competition or collaboration? Are they imposing a directive leadership or a more servant leadership style? In strong, ethical and positive organisational cultures employees feel empowered, motivated and engaged, which is why they will eventually go the extra mile for their company.
When a company decides to go digital all these components get shaken and employees often lose their point(s) of reference. Fear and resistance will immerge and complicate things, or in some extreme cases impede the envisioned digital transformation.
The solution: cultivate a digital culture
A digital culture refers to a culture shaped by the emergence and use of digital technologies. The different components – tangible and intangible – are restructured through the acquaintance with technology. Focusing on developing a digital culture is not just a trend to follow, it is a must with tangible benefits for your organisation. Research from the London Business School in partnership with Microsoft has shown and quantified the positive impacts of digital cultures on organisations :
Companies with a strong digital culture are likely to outperform the less well-equipped competition, given that they have:
• 5 x more employees who feel empowered;
• 4 x more employees who feel engaged;
• 3 x more employees who feel innovative;
• 2 x more employees who feel productive.
These results make it all the more interesting to focus on driving a digital culture, doesn’t it?
Source: McKinsey, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/culture-for-a-digital-age
However, changing an existing culture towards a new digital one is challenging, and managers have to be aware of barriers that they are highly likely going to face.
Let’s examine some of the barriers that companies will have to overcome!
Each company is different and has its own culture. The extent to which they will have to deal with the different barriers will vary yet it is interesting to bare them in mind and to remain alert throughout the whole transformation process.
The major challenges that will most probably appear to some degree are the following:
1. Difference in digital literacy among employees;
2. Skills and competences;
3. Fear of the future leading to selfish behaviour;
4. Change in management/ leadership style;
5. Organisational silos;
6. Information security;
7. Tools and processes.
Now, what does it take to create a successful digital workplace culture?
At MindForest we propose a triple A approach to make sure managers have the tools to set up the plan for their shift towards a digital culture. This approach can be summarized as following:
1. Articulate the required change in culture and most importantly, clarify the why!
2. Activate leadership and empower employees: clarify the how to make it real and take action!
3. Anchor the strategy and align the employees and organisation to embed the new culture: align and anchor the changes through continued actions to make it happen!
To make the shift managers can essentially work on nine different dimensions:
1. Customer centricity: make sure to understand the real demand and pain of the market and all stakeholders involved;
2. Agility: be quick in learning and iterate rather than opting for perfection;
3. Pro-activity: encourage entrepreneurial thinking and innovation;
4. Data driven: wisely use the collected data for internal and external analysis;
5. Transparency: provide a clear vision and strategy with proper milestones;
6. Communication: set up a transparent and open communication;
7. Leadership: lead in alignment with values and vision. Serve and mentor rather than manage;
8. Collaboration: create cross-functional self-reliant teams. Cultivate inclusion and cooperation;
9. Empowerment: build competencies and provide autonomy and belongingness based on trust, gratitude and responsibility.
Having a strategy when deciding to implement a digital company culture is important as it requires to think things through. Yet shifting a culture also requires some degree of flexibility and adaptability. These changes will impact and destabilise employees to different degrees, why managers need to first of all buy 100% into the new ways of working themselves. Only thereafter, can they support and mentor their teams accordingly, understand and consider, include and accept the efforts the team is making towards a successful cultural implementation long-term.
Including and meeting the expectations of the team members culturally helps productivity to increase and increases chances of employee loyalty and going the extra mile for the company.
As Zig Ziglar once stated: “If you help people get what they want, they will help you get what you want.”