The key to driving digital change internally is culture, but it is also where many organisations fall down. Embedding new ways of thinking and collaboration throughout a business isn’t easy, but this section outlines the essential steps to nurturing a digital first mindset.
Improving the digital maturity of your business is very difficult if you are unable to instil the belief in your colleagues that digital can help them achieve a successful future. Digital, by its nature, is connected. Ensuring that your organisation is as well connected will form the foundation of your future success.
Stop doing digital and start being digital
Digital is more than just the technology you use or placing an ‘e’ in front of your traditional services. It needs to become a state of mind rather than an afterthought, a buzzword or the responsibility of your IT department.
It is important that as a group you define what digital means to you. Your definition will differ from other organisations but what it is important that you agree what those values are. You will likely already have a mission, purpose and values set out for your business. You should reflect on how they match up against key digital qualities such as openness, collaboration and flexibility.
It is important that the review is not limited to just a management exercise. Collaborating with as diverse a group of employees as possible will create a holistic and inclusive set of digital values that will give everyone a feeling of ownership.
Set a benchmark
A culture already exists within your organisation, but twelve months from now, how will you know if you’ve made it more digital?
By reviewing the capabilities that your business has currently and contrasting them with your newly minted digital values, you can set some measures for improvement across the following areas:
Are your colleagues and business leaders equipped with the right skills, and empowered get on with what they do best in the belief that what they are doing is significant?
Are your internal processes set up for speed in decision making and action? Do you push decision making out to the edges of the business, giving people the freedom to experiment and adapt?
Do you have the tools you need to deliver on your digital values? If employees have access to better technology at home then this will not only impedes productivity, but erode belief in the businesses commitment to digital investment.
Empower your people
To nurture a digital culture you need to show not tell. To win over hearts and minds you need to give support, direction and a purpose to get behind.
Investing in training for new tools as well as new ways of collaborating, planning and thinking will build confidence and help to start new behaviours.
Initiatives such as reverse mentoring with your ‘digital native’ staff and a train the trainer approach to disseminating knowledge can not only be enlightening, but empowering to a more open culture. Facilitate continuous learning by staff through a range of resources. It is likely that some of your colleagues will need to relearn how to learn. Giving people the means to do so in their own time will be a huge benefit.
Trusting staff is not always instinctual within organisations who are used to tracking time and annual reviews, but enabling flexibility in hours, location and performance will be repaid with loyalty, enthusiasm and initiative.
Providing the forums for the sharing of ideas and initiatives, both online and offline will encourage curiosity.
Younger employees in particular are looking for more significance in what they do. However everyone wants to understand how what they do helps deliver on a greater purpose. Defining and operating to a purpose requires the nurturing of a culture through which behaviours required to deliver on that purpose can flourish.
Invest in digital leaders
Digital has impacted all areas of business, including leadership. Gone are the days when leaders are expected to know everything to effectively steer the ship through command and control. Digital leadership values need to reflect your digital values and should include:
- Openness to ideas
- Networked thinking
- Giving permission to fail
- Data driven
- Always learning
Redefining the expectations of leadership within your organisation is a key step in effecting digital culture change.
Refresh your processes
The core values of digital include openness, collaboration and flexibility. It is important that if you invest time in tuning up your processes you also check they are not inhibitors to digital maturity. Start by considering how you can enable processes that are inclusive of ideas that can come from anywhere in an organisation. If you view your business and supply chain as an ecosystem of partners, suppliers and customers then seek input from across the spectrum.
This will not only expand your creativity, but provide insights driven from real experience. Data is a key tenet of a successful digital culture. You should strive to be data driven in all you do rather than relying on subjective opinion.
Not only will this improve your horizon scanning capabilities it will help to remove behavioural biases from your decision making models too.
Familiarise yourself with technology
As we have already said, digital culture is not all about technology, but it is an enabler and therefore forms a vital part of the mix.
- Invest in technology that enables your staff to learn new skills, relate to your customers and be the best they can be.
- Create opportunities for your colleagues and business leaders to be exposed to a range of new technologies. Providing a safe space to play and explore new technologies removes barriers such as fear, confusion and misunderstanding.
- It is important to embrace collaborative technologies as a key to increasing engagement and bottom up contributions to the business. However you should be wary of unintentionally creating new ‘virtual’ silos to replace the old physical ones.
Make space to unplug
Counter-intuitive though it may sound, a digital culture is not all about digital.
In an ‘always-on’ world staff can burn out, lose their creative edge and get sick. This can all lead to people losing their belief in digital benefitting them and the organisation.
Encourage your teams to take breaks from digital to recharge their batteries, give them time to think and encourage human interaction.
This can take many forms and some popular ideas include:
- Yoga, mindfulness and massage sessions
- Lunch breaks away from desks, perhaps including lunch clubs
- Respecting out of hours where possible. The French Government has recognised this and has gone so far as to legally stop after hours work emails.
- Consider the physical environment as well as the virtual. Create places that are focussed on encouraging collaboration, informal meetings and giving people the space to move around whilst having discussions.
Your digital culture is something that you will never stop working on.
If we follow Moore’s famous law, with the decreasing of technology costs and the increasing spread of connectivity in people and things, we can expect great change in the world. Your culture needs to keep in step with the changes around you. It will always be a work in progress.
But it can do this while staying true to your core digital values. The challenge is to create a culture that bring together the best of technology and the best of humanity behind a shared purpose.