Culture: The driving force behind a more digital workplace

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There’s a lot of talk in the media about workplace culture at the moment. So, to clarify what we mean by this, culture can be defined as “The attitudes and behaviour characteristic of a particular group.”.  

Workplace culture has been referred to a lot recently alongside the topic of digital transformation. For businesses to successfully implement digital transformation strategies, the culture of their organisation is key. Employees have the ability to drive change within in an organisation, so as such, should not be disregarded.  

In fact, the Garter 2018 CIO survey revealed that ‘culture is identified by 46 percent of CIOs as the greatest barrier to realising the promise of digital business.’ At this year’s conference, Garter outlined what we can anticipate occurring next in the ever-progressing industry. Interestingly, Gartner introduced the concept of the “ContinuousNext”. This is a formula for how businesses can embrace change as and when it happens. The equation is as follows:  

(Mindsets + Practices) x Technology = Capabilities

A collection of mindsets form a culture, which is vital for the success of digital transformation projects. Culture impacts organisational dynamism.  

So, what are the key aspects of company culture that business leaders need to be aware of when implementing digital transformation projects?

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Keeping the end goal in mind 

The first step to get your company on board with digital transformation projects is to set very clear outcomes of what you want the project to achieve. These outcomes should focus on both company-wide goals and the ‘big picture’, but, they should also be set for departments, teams and individuals – mobilising the entire company towards the end goal. 

Doing this sets expectations and provides employees with a goal to work towards, helping to ensure they are aligned with the companies vision.  

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Getting employees on board

Culture is by definition collective. Therefore, getting your employees on board with the outcomes of digital transformation projects is vital to success. 

One of the most effective ways to do this is getting their buy-in from the start, involving them in the thought process, and keeping them informed as the project progresses. As discussed above, this doesn’t have to be on a whole company level but, should relate to the objectives that you have set for individual teams. 

This helps them to buy into the project by giving them the opportunity to feed into this process, and thereby take greater ownership. As part of ContinuousNext, Gartner advocates the concept of “culture hacks” to make small changes that trigger an emotional response. The key to a culture hack is to find a single point where culture is vulnerable to deep change, particularly where employees spend most of their time. A great example of this would be thinking about the projects that teams are working on, and ensuring that they understand the big picture and reasons behind those projects, and how they affect change.

If the goal is to make the company more agile, a business could name every project after the benefit you expect it to deliver, and allow employees to opt in rather than selecting the project team. A business leader could also opt to hold a meeting across departments to gain others perspectives on the project. Most importantly (and something that we will come back to later) – rather than prescribe every step of the process, it’s important to give people a problem to solve and a goal to work towards. The process will then emerge. 

The take away here is that employee-driven change delivers results. In order to make digital transformation projects work employees need to believe in them. 

SMART goals

It’s all very well setting out goals and grand plans for your company, but on a smaller team and individual level, goals need to be SMART. This means they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time based.  

By developing goals with this structure in mind, it helps to motivate staff more towards achieving the end goal. However, it also helps break up big projects into achievable chunks, keeping teams productive.  

To do this, it’s important to provide the correct training to staff to allow them to reach their goals. By enabling your workforce with the skills they need for your digital transformation project, making it part of the culture, and making it relevant to their day to day work the project is far more likely to find success.  

Reaching the finishing line

As opposed to prescribing how teams get to their goals, it’s important to set the desired outcome and deadline and then let teams work out the solutions that work best for them.   

Additionally, it is also important to understand which parts of the process you are going to own, and where you might need help. Partnerships can provide real value in digital transformation projects, meaning that you are well supported by experts where you need to be. This also frees up your teams time to focus on developing their skills, rather than taking on tasks that they may feel are less enjoyable.  

Put quite simply, for any business wanting to take advantage of a better company culture, they must first ensure all employees are adopting it. If only half the workforce is on board and implementing the desired culture, then the other half have not brought in to your new initiative. So – the time is now to make a change and get all personnel on board.   

Joanne Taylor, Director of Digital Strategy at Software AG 

Joanne Taylor

Joanne Taylor is the Director of Digital Strategy at Software AG . She is a Proven Executive Team Member & Business Leader and a Specialist in building & leading world class Sales Support organisations.