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How to Create a Successful Digital Culture

It may surprise you to learn that the key to success in a digital transformation is not technology, but culture – specifically, a digital culture. Creating a digital transformation culture is so important that, according to studies, a third of key decision makers in companies believe that true digitization cannot occur without it. If you look at the patterns of success and failure, you’ll discover that companies don’t fail because of their inability to implement the right technology. Rather, digital transformations often fail because they neglect to create a culture that supports and sustains those changes.

A study by McKinsey Digital uncovered three digital-culture deficiencies that hold companies back: difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer, an aversion to risk, and functional and department silos.

“When companies support their digital strategies and investments with deliberate efforts to make their cultures more responsive to customers, more willing to take risks, and better connected across functions, they are far more likely to be successful.” (McKinley Digital)

Of course, creating a digital transformation culture is bound to shake things up in a manner that you might not be comfortable with. You may have to revisit and replace your current operational models, break down silos, work collaboratively, and embrace a work spirit that’s new to you and your team. Here’s a few ways you can create a successful digital culture:

Become Transparent

Too often, leaders believe that technology is something that should only be handled by the experts in IT. Yet, a digital transformation involves the entire team. We’re at a stage in the digital revolution wherein every individual is technologically competent to some degree. So, when you implement a digital transformation, the focus is really on becoming “digitally mature” and fine-tuning, rather than implementing a complete overhaul.

Every employee in your organization probably uses technology in some manner, so one of the key factors in creating a digital culture is transparency. To achieve transparency, leadership needs to communicate key changes and developments with their team through blogs, forums, social media platforms, or apps like Slack. These channels increase communication and transparency within the company, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and has a direct line of communication with leadership to provide feedback.

Employees who feel involved in the digital transformation are more likely to embrace it. A digital culture is one where employees in every department have a say in what works and what doesn’t.

Create a Collaborative Spirit

Employees are also far more productive when they work with each other rather than against each other or in isolation (aka silos). Teamwork has always been essential, but in today’s digital world, the way employees collaborate is changing. Employees in multiple locations or working remotely must be able to easily connect and collaborate on projects. While there are now many tools designed to connect people through video meetings, real-time messaging and content sharing, these tools aren’t effective unless employees are encouraged to use them and are proficient. In a digital culture, leadership must provide training on these tools and promote their use.

Why is collaboration so important? Because it can directly impact the bottom line:

  • Collaboration improves productivity – According to research by IDC, the cost of not being able to find the right information at the right time is about $3,300 per employee. This inability to access data generally occurs when information is siloed within separate communication environments. Collaboration tools put information together into a single unified environment, helping to eliminate lost time and integrating workflows.
  • Collaboration improves customer serviceCollaborative software is also highly effective at improving customer service. Employees can access files in real-time and resolve issues quickly, or direct calls to the right person if need be.
  • Collaboration eliminates silos – There’s no room for silos in an effective digital culture. In fact, creative thinking and sharing of knowledge is a key aspect of digitization. For example, if IT and customer service were to interact with each other, they would be able to offer better feedback on how technology can be used to enhance the customer experience. If marketing and sales worked closely together, they could develop a unified and consistent message to potential customers.  
Provide Training

We touched on the importance of training employees to use collaborative tools, but a digital transformation culture also requires a company-wide training and development program that addresses all levels of technology. It’s true that not all employees need to be a specialist in implementing digital strategies, however every employee needs a basic understanding of how a digital transformation will impact their role. Meanwhile, others may need more specialized training. You can structure a series of digital training programs to meet all levels of requirements so your employees can use technology efficiently and confidently, thus improving productivity and employee satisfaction.

Consider providing an online Learning Management System which allows employees to access digital training/knowledge at their leisure. They may want to go back to it whenever they feel the need for an upgrade in skills or when a project requires a certain set of digital competencies.

Encourage Risk Taking

“Aversion to risk” is ranked as one of the top three barriers to creating a successful digital culture. That’s because a digital transformation culture requires employees to take some risks, such as experimenting with digital trends that can benefit your organization, either now or in the future. In today’s fast-paced environment, pushing your employees to take risks and try new things – without punishing failures – is one of the best ways to ensure you create a digital culture and maintain a competitive advantage. However, it’s only achievable if employees are empowered with the skills, mindset, and technical abilities to take advantage of the tools available to them.

There are several ways leaders can encourage risk taking. You can provide incentives to come up with new and innovative ideas that benefit the company. Another common approach is to bring in external talent from the digital world to help train employees or coach your organization on ways to generate new ideas and disruptive ways of thinking.

Leaders can also empower frontline workers to use information to make some decisions without approval. For instance, allowing customer service reps to resolve customer issues and offer discounts without management sign off can improve the customer experience. This begins with trust and making employees feel comfortable enough to take some risks.  

Concentrate on the Customer

Speaking of customers, a digital culture must be customer oriented. Everything your employees do should be geared toward enhancing the customer experience. Today’s customers expect a quick response to inquiries, personalized communication, and easy transactions. We have the technology to make that happen, but without a digital culture, the customer experience can suffer.

Creating a customer-centric digital culture begins by encouraging employees in all areas to make decisions based on “how this impacts our customers.” With today’s digital tools, we can collect information to anticipate buying patterns and tailor interactions with customers, but unless employees are trained to use this data, it’s not effective.

Take Down Silos

Silos refer to parallel parts of the organizational chart that don’t intersect. As mentioned above, the problem with these silos is that they prevent information sharing or collaboration between departments (see Create a Collaborative Spirit). Digitization can help eliminate this problem by making information available in a centralized environment, but again, employees must be trained and encouraged to access and use this data. In a digital culture, the siloed mindset must also be changed. Instead of making decisions based on the narrow focus of each department, employees need to see the big picture and how decisions impact the entire organization.

Leaders can break down silos by communicating the overall vision of the company, as well as specific company-wide goals. Using data to create transparency is also effective. For example, sharing customer databases, including feedback, with employees can help them see how customers are engaging with the company and what issues might need to be addressed. Another way to change siloed thinking is to create teams that include employees from many different areas to address problems or come up with new ideas.  

Focus on the Future

Implementing a digital transformation and creating a digital culture offers endless opportunities for a business and an appealing environment for attracting and retaining talent. Each of the factors mentioned above can help you create a successful digital transformation culture, but it takes time and persistence to achieve cultural change. In fact, cultural changes are always slower and more complex than technological changes. But the benefits are worth the effort.

To learn more about how you can drive a digital culture in your company and enhance your digital transformation, reach out to our experts to see how we can help.

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