What is a Digital Culture? and how to establish one?

What is a Digital Culture? and how to establish one?

As digital transformation does not happen overnight. Embracing the chance with existing systems is just a question of having the required talents.

From launching, pilot initiatives to wide-scale adoption is a long journey with unexpected obstacles.

But do you expect an internal clash? How to have the right culture given the pre-digital legacy you have?

Company culture and digital culture are two distinct things as one characterizes an organization while the other characterizes how an organization encourages and supports technology use.

  1. Mind the gap: Soft Skills and Data
  2. Why startups have an edge with Digital Culture?
  3. How does it work in the tech industry?
  4. CEOs are the new CDOs
  5. CEOs are here to ignite
  6. Everybody needs trainings
  7. Few questions for a CEO

Mind the gap:  Soft Skills and Data

Having a digital offering, and a well-set IT backbone that covers the core operations with excellence will never really be sustainable without a cultural shift that changes not only the performance but especially the behaviors of employees, inside and outside of the office.

Ironically senior managers do not realize that the combination of old behaviors with new ways of working are always surprised to see incompatibilities when it come to elaborating a concrete action plan for system integration.

Leaving out of the table the toughest questions, the important ones, and thus because you have dependencies between departments that now is connected through technology.

Senior managers, sometime tech-averse and fans of micromanagement should be the first relay of propagation of the change. At the bottom, millennials remain confused or frustrated, following orders and seeking purposes.

The balance between seeding cultural change and reaching the company’s goal implies methodology and continuous effort. Values, guidelines and a set of behaviors to conduct the day-to-day job have to be shared and embraced by everyone.

The reluctant ones refusing the change are the long-term seed of the transformation failures. Not being willing to realize and neglect those aspects will just doom an organization at the end, no matter how long it existed. On the contrary, companies that made breakthroughs tend to maximize financial performance.

Why startups have an edge with a digital culture?

HHave issues recruiting? Did you know that a reputation for digital breakthroughs attracts talent like a magnet? Young professionals aspiring to be creative, making an impact in a healthy work environment where collaboration fosters trust, where they can be autonomous and make decisions on the spot with the customer in mind, and challenge the status quo.

Those talents are in a world with high demand and short supply and their number choice would be to join an ideally a Digital Titan like Amazon, Google, Alibaba or Tencent.

A digital culture:

  • Empowers your employees to reach outside the organization, seeking after customers and partners looking forward to building new solutions.
  • Burry control and opt for delegation. Do your managers spend time giving explicit instructions instead of giving guiding principles?
  • Makes your employees risk-takers. They want to try, fail fast and learn. They challenge the status quo and old nonsense working habits.
  • Accelerate your organization instead of stressing them
  • Promote collaboration more than individual performance

Success in digital transformation can only be achieved with collective work, transparency, and information sharing across departments, units, and functions.

Risk-taking and fostering new thinking do not mean being reckless, a leadership team should not hesitate to set bold moves as a traditional function such as finance has a set of constraints within the job. Depending on the industry, those elements are articulated with different intensities.

How does it work in the tech industry?

Having a look at the tech industry is interesting. Startups tend to define the early days of their Manifesto; agile software developers have their own when the agile movement started too.

In startups, everything is defined by the first ten employees hired. It all depends with:

  • Who is hired?
  • How are they paid?
  • And how are they promoted?

For instance, if an organization claims to be collaborative but promotes the wrong person, the staff won’t be stupid. It’s a clear signal to not collaborate, but not all the startups get it right too:

Recalling reading a manifesto of a startup once where it was written “We are one team; we are all together” … This startup was paying everyone commission-based and everyone was making sure to talk to a maximum of leads to be sure that the customer profile of the CRM is well connected to their commission if any.

A misconception in the startup world is that startups are all about technology and creativity. I have a secret to share: it is not the case. Startups are all about growth it begins and finishes only with a singular human resources approach. As a result, they attracted unique talents like a magnet.

First, startups use to be the rebel’s kingdom, originally those people didn’t want to work for anyone, neither make resumes, pass interviews or be under the authority of anyone with any kind of reporting. Behind all of this, there is something that no one wants to understand, whether you like it or not, there is a generational conflict (recalling the culture clash in my intro?).

Millennials felt betrayed because we told them that life is simple, just go to a great school, get a great diploma, and do great work. But digital innovation showed us that growth can not only be linear but exponential too in an uncertain world where we cannot predict the future.

Startups with exponential growth (Scale-ups) are perceived as a singularity, and millennials want to be part of it. This is how a 27 years woman can become VP of the International Launch Team in a company like Uber that still recruiting a million drivers in November 2020 (last month) and opened 3 cities each month back in 2015 (growth).

In those cases, we have talents that join in the early days and grew up at the same pace as the company, who learned a lot of things in extreme conditions. And this wouldn’t have been possible in a traditional corporation or at school.

Traditional companies are not famous to understand singularity. They don’t like rock stars, ninjas, or any cliché you want. But they reflect a reality that those talents are unclassifiable and do not want to fit where a traditional company wants to put them.

Entrepreneurship is an act of rebellion, and that is why startups attract unusual talents. Look at the previous employee number 7 at Amazon from a diverse background that decided after paying for an expensive education at Duke University (US, North Carolina) to join a little online library that are about to start. Another cool example with the employee number 7 from Tesla that made Sila Nanotechnologies.

Those choices that those talents have made were not predictable, but they felt empowered and made a bold move. They don’t do things in a rational way; they listen to their heart.

Organizations may have various resources, but do you have digital talents joining your company because of your choice of heart? Or because it’s hard to get a ”good” job nowadays?

Startups takes risks, huge organizations is another story when sometimes simple projects are delayed.

Disruption is singular and requires a singular person to perform singular tasks singularly. The traditional organization has issues hiring that scarce resources like good IT and software developers.

So, it starts by creating a favorable environment and a cultural DNA change, but it’s not something that will be nailed by doing some PR, that is why it’s a challenge to recruit talents for the next decades.

The change will not happen until everyone starts to learn new things and it opens a huge work in how to organize a transition in the human resources world and how to treat employees to not just make them feel good, but also to empower them towards self-development.

“Studies have been carried out for years into how organizations can create environments that promote employee engagement and flow in order to improve creativity and overall effectiveness at work. For me, what’s new and interesting is looking at technology’s role and how culture may play a role in determining its positive or negative impacts.”

Dr Michael Parke, Professor of Organizational Behavior, London Business School

CEOs are the new CDOs

When the concept of CDOs emerged, a lot of them fail in their job because the mission wasn’t clear.

It does not mean you shouldn’t reinforce your organization with talents at all levels. It means that CEOs have a new chessboard to understand to create the digital culture shift inside the organization.

Even if we need to get familiar with the technological concept, to put things in motion, people have to talk with transparency. It can start with short emails, memos, internal websites, and blogs from senior executives where they facilitate the transparency aspects.

CEOs are here to ignite

Foster collaboration. When your employees start to enjoy their work and what they learn it increases productivity and silos crumble. Employees need to empathize with one another. It builds cohesion.

Outdated management practices prevent that start to be irrelevant. Employees between departments aligned each other first and start to manage their managers too.

Tell me how do your managers are able to work with employees as coaches, not bosses? What does the employee are saying about that?

Once the movement starts, it’s all about the continuous growth of a group of persons redefining how they want to work together with the customer in mind.

Everybody needs training

Knowledge is necessary for everyone. From the CEOs to everyone. Usually, senior executives are the ones we spare. Between those who know the importance and getting at it, it slows down the movement.

But how can they measure the progress of that movement they are supposed to be part of it if they don’t have the knowledge to measure if there is real progress.

Between tech aversion, micromanagement, and reticence towards a flattened organization, it’s crucial to train them too. It’s a key challenge. Even if it’s difficult to understand causes and consequences, here are some consequences which is visible observation made on the organization:

  • Difficulties to get access to data
  • Reluctance of cooperation on data from business stakeholders
  • Lack of data competences internally

 Does it sound familiar?

“When I need data, I have to send an email to the manager which is really restrictive”

“The data being decentralized, at each POC, we lose a lot of time to cross-check the information from the different departments […] Several use cases were really difficult to implement because there were a high heterogeneity of data and sources. In addition, the data quality was low, with a lot of handwritten data”

At the end of the day, people just need to understand their roles, but we need to explain them.

Few questions for a CEO

  1. Does the management communicate clearly about the long-term business strategy? If yes, would any employee envision how they can contribute to serving that business strategy?
  2. How do you foster collaboration and brainstorming physically and remotely? Does risk-taking is rewarded? If not, why not?
  3. Does everyone, no matter their position feel encouraged to ask questions and challenge assumptions from their managers and leaders?
  4. How do we build a community where knowledge, experience, and insights are shared across departments, teams, and business units?

You need to give the tools to people to change. Bridging the gap between management and the employee base cultivates an open culture, collaboration and results in productivity will at a certain point have a network effect like a ripple effect.

Digital Culture is an amplifier, and having the right strategy only will not ensure its execution.

Results of the balance how much effort of work is needed to be put in by an employee to deliver a specific output should be the metric at the end of that funnel.

Digital Laoban