Chris McGuganFebruary 12, 2019

Creating a Sticky Culture that Drives Digital Transformation

Companies are operating during a very interesting time in history; one in which a new generation of employees has normalized turnover, and consumers born in an era of information and opportunity hold brands accountable to do better in every way. This has a lot to do with a company’s cultural values in line with digital transformation.

Long gone are the days of modernizing only as it applies to operational improvements for financial gain. Today, companies must embrace a holistic approach to innovation that is tied not only to operations but cultural values that serve employees, customers, and greater communities.

Digital leaders understand the importance of culture as a transformation driver. According to a new study from KPMG, 59% of digital leaders and almost half of customer-centric leaders agree that their digital strategy would fail without an innovative culture. These companies amplify technology and strategy to achieve their digital vision by paying just as much attention to having the right culture in place.

Yet this is easier said than done. Companies must identify a greater “why” behind each action for using their influence and positioning to affect lasting change. This should be a multipronged approach with defined cultural values that drive a company’s digital transformation and the long-term value it delivers to customers, partners, employees and elsewhere.

Creating Cultural Values that Drive Digital Transformation

Authentic culture is a core pillar of innovation today. Here are my best suggestions for creating “sticky” cultural values that drive digital transformation:

Don’t go with the flow of cultural values: A strong culture mobilizes people behind a movement, but that movement can’t be one a company blindly follows. Just because a culture looks or feels right doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for your organization (case in point: only 12% of executives recently surveyed by Deloitte believe their companies are driving the “right culture”). Create culture—don’t do what it tells you to.

Cover the basics: study conducted by The Energy Project in partnership with Harvard Business Review found that people are happiest when four core needs are met: those related to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Meeting these needs is the start of truly connecting to people, versus seeing them as numbers or means to an end. Cultural values that reflect these needs show that a company cares about fundamental human rights.

Get key decision-makers on board: Take the CIO, for example, who has perhaps the most opportunity to drive enterprise-wide innovation. One in 10 feel their role is becoming less strategic, according to KPMG, affecting their ability to create dynamic business changes. Boards must objectively review their efforts to see if they are doing enough to foster positive cultural values from the top down.

Be honest with yourself: Vision determines values. Consider wiping the slate clean and reassessing what’s most important to your company. It’s imperative that you be honest during this process. Is it profit? Technological innovation? Or is it people? At the heart of any successful culture is the belief that people are at the center of all that is done. Your culture must be passionate about people—customers, employees, communities—to drive meaningful transformation.

Embrace risk: In exploring how to build a customer-first culture, The Wall Street Journal puts it best: “Because customer-focused companies place a premium on change and innovation, they put in place policies that make risk a virtue if it produces an exceptional customer experience.” Culture needs executive buy-in, but it can’t be controlled at the top. In today’s age of connectivity, companies should empower employees with information and the freedom to make decisions that can drive innovation.

Final Thoughts

Assess your company’s cultural values with a few questions. Is your culture evident? If so, to whom? Is leadership walking the talk? Do employees understand the difference between their daily responsibilities and their purpose within the organization? This will help you determine how culture impacts decisions when creating digital transformation plans.

To learn more about culture for driving digital transformation, check out this blog I recently wrote on the role of culture and people specifically in DevOps.

Chris McGugan

Chris leads Avaya's technology strategy development to guide future investments. His focus is on assessing customer needs, market trends and how new and emerging technologies can drive value and improved customer experience as part of the digital transformation in communications that Avaya is leading.

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