Jan 9, 2018

How to Create & Cultivate a Digital Culture in your Organization

by Digital Marketing Institute

There’s no denying that digital has created change; amongst business systems, technologies, customer relationships and workforces. In 2019, running a successful organization involves running a digital business.

Digital transformation, digital maturity or digitization? No matter what term is used, digital is revolutionizing the way businesses operate and succeed. In fact, a third of key decision makers state that culture is the most significant barrier to digital effectiveness followed by a lack of understanding of digital trends (25%).

In such a competitive market, the need to create and cultivate a digital culture is an integral part of the transformation process. This change requires a work environment that not only embeds digital from the top-down but also ensures that employees are informed, engaged and most importantly empowered to help cultivate a digital mindset in-house.

In this article, we explore 5 effective ways an organization can accomplish that.

1) Embrace Transparency

Embedding a digital culture means that everyone in the company – regardless of their role – is aware of the impact digital can have on revenue, sales and productivity.

Technology is no longer limited to professionals – we are personally embedded in the digital world. The upside is that as technology has been around for a while, most businesses are already digitalized to some degree. The key with digital transformation is to fine-tune that digitalization.

The starting point for embedding this type of culture is transparency. This can be achieved simply though internal memos, microsites, social media groups, apps such as Slack, monthly open forums or blogs from senior executives on key developments. All of these forums offer ways for employees to communicate with each other and also senior management that can helps facilitate transparency.

Take Buffer as an example. Second on its list of values that make up its culture is ‘default to transparency’ which it does by revealing employee salaries throughout the organization. It reveals the pay rate of each staff member along with the formula used to come up with it.

An open and honest ethos with a clear line of communication will not only help to empower employees but filter down to customer and clients helping to communicate authenticity and build rapport.

2) Encourage Collaboration

 Encourage Collaboration

When employees enjoy spending time and working together, the workflow improves considerably. Ideas fly around the room at high speeds, and the progress is measured in real time. On the flip side, when people have a hard time working with each other, they will avoid interacting with their co-workers equaling low productivity.

It’s no longer possible for teams to work in silos. Sharing learnings and insights between departments is paramount to a productive and effective digital culture. For example, marketing and sales teams should work closely to ensure the messaging for prospects and customers is consistent. While customer service teams should work with IT to feedback on systems and how improvements could be made.

Leaders and their L&D teams can encourage collaboration by engaging teams in activities outside the workplace and outside team building. This way, every employee will get to see the person behind their coworkers’ labels of ‘Director of Marketing’. This way of working will help encourage collaboration and introduce be more likely to empathize with one another, which adds to the group’s cohesion.

“The interdisciplinary requirement of digital continues to grow. The possibilities created by combining data science, design and human science underscore the importance both of working cross-functionally and of driving customer-centricity into the everyday operations of the business. Many organizations have yet to unlock that potential.” - Francisco D’Souza, CEO at Cognizant

3) Offer Digital Training (at all levels)

The most effective way to ensure that employees have a knowledge of digital and its impact on the business is to offer a learning and development program that caters to all levels of knowledge.

The fact is that not all employees need to know the ins and outs of digital from the intricacies how to strategize a digital campaign, many just need a fundamental understanding for their roles. Therefore a suite of digital training programs from ‘digital awareness’ to ‘specialist’ would be ideal for a workforce in order to educate them in the areas of digital that they need to know and that will add value to their roles, rather than a one-size fits all approach that may take up valuable time and can disempower rather than empower an employee.

In addition, programs that are flexible can be very valuable to a busy workforce. Programs that are available online through a Learning Management System (internal or external) means that staff can tap into knowledge as and when they have time and feel the need to upskill.

4) Be Comfortable with Risk


Risk doesn’t have to be a scary concept. The beauty of digital is that it lends itself to experimentation and the wins can be built on to bring great rewards to a business.

Due to the fast moving pace of digital, agility is key in a workforce and risk feeds into that as leaders in organizations should cultivate a workplace where employees are comfortable trying new things. However, this approach only works if employees have the skills and mindset to take advantage of the data and insights on offer. Outside talent from start-ups or digital natives can help inject disruptive thinking while empowering frontline workers such as customer service team with purchase history or detailed account profiles can help to solve customer issues on the spot.

Using digital technologies and insights with a digital mindset can greatly enhance the knowledge of a workforce and help them to optimize daily tasks effectively and efficiently. The key to this tactic of risk is to ensure there is trust between employee and employer and an open culture that embraces innovation.

5) Aspire to Inspire

Digital offers a world of opportunities, but not enough companies are capitalizing on them. Innovation in a digital world requires big thinking, aspirational even.

Take the New York Times as an example. Setting itself the task of doubling digital revenue in 5 years, it set its staff a huge goal but also one that inspired. As a result of this aspirational thinking, its digital subscription revenue is growing at a strong pace to 1.5 million digital-only subscriptions up from zero just 6 years ago. And it's this type of thinking that will continue to help them thrive and grow.

The fact is that digital disruption is not going away. There will continue to be new entries onto the market that will challenge how things are currently done. By setting a mission with big ideas and digital at the heart, an organization can encourage its workforce and inspire them to not only take calculated risks but also see things in new ways.

Digital offers a wealth of opportunities for a business and its workforce. and in such a competitive market employers need to be offering more to both attract and retain employees.

These 5 strategies can help your organization build a digital culture that bridges the gap between management and the rest of the employee base. It also will help cultivate an open culture that embraces collaboration, communication and results in increased productivity and innovation.

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