While people and culture have been integral to a company’s success, they also have always been the biggest barriers to digital transformation, according to Gartner’s CIO Agenda. By failing to communicate the importance of digital transformation, organizations can face resistance by employees to change. A deep-rooted strategy that is aligned with the company’s core processes is necessary to bring about an organization-wide digital transformation. This necessitates a regular communication with the employees about the change and the benefits behind these changes to keep employees motivated and eliminate resistance to change. In fact, organizations failing to communicate the importance of digital transformation are sure to face resistance by employees to the changes.
According to Gartner’s research, during times of significant change, over 80% of employees experience “cultural tensions” or competing priorities which they don’t know how to balance. Any transformation faces inertia, as existing cultural norms do not accommodate new behavioral expectations which jeopardises transformation. Employees struggle to make tradeoffs with new cultural norms that come as a consequence of transformation as it conflicts with their existing judgment — based on existing cultural norms.
Communications can clarify about organizational priorities, help remove unnecessary tensions and provide guidance to help employees build their judgment. According to McKinsey & Company, organizations in which senior management teams communicate openly about digital transformation are 8 times more likely to progress and succeed. This article elaborates on some key strategies to successfully resolve cultural issues during the digital transformation journey.
Strategies To Resolve Cultural Issues
1. Anticipate Likely Cultural Tensions
According to Gartner’s research, nearly all of the tensions that employees face fall into one of seven general categories, of which the following are most common tensions:
Quality versus speed (43% of employees)
Commercial versus people focus (34% of employees)
Efficiency versus innovation (31% of employees)
Some of the other less common tensions include:
Central versus local focus
Compliance versus risk-taking
Consistency versus empowerment
Unity versus diversity
Based on the type of transformation and their function in the organization, there exists a pattern of how often employees experience certain cultural tensions.
Knowing the general trends of cultural issues allows executives to anticipate the cultural tensions that the employees are likely to face during a given change initiative. This is essential to develop a futuristic plan to clarify organizational priorities and ensure that the organization sends a consistent message to its employees about the new behaviors that are expected and what will be rewarded.
2. Assuage Fear
Experiencing a degree of discomfort and doubt is a part and parcel of the digital transformation journey as leaders are rightly concerned about the costs and resources involved if the transformation were not to take place in the best way possible. Employees express fear of change when digital transformation initiatives are introduced and can get jittery about complications, shifting job roles or even becoming archaic. An essential element of assuaging fear among employees is to have a culture with openness that fosters employee partnerships and regards technology as a way to augment human motives and not recede them.
Survey by Microsoft indicates that an organisation that is open to trial and error, co-creation and that embraces failure as an organic part of the process will perform better than one where risk-taking and trying new things is viewed with distrust. Furthermore, the survey reveals a positive correlation between employees’ openness to digital transformation and leaders’ ability to interpret information around it. This suggests the more an organisation’s leadership is oriented around digital transformation, the more workforce culture opens up to it.
3. Effective Communication
The real tipping point in creating an agile digital culture is achieved when the leadership of the organization successfully convinces the employees of the rationale and benefits of new technologies. Addressing the concerns of employees and communicating the information openly with a clear feedback loop is vital during digital transformation.
It becomes counterproductive if organizations do not communicate changes, benefits and intentions transparently or enforce them autocratically. Rather than driving a positive culture shift, it creates a climate with fear and suspicion among employees which results in people being less productive than before.
4. Establish a culture of ongoing change and agility
Technology has the potential to deliver great results when wielded by the right people with an effective mindset towards change. Creating an agile mindset is necessary for an organization to evolve while still meeting the needs of its employees, and set sail for a successful change. Digital transformation should put people and culture at its crux, in order to allow the organization to innovate with pace and purpose, disrupt competitors and explore newer market segments. The ulterior motive of an agile mindset is to create a company that is capable of changes rather than just a company that has undergone changes.
5. Improve your company culture with the right type of tools
Consider using employee-friendly modern intranets to improve your internal communication, collaboration, and thereby enhance your company culture. An intranet acts as the central hub of your workplace and brings in positive cultural change through:
Two-way communication: Intranets enable both top-down and bottom-up communication. Leadership can effectively communicate their digital transformation vision and goals to employees and employees can share their concerns, ideas and suggestions with top management.
Personalized content updates: AI-enabled intranets recommend personalized articles, news and updates to users and ensure employees stay informed about any changes that would affect them.
Peer-peer engagement: A strong culture is built when you bring your staff together. Modern intranets analyze users’ profiles and recommend peers who share common interests.
Encouraging employees to share ideas: Make employees feel valued by taking their inputs during digital transformation. Intranets usually have an idea management module which brings in employee inclusivity by enabling your workforce to propose solutions to important business challenges
If you’re an Office 365 user, you may also leverage the different productivity tools baked into it like MyAnalytics, Workplace Analytics, Planner etc. to further enhance employee satisfaction and experience.
It is critical for executives to take a proactive stance on culture, as cultural changes within an organization are always more complex and slower than the technological changes that foster them.
According to Gartner’s report, most employees experience 1-3 cultural tensions during an organizational transformation and the prevalence of certain tensions varies based on transformation type and impacted employee population. Communications leaders can help resolve tensions by clarifying organizational priorities and helping employees build judgment.
The challenge for leadership is ensure that the employees wholeheartedly embrace the change and feel like an integral part of the vision, as well as believing that they play a pivotal role in their own capacities to shape the cultural shift that successfully transforms the organization.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, please feel free to get in touch with one of our digital transformation consultants for a personalized consultation.