• Sam Colyer

Why culture has to come first in the age of digital

Updated: Aug 22, 2018

The relationship between culture and technology is complex and there isn’t a simple resolution. There are many dependable factors: the type of technology must be considered, but so too must the type of employee be taken into account. Different backgrounds, experience and age groups are all going to have an impact on how a single employee might interact and adapt to new technology in the workplace.

Going digital isn’t a one size fits all

So what can businesses do to ensure their digital enhancements are effective for the majority of their workforce? There’s an informative piece here looking about how technology trends are driving the adoption of collaboration tools, and you’ll see there are many different options available. From API’s, to VR, to chatbots and virtual assistants, there’s a plethora of choices, so

“how do businesses know which technology offering will suit their culture most effectively?”

Well that’s where organisations need to be ahead of the game, it would be more than a waste of time and money to “go digital” without a full assessment and analysis of the needs and culture of the business. They may wish to consider:

  • What is the existing culture?

  • What is the generation split of the workforce, i.e. more Millennials vs Generation X’s?

  • How much time do employees spend working at their desk / in meetings / on site etc?

  • What is the employee attitude towards change (a simple staff survey could provide a useful insight)

Let's stay with that last bullet for a moment: the key point here is that leaders need to listen to what their particular business needs. For example, if you have a culture of people who aren’t open to change, set in their ways and are unlikely to embrace new ways of working then rather than forcing something that isn’t ready, time needs to be invested to nurture and support the attitude employees to get them prepared for change. If employees aren’t ready, then no matter how great an initiative may have looked at a board meeting it’s not going to be received positively or implemented successfully.

HR leading the way to an agile culture?

So we know then that people culture is a critical element of digital change, and it's HR departments which are being left with the challenge of leading the way to an agile culture (which raises questions of how capable existing HR departments are, to be discussed in another blog). If you're wondering, there's a great article here on why an agile culture matters. There are many (apparently seven) aspects of agile culture DNA which enables a company to truly be agile. It's no surprise really that all involve pre-planning, time, investment, communication and strong leadership. Said another way, no business is going to become agile overnight.

Evidently, agility begins with HR, and “you only move at the speed of your slowest component”. Although this reference in particular is about different departments causing delays, it can also be relevant to individual employees, and links back to the point above about taking the time to plan and ensure that the workforce is ready to move forward and ride the digital change wave. Only then will businesses see the results they set out to achieve.

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