Digital culture the “missing ingredient” of transformation

Aisling Curtis, Microsoft (Image: Microsoft)

18 April 2018

Organisations with a strong digital culture are more likely to have productive, innovative and engaged employees, leading to greater productivity and innovation for the organisation, according to a new report.

The Microsoft report on digital culture is based on a survey of more than 20,000 employees across 21 EU countries, with more than 1,000 Irish respondents, with age ranges from 25-44.

What became clear from the report, said Aisling Curtis, commercial director, Microsoft Ireland, was that a strong digital culture is the “missing ingredient” in digital transformation.

Speaking to TechPro, Curtis said where a strong digital culture existed, supported by leadership, it increases engagement and empowerment for people, which will see a greater result in terms of the war for talent.

“If you people aren’t transforming, then your business isn’t going to,” Aisling Curtis, Microsoft

This is in stark contrast to those organisations that do not have a strong digital culture. The report found that only 11% of Irish employees feel highly productive in their job, with just 14% feeling highly engaged. This is further compounded by nine out 10 (90%) of employees reporting low innovation in their organisation.

Broad supports
A strong digital culture, said Curtis, is one characterised by a broad range of supports for employees. This means good technical support to ensure that tools, systems and infrastructure are supportive of working practices and able to accommodate change efficiently. It also means a strong supportive environment that not only encourages the use of new tools and practices, but that recognises and rewards such engagement, allowing employees the latitude to find what is best for them and their role.

Curtis said organisations, through efforts such as digital transformation, are continually introducing new technologies but not necessarily providing enough support to get that technology adopted and used properly, which often results in a worsening of the situation.

“If you people aren’t transforming, then your business isn’t going to,” she said.

Digital culture, in successful organisations, said Curtis, is being championed by leaders where they have a clear digital plan, with good technical support, and a supportive and engaging work environment. There is also a focus, from a culture point of view, on autonomy of job roles, where people have flexibility in the environment with the emphasis on impact, not presence.

In those environments, the report found, there is 3 times more productivity, 3 times more innovation, 4 times more engagement and up to 5 times more empowerment for employees. In the current highly competitive market, this has a direct impact on attracting and retaining talent, said Curtis.

Company culture
According to the report, only 16.2% of Irish employees work in organisations with a strong company culture, and the same proportion (16.6%) say they work in a strong digital culture. Only 16.2% of Irish employees use a high amount of technology in their job.

The report says the impact of poorly planned digital culture on employees follows four common patterns. Firstly, workers who are too distracted by a constant influx of messages and notifications to concentrate for sustained periods. There is also a lack of training that means new technologies are not used effectively. This can often be as a result of poor technical support, resulting in workers to losing time as “the computers are down”. All of which adds up to what the report refers to as “Technostress”, where workers suffer burnout as the constant influx from mobile devices and at-home-working, they feel tethered to the job around-the-clock.

“One year ago, we said that organisations had two years to transform or risk losing out to competitors,” said Curtis. “And one year on, that message has been strengthened with this latest research highlighting the need for significant action in Ireland when we consider that a massive 84% of Irish employees believe they work within a weak digital culture. To combat this, leaders need to be clear on whether their organisation has a set of guidelines for how technology should be used and whether their people have been brought along that journey.”

Organisation success
The report cited examples of success in establishing a strong digital culture. The century-and-quarter-old firm Allianz has adopted a “digital by default” approach in how it delivers high quality, personalised, data-driven digital experiences, to its customers.

A key focus is on encouraging and supporting staff to embrace new technologies and to develop a robust digital culture. The company said it has digitally transformed its customer experience through new services such as MyAllianz, which allows customers to take control of their insurance and manage all their Allianz policies in one place.

“As one of the oldest and largest global and Irish Insurers today,” said Karen Forte, CIO, Allianz Ireland, “Allianz has seen and adapted to huge transformations across business and society. Allianz Ireland was the first in the Irish market to provide online ‘quote and buy’ facilities to customers in 2000, and has always punched above its weight when it comes to digital innovation. To do this, we have worked to create, grow support and maintain a strong culture of innovation and adoption of technology. Development of our Digital Culture will be a crucial element of our continued digital evolution.”

Across its dispersed offices and diverse landscape, the country’s third largest county council, Mayo County Council, has used services such as Skype for Business Online to more easily connect people, quickly and face-to face, without unnecessary travel time, to deliver a better and more reliable service to the local community and beyond.

“A digital culture isn’t about saying ‘send fewer e-mails’,” said Liam Hanrahan, acting director of Services, Communications, Information Systems and Corporate Development at Mayo County Council. “It’s about considering how work gets done. That means thinking about where conversations happen to reduce complexity, how enabled people feel to disrupt business models and namely about speed. By nurturing an environment that easily connects employees with each other and to the customer.”

Healthcare is an area where the message of empowering people to deliver a better service is deeply understood. The UK’s largest integrated health and social care provider with more than 20,000 staff employees supporting a population of 340,000 service users, the Belfast Trust and Social Care Trust, developed the Care Home Portal with Microsoft. It delivers an easy means to see where beds are available, so a service user, their families and caregivers can begin finding the right location and facility while having a Trust healthcare professional at their side.

“[The Care Home Portal] has been an excellent development, which will, for the first time, enable managers to have an overview of [bed] capacity within this sector. It will assist in the management of hospital delays and the management of patient flow, and it will reduce practitioner time contacting individual homes to determine capacity,” said Jackie Campbell, service manager, Business Support and Administrative Services, OPS, PSDS, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.


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