The First Step: Transitioning to a Digital-First Culture
Due to the effects of the pandemic, we know that remote offices are not only surviving — they’re thriving. The digital world is here to stay.
Between consumers’ accelerated adoption of digital behaviors and a permanently changed working culture, the inevitable — and necessary — digital transformation of every industry took unusual leaps forward in the last 18 months. Business leaders across the board are trying to get ahead of the transformation imperative that digitization requires and the economic pressure it adds to their businesses.
For a problem that requires holistic change, we help make digital transformation manageable. Through our deep and diverse experience, we’ve seen leaders’ transformation challenges boil down to four key goals:
- Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
- Upgrade capabilities to reflect cutting-edge technical skills across marketing, technology, and data functions.
- Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires.
- Understand what good looks like — a skill necessary in achieving every goal.
This series, GA Jobs To Be Done, unpacks each of these four goals, providing actionable recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success.
In this first post, we will share how to begin creating digital mindsets across your business.
A digital-first culture: What is it, and how do you know when you’ve got it?
For those embarking on a business transformation initiative, the first problem we often hear is, “my business needs to transition to a digital-first culture.” This is understandable, as culture fit is one of the most important aspects on both sides of hiring, and your high-skill candidates want to work on high-skill teams.
So, what is a digital-first culture? It begins with digital literacy, a competency for using digital technology to find, create, evaluate and communicate, across an organization. This basic skill set is the stepping stone to developing comfort with — and ultimate adoption of — digital practices, such as experimentation, iteration, and “antifragile” working practices incorporating continuous learning and growth into everyday work.
Once literacy is achieved, you can begin unlocking the skills that are the hallmarks of a digital-first culture, such as data literacy, design thinking, and agile project management. From there, teams can advance their use of practical, hands-on skills in data science, marketing analytics, coding, and beyond.
The transition from digital literacy to true digital culture requires these digital processes and technologies to work effectively across the organization. When these digital practices become core to your business — that is when they are the go-to, standard process by which a majority of your company operates — then you may claim a digital-first culture.
Culture… it matters.
To many business leaders, “culture” is a “soft” word that leads directly to a People team — and keeps it there. This is a great place to start culture transformation, but it reflects the siloed way traditional businesses think about talent. While formal development is critical to digital transformation, it needs to touch every part of the organization to cause a real cultural shift. That means engaging leaders across teams to plan the transition, champion new processes, and set appropriate goals.
A learning culture is critical to staying competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. The days of arguing whether digital transformation is the right path are over; not only does transformation drive performance, it is a key element of attracting and retaining top talent. In a January 2021 study, we found that supporting professional growth is a core value of the modern worker. Many ranked “commitment to supporting my professional development to improve in a current role” as the #1 factor in whether they will stay at their company — rather than finding greener pastures elsewhere.
This all points to a positive feedback loop: innovation breeds innovation, and procrastination pulls traditional companies further behind. This is definitional; digital transformation promises that it helps businesses scale non-linearly while keeping costs low — that is, your investment in digital pays dividends long after the work is done. According to BCG, companies that focus on digital culture are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough results than companies that don’t.
How can you encourage digital culture in your organization?
The Critical Steps:
Digital literacy often develops in pockets among junior staff, hired-in individuals, or specific strategic teams, but it doesn’t work in silos. Building a workforce that excels in a digital-first context requires engagement of all levels in the organization, from contributors becoming literate to leadership driving digital adoption.
1. Leaders need to role-model digital behaviors and create a culture where teams thrive in adopting a digital mindset. This requires training to accelerate mindset shifts and learn the latest philosophies for innovation in digital strategy. From there, leaders must set goals and hold teams accountable to digital KPIs — and vocally champion the use of new digital practices.
2. Teams need to understand — and be able to communicate — why digitalization is a business imperative and lead by example with their digital mindset. Peer support is key to empowering teams to make more autonomous decisions that avoid cognitive overload as the business scales.
And, while it makes sense for some roles and teams to be more digitally advanced than others, it is important that all individuals at the company have basic digital literacy. This shared language is important to a cohesive working environment where all employees understand the priorities, are motivated by business milestones, and have opportunities to advance.
Diagnose a Digital Mindset
Luckily, you can prepare your organization to develop its digital culture no matter where you are in the process. Likely, there are digital-first practices you do well today and other areas where you might improve. Here are the top characteristics for digital-savvy organizations — how many do you have?
- Be customer-centric. You solve customer problems through a seamless, consistent experience based on an empathetic understanding of the customer mindset at each engagement journey phase.
- Experiment. You take complex problems and break them down into smaller parts to implement for testing your assumptions early and often.
- Adopt agile methods. You are nimble, flexible, and good at working across multiple departments. You always close the loop on experiments to maximize team learning.
- Activate growth. You design tactics to target your customer across each stage of the funnel and spot opportunities to grow product usage. You have metrics to evaluate each stage of the marketing funnel and its impact on business success.
- Be data-driven. You navigate the proliferation of data and use data at the heart of all decision-making. You’re skilled at data capture, analysis, and visualization to generate and communicate actionable insights across teams.
- Evaluate trends. You are aware of how emerging trends impact customer expectations, and you routinely evaluate evolving your strategy to meet fluid demand.
How many boxes did you check (or not)? Whether your business is about to begin a digital journey or already has a digital practice ongoing, it’s helpful to return to basics to understand which qualities of digital culture are working for you today and where you can stand to invest. One of the best actions you can take is to advocate for digital maturity across your organization, helping leaders understand the benefits of developing their digital culture and plans to move forward.
We’ll share more on how to grow digital impact, accelerate technical hiring, and evaluate what “good” looks like at every stage to help your business get the most leverage out of digital culture in the upcoming posts of this series. Stay tuned.
If you notice specific areas you want to grow, we can help. Explore our catalog here to see the digital literacy and upskilling courses that we provide — from IC to strategic leader and across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology.
Want further specific advice on how we could help your organization? Get in touch.