If like me you like to travel, one of the things that makes visiting other places so interesting is experiencing the culture and customs of the country or area that you visit. Seeing how the culture shapes the food, drink, ambience, way of living, work and human interactions add richly to the experience you have. Many times when I’m on holiday or travelling, I see people who limit their enjoyment as they don’t want to experience or embrace that difference of culture, which can even lead to confrontation or misunderstandings.
One of the reoccurring discussions I have with customers is how investing in what they believe to be the right technology does not always result in the outcome that they expect. In general people’s expectation of technology is that it just works, which for the most part it does. I have been in to see customers where I absolutely agree that the technology is the correct choice for their business, however a number of factors mean that users do not adopt or use the technology. This reiterates the point that digital transformation of the workplace or business is far more than simply selecting and deploying a solution or the latest technology.
Culture in the workplace
One of the most overlooked aspects of the workplace is the culture that is built both within teams and across geographic regions. The workplace now has more generations working within it than ever before, but labelling people and culture by age or geography simply doesn’t work. Most businesses will have people of all ages and backgrounds working for and with them, culture builds the bond that enables and shapes team interaction and output. Consumerisation of IT also drives and shapes this culture organically within the workplace. An overriding effect on the culture is that of the leadership and management of these teams and this has the potential to have a detrimental impact on any transformation in the business.
One customer that I worked with had created a vision of remote working for the majority of the business, providing remote access tools and virtual desktops to facilitate a “work from anywhere culture” however, my engagement with the business lead me to ascertain that only about 20% of people were using the solution to work remotely. the business asked me “Why?”
Computacenter run an advisory service called Workstyle Analysis which involves interviewing users to understand what they do, how they work and the challenges that they face doing their role. We can also back this up with analytics to provide qualitative and quantitative feedback to help build a picture of the workplace. In this particular instance, it was found that the technology worked and provided the functionality that people required. However, some people crave the social bond that physically working in a team and with people creates, additionally their managers expected to see them at their desks and would make disparaging remarks when people decided to work from home or remotely. In addition, some of the tools provided for collaboration and communication were not adopted, as the culture that some of the users had grown into or accepted was that people needed to be together, face to face to “get things done”.
Now whilst some of the culture was driven by people’s background and life experience, the overriding one was that of their managers. If someone wanted to embrace the new culture or experiment with new ways of working, much like those who refuse to allow cultural experience to enhance who, what and how they see things; those managers were causing conflict and tension – and stopping meaningful change within the business.
This is not an uncommon problem that I see when engaging with customers, so in order for digital transformation to work, senior stakeholders in the business need to ensure that the culture of the workplace is a key factor that is taken into account as much as the technology solutions to ensure better success and the expected business outcomes.
Shaping the future
Culture is also important in the workplace for the following reasons:
- The culture reflects on the ability of the company to realise its promises and commitments. If the company stated core values are not reflected in the culture of the business, the seriousness of stated promises can be devalued
- The company culture shapes how potential and current employees view the company. People want to feel part of the culture at work, so it is vital to build or shape a culture that attracts talent and retains those already there
Of course there are times when culture needs to be adapted or shaped to help drive modernisation or digital change, but understanding the culture first is a vital component to helping drive meaningful and productive change.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a difference of culture within the business, ask yourself, can I be more accepting and understanding of the nuances of culture within the workplace; if you are the one driving the change, ask yourself, do I truly understand the workplace culture and what that means to those who embrace it, so that I can help effect business change for the better.