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Culture Change and Engaged Employees

Last week Scott Monty wrote an excellent article about the leaked New York Times internal digital report. "What Brands Can Learn..." is his synopsis of the key points in the report that could, as he points out, apply to any company in any industry. He got my attention by focusing on the core culture change needed for organizations of any kind to succeed in becoming digital organizations.

The deep problems are cultural... as the digital team is slowed by "a cadre of editors who remain unfamiliar with the web." Indeed, according to some staffers interviewed by Benton, the report "surfaced so many issues about Times culture that digital types have been struggling to overcome for years."

At about the same time this came out, Gartner was running its annual Customer360 conference in Orlando, FL where Gartner analysts Gene Alvarez and Leigh McMullen took to the stage and announced to attendees that the most important initiative companies needed to undertake was cultural change.

The pace of business requires frequent, rapid transformation... Organizations that can adapt and transform quickly will win!

As I've been writing here for the past few months, social is a key building block for digital transformation - making your company ready to tackle the challenges of the digital age, meeting the expectations of digital customers and delivering digital experience as a part of the product/service value to those customers. But as Scott Monty, Gene Alvarez, and Leigh McMullen all point out - digital transformation starts inside the company and social is the key to unlocking that change.

gartner collaboration and engaged employeesThe graphic you see here is from the presentation that Alvarez and McMullen gave at Gartner's conference in Orlando -- it outlines the connected set of initiatives that an organization must undertake and at the center is "organizational collaboration." Organizations must adopt collaboration -- social -- to break down the walls between functional silos and between individuals in order to unlock the promise of improved efficiency (processes) and improved performance (customer experience).

In my last article, "CRM and the Customer Code Halo," I began the process of outlining the technology necessary for an organization to succeed in the digital transformation process. CRM or "customer relationship management" software is the core system that allows an organization to manage all of the information about customers -- transactions, demographics, social data... everything a company knows about its customers needs to be in one place and accessible across functions -- sales, marketing, customer service, commerce. One system to represent one version of the truth about your customers.

In my next article I will detail "BPM and the Employee Code Halo." BPM or "business process management" software is the second crucial technology to the digital transformation journey and it is important to understand how companies will succeed throught better design of the processes that their employees engage in to serve their customers.

But before I jumped directly into the role of social in business processes, the twin beacons of Scott Monty and the NY Times digital report and the the Alvarado, McMullen Gartner presentation brought me to a full stop and reminded me of the importance of cultural transformation and how organizations must change themeslves if they ever hope to be successful in changing the way they engage with customers.

First a few points from Scott Monty's article the report (by the way here is a link to the full New York Times Innovation Report). I've reframed a few of these to make them less about media and more general.

1. Digital First

2. People want a two-way relationship, and there's no way to do that without interacting with a human being.

3. The single most underutilized resource for companies: customers.

4. Look hard at your traditions and push in ways that make you (your organization) uncomfortable.

5. You'll need better collaboration and shared goals

6. Strategy is becoming such a pressing need that it should become a permanent function, with dedicated staff

7. Digital transformation "requires rethinking staffing, structure and work processes from top to bottom."

These points are very much aligned with the guidance from the Alvarez, McMullen Gartner presentation in which the two speakers challenged the audience to beware the "culture chasm" into which too many companies have fallen. This chasm is characterized by broken processes, old business models, old skills, a misaligned organization, data silos and more. And the speakers warned of companies caught in this chasm that "very few make it out alive."

For Alvarez and McMullen the secret is to build an organization "powered by purpose." But not any purpose, not the leader's purpose -- but purpose that takes into account ALL of the stakeholders. The enterprise mission, strategy, leader's goals, and staff's goals must all be a part of the purpose powered organization.

And a purpose powered organization builds collaboration -- here is the call to action that they offer (12 ways to create a customer driven culture):

1) Have strong leadership

2) Use stories to communicate messages

3) Formalize and communicate the message

4) Make it trasparent to the customer

5) Find evangelists

6) Make the responsibilities and rewards clear

7) Company values should be stated as behaviors

8) Provide training and education

9) Socialize and reinforce through the company to embed it in the culture

10) Recruit differently 

11) Provide recognition and build incentives tied to the strategy

12) Recognize it takes commitment and time.

Alvarez and McMullen end their presentation with the exhortation that this cultural change is "hard but not complex" and that it is essential "...there is no better mechanism that will permit success in an uncertain world." The change that both the NY Times report and the Gartner analysts are asking for is for organizations to become more agile, more adaptable, and have a greater focus on digital -- and both observe that this can be achieved through cultural change that results in organizations embracing the right skills and through increasing organizational collaboration.

How can you do this at your company?

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