Digital disruption is forcing organizations to change the skills and behavior of their employees. However, transformation programs are often stymied when leaders fail to take into account the culture of their organizations.

Digital disruption is forcing organizations to radically change how they lead and manage their employees. They have to shift traditional mindsets and behavior and encourage workers to better collaborate, innovate and solve problems. They also need to promote swift and decisive decision-making among all levels of staff.

Such bold attempts to transform the workforce, however, often fail. They hit a big stumbling block: the culture of the organization.

Conventional tools for initiating and managing change, such as training and communication, are unable on their own to deliver the transformation that’s needed. The long-established culture of the organization is deep-rooted and tough to change. As a result, transformation programs flounder. Managers become frustrated and employees grow dispirited. The consequences for the organization can be disastrous. Digital disruption will increasingly become a threat rather than an opportunity. Key talent is likely to jump ship, productivity and efficiency will almost always slump, and the organization will become more vulnerable to competitors.

Culture change is the key to effective workforce transformation. But how can organizations get it right? To find out, we researched change initiatives at more than 150 organizations involving nearly a million employees.

One of the biggest findings of our Change Tracking data was the importance of the conduct of business leaders championing change. Executives must lead by doing, not just talking. They have to model the new values and behavior they are promoting. If they don’t, their talk will carry little weight.

Leading by example is most difficult for executives when they have to adopt behavior and practices that are foreign and challenging. They’re often wary of appearing inept, and uncomfortable about letting go of approaches that contributed to their past success. However, humility and a willingness to learn from others are vital. Such attitudes equip executives to constantly adapt to new challenges. They’re also infectious. They encourage employees to relinquish their fear of change and embrace new ways of performing their work.

New rules for culture changePeer-to-peer coaching is a highly effective way to encourage business leaders to change their behavior. It allows executives to share their difficulties and successes in coping with change. This encourages leaders to embrace transformation and also fosters greater collaboration among executives.

Reverse-mentoring allows executives to learn specific skills from specialists within the organization. A major financial institution, for example, recently introduced a reverse-mentoring program for 200 of its managers. These managers were paired with tech-savvy employees who taught them how to use the organization’s new digital collaboration platform. The program was a great success and the managers became strong advocates of the digital platform.

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss another common obstacle to culture change: over-emphasis on top-down leadership. Until then, take a look at this link. I think you’ll find it useful.

New rules for culture change

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