We explore how an inclusive and supportive digital culture can be the foundation for the effective use of digital in charities.
If you’re at all familiar with management speak, you’ve probably heard the famous quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker - ’culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.’
A positive culture is that invisible force that lies behind any successful organisation. It’s about recognising that people are your most valuable asset, that their day-to-day experience of working for you matters, and that their behaviours, values, communication styles and interactions are just as important as the numbers, targets, tactics and tools when it comes to getting the job done.
Having a supportive and healthy culture becomes even more important when charities are trying to improve their use of digital or have set their sights on digital transformation - it’s no use bringing in shiny digital tools if you haven’t nurtured the type of environment where people embrace change.
But while an organisational culture is a fairly organic thing that can’t simply be dictated with a new mission statement or a couple of posters on the wall, there are things you can do to recognise unhealthy patterns and start replacing them with productive ones.
Here are three things that foster a more successful culture for driving digital change:
A major change needs to start with confident leadership. But there is evidence that a top-down culture in which digital is ’pushed’ on staff through a management mandate often fails, as this research from MIT found:
“In this situation, organisational leadership decrees the nature of the next digital initiative, and employees are then expected to fall in line. A key problem with this approach is that top-down directives can often be a surprisingly ineffective tool for driving digital adoption.”
Instead of explicitly pushing digital transformation, successful organisations focus on being collaborative and making everyone feel counted. This is the number one driver of successful digital culture.
In charities, it can be hard to overcome fear of change and a reluctance to shake up the status quo. As explained in ’Digital Culture for Charities’, a new eBook by charity digital partner Trillium:
“To overcome this, it’s important to communicate as much information as possible, as frequently as you can. Even when things aren’t going well it’s important to be transparent. Involve your employees at every stage.”
“Be open to questions and encourage your employees to share their thoughts and experiences of new technology, systems and processes and make them feel involved in the project.”
Digital transformation won’t be sustainable if the people doing the job can’t grasp the imperative for digital transformation.
That’s why another important aspect of building an ’integrated’ digital culture is making sure you are clear and transparent with staff about your overarching goals, everyone’s individual and team goals, how a digital initiative helps to achieve them, and how you will measure progress.
This ensures that you embed digital in everything your organisation does as opposed to just throwing a few digital tools in the mix and hoping for the best.
Having a digital culture doesn’t mean everyone has to be a tech wizard overnight, but it’s important to foster a willingness to learn and try new approaches.
Once you communicate the need to bring in a new digital approach, not everyone will be excited about it, or even curious, but some will. That’s where the ability to recognise and encourage your ’digital champions’ comes in.
Initiatives such as reverse mentoring with your ‘digital native’ staff can not only be enlightening but empowering to a more open culture.
Disability charity Mencap shared learnings from their Digital Champions Scheme and how it helped boost digital literacy across their organisation.