Paris Breakfast Briefing: Cultural Transformation in a Digital World

A breakfast briefing hosted by FT | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance

The key objective of this business breakfast is to act as a think tank addressing current and challenging questions related to business.

We addressed in October the topic of Cultural Transformation in a Digital World and discussed the impact this transformation has on HR and people management. The overall agreement is that cultural transformation has to be human-led, particularly in a VUCA environment where predictions are difficult to make and often incorrect.

Robin Kwong (Financial Times) also commented that one of the key dimensions of cultural transformation re. digitization is to make sure that you don’t have digital specialists and on-digital employees. The success of the transformation requires that everyone is related to digital in his / her daily work.

We explored the topic using the below questions as guidelines:

How is the digital revolution changing working pattern and skills required by companies?

This requires that all employees understand clearly where the company wants to go so that they are doing the extra mile needed for success, in a much more entrepreneurial mode. If the employees have left the company (for instance have created a start-up) and this adventure can bring value to the company, one of the challenges of the cultural transformation is going to be able to bring them back at a point in time.

In this cultural transformation, we need to make the life of our employees easier, give them visibility, attract / transform / engage them. This requires that we have some kind of a “lifelong relationship” with employees, even if they leave for a while and come back at a later stage (companies to manage their network of alumni?)

What is the impact for HR? How will the HR role change as key tasks become automated?

The digital world is changing several dimensions of work and raising questions such as

  • How do we manage the people who leave the company for a while and (want to) come back? Do we need to create and manage networks of alumni?
  • How do we manage the fact the digitization changes not only the mental dimension of people but also the physical dimension (jobs requiring physical strength such as @ Veolia for instance)?
  • How do we train management today about the reality of home-office or virtual-office work? How is employees’ engagement managed in such working environments?

All these questions probably require management to have a better, more profound dialog with employees. To a certain extent, we need to move from a parent-to-child relationship to an adult-to-adult relationship. This also means that the recognition for efforts and success have to rely on a different symbolic, both because of the impact of digitization on employees and the increasing number of millennials in companies.

What are the main near term challenges to make this transformation a success?

Several challenges among which the most important ones are:

  • The need for top management to convey a strong and clear (transparent) message
  • Does digital transformation really make employees’ lives easier? What are the new difficulties that employees have to overcome in this digital world?
  • How do we manage know-how and accumulated knowledge? It was typically transferred through processes, meetings or double occupancy of jobs.
  • How do we share and spread good and bad habits in this digital world?
  • Innovation comes from employees in contact with the market. How do we capture this innovation in a digital world / company? How do the respect of ideas and performance rather than hierarchical position impact the company?
  • How do we make sure that line management is OK with these changes and ready to support them?

Robin Kwong, Head of Digital Delivery, Financial Times

Robin has a remit to push the boundaries of digital story-telling and to make imaginative project planning routine across the FT’s editorial operations.

Professor Balvinder Powar, FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance educator 

Balvinder has extensive experience leading business, social, cultural, media and technology projects in Spain and internationally. His main skills include communications (internal and external), creative & strategic input, business development & senior management, team leadership, relationship management & business mediation.