Brand Insights

Why having a digital culture matters


The harsh truth is, digital transformations fail too often. New technologies are introduced and there is some short term benefit, there may even be some process changes that take place and stick. But overall, many of the long term benefits of digital transformation - keeping up with the market, pivoting to meeting shifting customer expectations, becoming an employer of choice – aren’t realised. And it’s often for the same reason – digital has been implemented, but culture change hasn’t occurred to embrace digital as part of day-to-day thinking.


This article explains what it means to have a digital culture. We’ll explore why digital culture is important, looking at benefits including the ability to take risks, greater company agility, improved collaboration opportunities and better data collection and utilisation. We’ll also examine the role of leaders in creating a digital culture, as it’s crucial to note that digital culture cannot be forced up on an organisation but needs to be gently encouraged and nurtured to life.

The stats around successful digital transformation are pretty damning. Too many companies who begin a transformation process to become more digitally minded don't see the long term return from it. Often this is due to the transformation being implemented but not embedded - there hasn't been a cultural transformation to go along with the digital transformation.

Digital technology can give companies the power to be leaner, faster, more productive and more profitable. But only if the digital tools and technologies that are introduced aren’t done so in a way that entices employees to use and embrace them, they’re unlikely to have much effect.

That’s why a full transformation of culture is crucial to successful digital transformation – creating the environment where people feel free and secure to experiment using tech, changing the mindset to see digital technology as a way of enhancing their roles and abilities rather than replacing them. Doing this will lead to an organisation that is centred around digital innovation, with innovation at the heart of everything from products and services to collaboration and project management.

When an organisation moves towards having a culture defined by its use of digital, that digital culture becomes a part of its core values, influencing its development process, its change management process, its recruitment process, its management hierarchy, the way it interacts with its customers and stakeholders, its business performance and ultimately the company's success.

Culture tends to have that effect – it ripples through the whole community, changing the way we see the fundamentals, offering a new lens through which to view things like values, processes and behaviours. It makes us reconsider our goals and objectives. Transforming our culture is far more complex than simply introducing new technologies or building an app. It will impact on the entire workforce. While a digital transformation can be ‘done to’ your employees, a cultural transformation must be led by them.

With the active support and enthusiasm of the CEO and leadership team, employees should be encouraged to explore innovative ideas, creative solutions, and future focused initiatives. Test and learn should be a part of their daily vocabulary.

How Technology is Changing Company Culture

Digital technology is having an ever-increasing impact on cultural transformation within organisations. It's not just the needs and expectations of customers that are regularly shifting.

One of the seemingly lasting results of the Covid pandemic is the shift in employee expectations too. In order to attract the best talent on the market, a company's culture needs to reflect this shift in their employees' preferences.

And technology is playing an important role in this current culture. Supporting remote and hybrid working, enabling new levels of flexibility, and creating opportunities for collaboration, having a digital first organizational culture allows for a variety of ways of working.

Why is digital culture important?

Well, to put it bluntly, you can embrace digital, or you can be dragged into the digital age kicking and screaming - the long and short of it is the revolution is already here, and there's no way of keeping up with the change in demand without it. Building a digital culture will give you two important advantages over those who don't.

First, you'll have higher employee satisfaction and engagement from a workforce who are invested in their digital workplace - a digital culture matters to lead to greater transparency, the breaking down of silos and the ability to share knowledge more easily - key cornerstones for building strong company cultures.

Second, a digital transformation culture will help you to future proof your organisation. Building continuous improvement into your core values will mean you'll have a workforce always on the look out for innovative ways to overcome cultural challenges and meet customer needs and demands. Setting up an innovation committee, with representatives from across the spectrum of your workforce from every team and at every level will embed new behaviors and go a long way to creating an open culture that accepts new ideas and significant change to stay ahead of the market.

By showing your people how technology will be used to encourage their creativity and innovation in order to improve business processes and enhance the business strategy, digital will weave itself into the company culture, ensuring that the transformation process is led by your employees rather than your senior leaders alone.

What are the benefits of a digital culture?

Risk taking

An unusual one to jump in with maybe, as there are plenty of companies who aren't interested in taking risks and are perfectly happy with the status quo. Unfortunately, in this new world we’ve found ourselves in post covid, where workers became used to connecting digitally with everything they needed, the status quo won’t cut it. Not only have your customers become more comfortable with disruptive new products, technologies and systems in their lives, they’ve begun to expect them.

To keep up with the market, going beyond the standard and taking a risk is a necessity to increase market share. And this is where that cultural transformation comes into play. For risk taking to become part of the business plan, there must first be an environment in which it is safe to fail, where taking those risks is celebrated and seen as valuable even when they don’t pay off.

Setting up innovation labs or sandboxes can enable employees to experiment with technology and ideas without fear of failure. Creating a fail-fast mentality, where digital initiatives are encouraged even if they may not work will lead to a organisation that is always learning and employees who are always growing. Stitching this into your digital culture will lead to better outcomes in the long run.


We've discussed elsewhere the impact of agile on a business - that it can help make sure you're responsive as possible to your audience, that it enables you to pivot and communicate change quickly. Having a digital culture can help you achieve greater agility by breaking down silos, and putting in place the appropriate technology and tools to nurture agile working. Having a digital strategy that can be segmented into short sprints can help enable quicker project delivery and keep morale high.


The chances are, whether you’re aware of it or not, your organisation is working within several silos. Sure, there may be moments where departments come together to solve a particular problem, but it’s likely that, on the whole, your teams work separately from one another.

And while digital tools can be effective for increasing collaboration touchpoints, digital transformation doesn’t intrinsically work to break down these silos. They can remove the barriers to collaboration but they cannot force collaborative working. It takes a culture shift to change the mindset of teams that aren’t used to working outside their verticals and convince them that different functions can work together to achieve better outcomes for everyone.

It's not immediately obvious, though, how introducing a digital culture would be the thing to affect a shift to more collaborative working. As we’ve already noted, while digital tools offer a method for collaboration, it’s not the digital tools themselves that change the mindset.

However, in a company with a digital culture, people approach problem solving in a different way. . Cross functional teams and innovation committees have representatives from all departments, daily stand ups or weekly scrums give regular cross-departmental touchpoints. Colleagues from different teams are seen as crucial rather than suspicious for their differing expertise and insights. Diversity of perspective becomes the goal when setting up project teams.

That’s when the digital tools really begin to show their worth. Project management software that can track the tasks of multiple teams, and enable people to share their workstack for transparency. Communication tools that can ensure people can talk to one another no matter where they’re situated. Successful cultural transformation will lead to these tools being seen as a way to help people do their jobs, rather than as a threat to their jobs.


Put simply, having a digital culture enables you to collect data. More data and better quality data. Data on your employees, on your products, on your customers. And you can use all that data to work smarter - to provide seamless customer experience, to keep your employees engaged, to ensure your product or service is the right fit for your market. A digital transformation culture will help you to find and use the data to retain customers and attract new ones.

The Role of Leaders in Driving Digital Culture

As we’ve established, trying to impose cultural transformation on a group of employees is unlikely to result in a positive outcome. That means that business leaders have a tightrope to walk – one where they encourage and participate in cultural transformation but don’t enforce it autocratically.

They need to be able to communicate why a digital culture is important, persuade people to try new things and put the right influencers in the right places to bring others on the journey.

Leaders need to help show that a digital culture that embraces digital technology's opportunities and demands will be beneficial for all, and then provide the resources and support necessary to make it happen.

Here are 5 ways they can influence digital culture change without enforcing it. 

1. Lead by Example

Leaders are in the perfect position to help people see the potential of digital. If they can be early adopters, embracing new technology other will be more likely to follow suit. Talking the language of digital transformation will normalise it throughout the organisation.

2. Communicate the Vision

Being able to inspire change is a communication skill possessed by the best leaders. Explaining the bigger picture and the benefits of digital transformation can help to inspire a sense of purpose.

3. Foster Collaboration

Leaders are in the best place to draw together multiple stakeholders and cross functional groups to work on projects and solve problems. By making this standard practice, a culture of collaboration will begin to emerge.

4. Invest in Digital Skills

While leader cannot enforce cultural transformation, they can be responsible for a skills shift. Investing in digital training to upskill employees, giving them an opportunity to grow and expand their career prospects, can empower them to see digital tools as something to be embraced rather than fearful of.

Start with employee surveys to see which skills team members feel they are lacking or would like to develop to ensure high levels of employee engagement. You could also include digital skills assessments and focus groups to see where there are gaps.

5. Reward Innovation

Innovation can be intimidating. Doing things differently can be scary. Leaders need to reward attempts at innovation and experimentation. Employees need to feel safe contributing new ideas and taking risks. Rewarding innovation will encourage employees to think creatively and try new things. This will help digital transformation to embed itself into company culture.


The Future of Cultural Transformation in the Age of Digitalization

Change is coming. The way people interact with their workplace and with their employer has already shifted. There is less loyalty, greater independence. And with the place of digital being cemented in our day-to-day lives, it’s an instrumental time for digital to become part and parcel of business practices, enabling them to meet shifting customer expectations.

What has been established is that technological gaps are easier to address than cultural barriers. Legacy culture and mindsets are the biggest barriers to successful digital transformation, and so starting with cultural change is crucial. The CEO must assume the role of the chief evangelist, exuding positivity, enthusiasm, and joyfulness around digital.

Remote and hybrid working has had its moment in the spotlight – it’s proven that digital tools enable people to work and collaborate effectively from anywhere. But company owners and managers need to resist the temptation to move back to the old way of doing things as economy tightens. It may feel like a safer way of working when everyone is in the same physical space, but it actually does two things: it sends the message that you don’t trust your people and you don’t trust the digital tools you’ve given for them. Not great for helping employees feel confident in a digital first culture, and not great for attracting new hires.

Digitalisation and digital transformation are going to be key to creating a resilient, future proofed company. A successful cultural transformation has to be part of the early journey, backed by the company's leadership team, driven by employees, with active CEO support.