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Work environment, company culture and challenges in the digital era
04 May 2020
Being part for the last four years as the academic coordinator of the Great Place to Work Competition, conducted annually by Great Place to Work Hellas, with the academic support of Alba Graduate Business School, The American College of Greece, I had the opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics shared by the participating companies.
The main common characteristic is that, to a great extent, these businesses share a strong family culture which creates a powerful bond among employees, as well as between employees and the company itself. A family culture is defined by values, such as trust in the administration and colleagues, respect for the employee, fairness and camaraderie. This “finding” comes, of course, as no surprise, as these values are aligned with the criteria used by Great Place to Work in evaluating/assessing the work culture of said businesses. The question that arises is to what extent a family culture can positively help in tackling contemporary challenges and, more specifically, the challenge of the digital transformation faced by several Greek enterprises with varying degrees. The answer is that it is necessary, but not enough.
According to several studies so far, failure percentages with respect to digital transformation globally are discouraging and range from 64% to 85%. Albeit discouraging, these percentages are, nevertheless, similar to failure percentages when it comes to applying change on a wider scale, over time. The reasons for these failed efforts in digital transformation, as mentioned in several studies, are to a significant degree the same as those regarding wide-scale changes more generally and where the business culture is a crucial factor.
Needless to say, family culture values (respect, trust, etc.) may be major contributors to the successful planning and implementation of wide changes of every form, including digital transformation. For example, lack of trust in the company’s leadership and vision, the odds of success drop significantly. Lack of team spirit and respect to the views and ideas of the employees, problem-solving and increased demands, and responsibilities, brought about by the digital transformation, become unsurmountable obstacles. The digital transformation however calls for the development of additional values which may not come with family culture. According to several studies, values like extraversion/looking outwards (including customers), continuous learning, experimentation and constant improvement, as well as learning from mistakes as inescapable elements of the experimentation and learning, are also essential to the creation of the so-called agile culture.
Summing up, companies that stood out in the Best Workplaces Competition, contribute significantly to the successful planning and implementation of wide entrepreneurial changes, including digital transformation. Regarding the components that make for an agile culture, a significant number of companies has already invested in the development of relevant values and employee skills. Appropriate examples constitute, among others, the emphasis on continuous learning through various online learning applications, the training of their human resources in the implementation of flexible working methodologies and problem-solving (e.g. design thinking, scrum methodologies) and the wide operation of independent flexible teams. Recent studies indicate that flexible methodologies, like design thinking, when used by employees, tend to contribute to culture creation with emphasis on the customer-user, cooperation, risk-taking and learning.
One of the challenges faced by these companies are the continuous investment to the empowerment of their culture, with emphasis on the aforementioned values, so that they can develop and preserve their human resources. This is a serious challenge due to the migration of a large number of talented young people abroad, of the generalized, on a global level, lack of digitally-skilled workforce, and the lack of sufficient resources due to the prolonged financial crisis. Regardless of the challenges that are coming their way, they deserve warm congratulations for their significant distinction!
Libert B., Beck M, & Wing Y. (2016). 7 questions to ask before your next digital transformation. Harvard Business Review, published on HBR.ORG
Elsbach K.D. & Stigliani I. (2018). Design thinking and organizational culture: a review and framework for future research. Journal of Management, 44(6): 2274-2306
Article originally published at Kathimerini