Culture matters. 

Whether you’re seeking to change it, sustain it, save it or create it, culture plays a role within our organizations – and within the digital workplace – that should not be underestimated. 

In a 2015 Deloitte survey, 94 percent of executives said they believe a strong culture is important to business success. Another commonly cited statistic is that 70 percent of change initiatives fail due to mishandling or misunderstanding of organizational culture. 

But what exactly do we mean by culture?

What We Mean By Organizational Culture

At its most basic level, organizational culture is about “the way we do things.” It manifests through the aggregation of elements such as individuals’ actions, processes, the relationships between people and leadership style. 

It reflects the organization’s personality and is what makes each organization unique and identifiable as that organization. It’s the invisible shared values driving behaviors and visible manifestation of those values in practices. 

At a more complex level, organizational culture becomes a burst of fragments. 

Does an organization have one overarching culture? Does it contain pockets of culture, dependent on factors such as profession, leadership style of a team, localized hiring practices? Does one consistent culture embody a whole organization, or is it made up of multiple cultures? 

The answers to these questions will vary from organization to organization. The real question is how your own organization’s culture and its variants are formed, the strength of this culture and its relationship to your digital workplace.

'Culture' vs. 'Change Management'

Sometimes people think we're talking about change management when we talk about culture. The two are intimately related — and aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Often we don’t think about culture until it’s either under threat or standing in the way of achieving a vision. Or both. And once you’ve reached this point, you’re likely to be looking for quick solutions to address a failing initiative rather than a long-term cultural change program.

So when we start to think about culture, change management and the digital workplace, it’s likely we are seeking to adopt one of two paths: 

  • A digital workplace that mirrors and amplifies a culture that is already seen as desirable and worth sustaining. Change management efforts here will therefore more likely focus on training, improved processes and communication to make sure the digital workplace becomes embedded in and supports practices that build on the organization’s cultural values 
  • A digital workplace that is part of a wider effort to evolve a culture towards an aspirational state. In this case, change management efforts are a smaller part of a wider program of culture change, with the digital workplace just one of the catalysts being used to create the shift. Other catalysts may include manager training, an overhaul of the performance review and management system, and a redesign of physical space

Cultural Values That Help and Hinder Digital Workplace Efforts

With the spotlight increasingly trained on the role that culture plays within digital workplace efforts, the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) conducted research to find out whether it could identify specific cultural values and practices that either help or hinder implementing and sustaining digital ways of working.

Following a literature review and interviews with a number of digital workplace experts, we succeeded in finding values that can impact the effectiveness of a digital workplace.

However, rather than presenting a simple “paint by numbers” model for culture, DWG’s research also revealed that these same values can all too easily morph from being a help into a hindrance, and vice versa, if their presence is either too strong, too weak or if certain circumstances allow.

In all, we identified 13 cultural values that can contribute either to facilitating or blocking your efforts to develop and sustain an effective digital workplace. These can exist in varying degrees of strength and can also be combined, resulting in a complex array of potential different overarching cultures.

digital workplace cultural assessment from DWG

This isn’t to say that cultural values outside of the list won’t impact your digital workplace program, nor suggest defeat for your program if your organization’s culture doesn’t have these values.

No one “perfect” culture will best facilitate a digital workplace.

Identify Your Cultural DNA

Rather, as part of a wider program of culture change, organizations need to know their own cultural DNA and to celebrate its strengths while looking to address any weaknesses.

The infographic provides an overview of which values can facilitate or block cultural workplace efforts, dependent on the strength of their presence. Additionally, three specific values are picked out in more detail within the table below.

Which of these 13 values does your organization have, at both a global and a more localized level, and to what extent do they permeate your workplace? With your unique “cultural profile” in hand, you can start identifying appropriate change management interventions to encourage greater effectiveness of your digital workplace program.

three organizational values and impact on digital workplace