Two years ago a BIO survey revealed company culture is perceived as the second biggest blocker to successful digital transformation, alongside lack of resources, no digital skills and inertia at board level.
But while this may sound like old news, we’re still seeing a lot of big companies struggling to master their employee experience. Our recent Digital Transformation workshop for Future London Academy confirmed lack of direction, culture block and unrealistic management expectation remain high on the list of the key digital transformation challenges. Why is culture so crucial in delivering a successful change programme? Why is it that B2B industries, like logistics and construction, suffer from this problem more than most? And how can logistics businesses learn from more nimble start-ups to take their company culture to the next level?
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
The logistics industry has traditionally placed a much higher emphasis on product improvement than cultural and societal shifts. But acknowledging the importance of culture and understanding how it affects the internal processes is key to ensuring operations run smoothly, and that any change programme has a chance of being more than a temporary gimmick.
Cultural evolution is, in fact, one of the hardest tasks for any business – creating a culture that’s comfortable with constant change, where continuous improvement is the norm and digital sits as a backbone for better collaboration and, ultimately, happier employees.
Let’s discuss warehouses as an example. Inbound Logistics suggests warehouses are now one of the biggest problems in the supply chain due to increased demand and a limited number of workers. Often, the problems within warehouses stay in warehouses. And if senior management is unaware of the difficulties faced by workers, they will not lower the pressure. Neither they will look for solutions to help increase efficiency.
So, how do we create a working environment that’s comfortable with change?
Eliminate the silos by rethinking the company structure
The best way to set the foundations for creating an open culture? Share your purpose. This one seems pretty obvious, but it’s surprising how often employees are not aware of why they’re asked to do something in a certain way, what the rationale is for implementing (and learning) new tools, or even what the general mission is and where the company is going.
There is a strong need for management to clearly introduce new ways of working and how the changes will help to ‘get things done’ – better and faster. Top-down management might be a traditional way of doing things in logistics, but it’s not very effective in a world of fast-moving agile disruptors.
Many conglomerates now take the characteristics of start-ups as a template for their cultural change. Why? One thing that start-ups do well is how quickly they can react to any market changes and user feedback. And it’s the open, silo-free culture that’s the key reason behind it.
There’s a number of learnings that big logistics brands could take – eliminating silos, improving employee experience (EX), and establishing a cross-functional, collaborative approach to problem-solving is a good place to start. This will allow to diffuse the digital knowledge and capabilities throughout the business, from logistics to sales. And most importantly, make sure every employee understands they have a vital role in developing and delivering the company promise, product and customer experience - whether it’s a CEO, warehouse operator, or courier.
Build relationships with start-ups
It’s easier said than done, but companies who build relationships with and mentor start-ups will achieve a better understanding of the new way of thinking about culture and EX. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of accelerator programmes and incubators in the B2C sector – IAG, owner of British Airways, launched a global accelerator programme for start-ups called as early as October 2016, with a purpose to “bring cutting-edge start-ups into the heart of our business”. Such programmes are now commonplace in industries like travel, transport, telecoms, finance and many others. But the practice needs to become more widespread in B2B industries.
Fail fast, get back up stronger
The saying that failure can help you win is not just hype. Such an approach is often seen in IT departments, who set the pace with a ‘fail fast’ attitude – working in an iterative, agile way that uses new technology to speed up test-and-learn processes and feedback loops. Now, although the tech teams may already be working in an agile way, the chances are the rest of the organisation falls far behind. The key challenge is to inject this dynamic, nimble, collaborative approach to problem-solving into all departments, unlocking an open environment that removes all the silos.
Although not from the logistics sector, this case study carves a path for others to follow. NHS Digital has a cultural philosophy based on involving and listening to all its stakeholders. It supports the transformation of around 40,000 health and care organisations in England and has a two-fold mission: to empower patients and make it easy for them to access the services they need, while at the same time helping drive down costs in the NHS. However, its ‘customers’ are also the thousands of healthcare professionals within the NHS. This is a great way of ensuring every person involved in the business has an opportunity to speak up and create a real change.
Creating an agile, questioning and adaptive culture is one of the hardest tasks for any business. But in order to unleash the potential of an engaged workforce, and ensure any change programme has a chance of success, the first place to look at before implementing any major change is inside the organisation. Without mastering the employee experience first, implementing any digital transformation programme and becoming a truly customer-centric company will be challenging.
To find out how BIO can help with your change programme, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.