Investing millions in a company’s digital journey is money wasted if the workforce isn’t onboard. As management guru Peter Drucker once said, culture (still) eats strategy for breakfast.


Unfortunately, culture is stubbornly resistant to change, even when it is at odds with the variety of work styles emerging in the digital economy. A 2017 Cognizant study showed that culture-focused companies achieve over a third better revenue growth than more complacent players who take culture for granted – and miss the warning signs. A good culture demonstrably helps companies to attract and retain talent (this also goes for entire countries: Switzerland leads the world on its ability not just to attract but importantly to retain skilled workers).


There are clear signs when the culture is right – and it all comes down to people. Staff have a sense of purpose, know the company’s journey, and feel they matter. Attrition rates are low. But people will not adapt without leadership: for example, a process-driven organization that is a stickler for routine cannot just mandate “agile teams” and leave people to get on with it. The fast-changing environment demands an activist approach to drive both pace and direction.


Cognizant has developed a framework showing how businesses can spur culture change. Here are some of the areas to focus on:


  • Set the stage with leadership: leaders can encourage new behaviors such as a greater risk appetite and cross-discipline collaboration. Instead of traditional authority and control-based management styles, they should practice collaborative approaches to pull together smart minds around tasks.
  • Style the workspace for the culture you want: organizations that want people to co-create should give them the space to do so. Swiss engineering company Bühler, for instance, has created an innovation center with dedicated co-creation spaces, and is succeeding in attracting smart minds into the enterprise. Sometimes it’s as easy as overhauling the seating plan. If product managers, marketeers and engineers are to share ideas, they should be sitting and working together.
  • Rewire decision paths: adopting ideas from scrum product development (in which self-organizing teams work on a problem in intensive, quick iterations, or “sprints”), organizations should open up structures to enable decisions to be taken away from the center – for example by creating accelerator hubs around a specific problem, and encouraging experimentation.
  • Create an amazing employee experience: collaborative, personal workplaces promote a culture aligned with future working models. Technology can empower employees to work from different locations, develop new skills, and enjoy greater participation in the company. A workplace can now easily provide the same personalized digital experiences that employees experience in their everyday lives. All this helps to build the type of culture in which people feel valued and heard.In a digital economy with new working models, the culture cure means relinquishing control from the center, rewarding independent thinking, and creating the space for talent to thrive. For traditionally-wired organizations, it means breaking with tried-and-tested thinking – but rich rewards await.


To learn more about how to shape your organizational culture for the realities of work today, download our white paper, The Culture Cure for Digital