Culture: Your talent magnet

Today’s world depends upon digital talent. We hear stories of organizations vying hard for digital talent. So, the question is how do you attract and retain this talent to your team. The answer is in culture.

Despite being in an old manufacturing organization, we were able to attract talent from large multinationals, software product companies, large SIs and even financial services companies. We were able to attract some great talent from business functions – people who had a flare to drive process transformation through technology.

How could I do this? The answer was – actively building a great culture. Our culture made it a welcoming place for new as well as diverse talent. The culture was inclusive and exciting for our existing leaders and managers. But culture needs to be actively built and shaped, plus it does not happen overnight.

Talent is key to build the capabilities required to transform the enterprise into a digital enterprise. The magnet for talent is an inclusive, positive, and exciting culture.

We cover the important topic of Culture in this seventh article in the series of nine articles on digital transformation. In the first article, we talked about the evolution of the digital enterprise. In the second article, we talked about building trust among the various stakeholders of the enterprise ecosystem. In the third article, we talked about how experience is an important pillar in the success of a digital enterprise. In the fourth article, we discussed how technical debt slows down the digital transformation journey. In the fifth article, we talked about the importance of architecture; how to build a team, how to engage your partners. In the sixth article, we talked about the right perspective for partnerships to succeed in your digital transformation journey.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to build an exciting, purposeful and inclusive culture that increases the pace of digital transformation manifolds. You can build it as a leader, wherever you are in the organization.

What is Culture

Culture is the collective behavior of a team, an organization, or a country. This collective behavior attracts or detracts different types of people.

This is the age of talent wars; your culture decides whether somebody joins you after accepting your offer; or not. Especially in brick-and-mortar companies, the culture is of command control, and ‘Just get it done!’. We need to change it to attract digital talent; and this is not just a CIO’s job, it is collective effort of the leadership team. So, let’s understand what and how we can change the culture with a big outcome of attracting top digital talent:

  1. Preparing the incumbents for digital

Digital has to be an inclusive game. That means it needs to be run by existing people as well as new talent. The biggest detractor for new talent will be the incumbent employees. You need to first prepare the incumbent team to welcome new talent and to make the digital transformation exciting for them first.

I had this challenge when I became CIO for the first time. Half of the leaders were older than me and ingrained in the traditional technology domains and thinking. I wanted the IT transformation process to be inclusive and to take them along.

While we were building the team, I co-created a three-day training program along with a top management institute professor around the themes in our IT strategy. The professor picked up case studies which were very relevant to our context and strategy. In the two training programs through which we took about 50+ people, we generated absorbing discussions around why, how and what of our future that we were aspiring for. These training programs helped align the entire team, made our senior team members look forward to the upcoming transformations, made them aware them of the talent gaps we had, and thereby prepare them to welcome new talent.

2. Leading culture change

If culture is a collation of collective behaviors in the organization. As a leader, it’s your task to shape those collective behaviors – through your personal behavior.

Map what behaviors you want your team to inculcate; and demonstrate these behaviors yourself – it’s called ‘lead by example!’ For example, if three pillars of your digital transformation are customer centricity, employee centricity and cloud, first you can do these three things to demonstrate the new culture that you want to build.

  • Block some time every month to meet your customers or channel partners, talk to the call center agents or just talk to a few customer facing people. Bring some of your team members along to spread the word.
  • Set up an escalation management mechanism for complaints from your employees. Assign the task of escalation management to your EA and drive the process tightly. This demonstrates to the entire IT organization that employee experience matters, on priority.
  • In every discussion, ask the team how they can use cloud more. Have deep dive discussions with cloud vendors to upgrade your own knowledge. Bring in your peer CIOs to talk to your team about how they have opted cloud.

These kind of demonstrated behaviors give a strong message to the entire team to align around your cultural priorities and they raise your stature as a leader who walks the talk.

3. Celebrate the new culture

Once you have defined the traits of your new culture, you need to reinforce it by celebrating the early adopters of this new culture. You also need to bring a pride in the team as you are leading the change.

We had seven manufacturing plants, 2 ODCs , multiple regional offices and delivery centers. Once the strategy was made and the leadership team was aligned, the bigger task was to drive the culture throughout the organization. I conceptualized an IT annual offsite called ‘Outdo’. Outdo 2010 was the first three-day event in Lonavala with themes of Calibrate, Communicate, Celebrate. We Calibrated where we were with respect to our strategy, deployment and transformation. We Communicated the priorities and the leadership feedback, and we Celebrated the achievements.

A highlight of this celebration was the videos we shot with many business leaders to whom we had delivered strong outcomes. These videos were shown to a 100+ team of all IT managers and partner executives in a large ball room. They drove a sense of pride, achievement; and reinforced the culture, strategy and processes that we were building.

There are many other aspects of attracting and retaining talent which everyone knows, and I don’t want to cover here. For example, the company reputation in terms of a good company to work for etc.

These factors aside, we cannot underestimate the fact that every employee wants to work in a great team and with a great boss. You have an opportunity to lead by example, use mechanisms as illustrated above, to align the team, build a great culture, assimilate new with old, excite and include all participants, and prepare the ground for welcoming new talent.

I am proud that wherever I worked, I have been able to make it a great place to work, may be a microcosm on its own without the overhead of the larger organization even. My focus has always been on driving a great team culture, not complaining about the organization culture itself and build a reputation as a department to work with.

Please leave your comments here, or in the author’s LinkedIn Posts. In the next article, we’ll discuss what role Risk and Governance play in digital transformation journey.

The article has been written by Jagdish Belwal, Founder and CEO, Jagdish Belwal Advisory

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