* This article was originally posted on Forbes.com *
I’ve given you a roadmap to success as an intrapreneur and gone over what initiatives to focus on in your first 100 days. Lastly, I want to talk about the importance of cultivating a company culture that supports a digital-first approach.
At this point, you should have leadership buy-in and be well on your way to becoming a digitally cultured organization. But without some driving factor to keep the digital knife sharp, how do you maintain the edge? By cultivating a culture that lives and breathes digital.
Pinpoint The ‘Why’
Digital technology influences everything. Our society has been fundamentally changed by the rise of things like mobile devices. They’ve altered the way we interact socially and are at the core of an increasingly digital shift in the nature of commercial relationships.
If customer conversation is happening primarily in digital spaces, you must understand how that works. If you expanded into a new country, you’d make sure you had the capabilities to communicate in the native tongue, right? Well, digital is the new language, and it’s time to get fluent.
It can’t be the job of only one person, either. Everyone in your organization needs to become conversational in digital because it affects everyone: from the accountant who now needs to pay bills via online banking or use an online payment processor, to the salesperson who traditionally picked up phones or knocked on doors but is now spending their time programming marketing sequences and sales automation tools.
Lastly, it’s vital that you build a company culture and pipeline environment that attracts digitally native talent. The demand for that skill set is much higher than the current supply. Nearly every organization is looking for it. Create a culture that will draw people with these proficiencies to you so you have talent at all levels that speak the language customers want to use.
Identify The ‘Who’
There are two main pools of personnel to identify during a digital overhaul of your company culture. The first is your digital natives. They’re the ones who possess cutting-edge knowledge on all the latest tools and processes. They’re tech-savvy and have enough ingenuity that, if given a vision or goal, they can take off running.
As a subset of those digitally natives folks, you’ll want to identify the people who also have entrepreneurial tendencies. This unique intersection — the digital intrapreneur — represents a segment of employees who display not only digital skills, but also an ownership mentality. This unique group is composed of employees you’ll likely be able to trust to run key areas of your business. Give them opportunities to demonstrate their skills and your organization will benefit from it.
Finally, take every single role in your organization and think about how you can measure digital proficiency across all of them. This might mean giving your team a proficiency exam on a handful of your most-used software applications and seeing where they land.
Set goals to improve scores on a timeline, and test again in another three to six months. This exercise is critical to establish a benchmark and help you increase efficiency, response time, adoption of new tools, onboarding and documentation company-wide.
Uncover The ‘What’
What makes up a company’s “culture,” really? There’s the intangible element of how things “feel,” but there are tangible steps you can take to create an environment that will foster not only a positive culture, but one that is fully digital as well.
I often see companies that claim to be software or technology companies, but the actual environment they ask their team to work in is archaic. Their systems are outdated and the focus is more on legacy compliance than workforce efficiency. This doesn’t work; be who you say you are.
Additionally, there is a common misconception by many business people that if someone is creative or “techy,” they don’t understand or care about sales or business results. I couldn’t disagree more! When someone’s day-to-day job can’t always be easily connected to daily sales results, you do have to approach things differently, though.
If you land a big customer and, during the sales process, they mention being excited about the “vibe of the company,” call out the marketing or product teams. Recognize their work and thank them for it. This connection is major for digitally native workers.
Increasingly, it seems younger workers are shirking the classic path of working their way up the ladder through promotions. That drive may be replaced by the preference to focus on giving their best individual contribution, working on cool teams, meeting new people and solving complex problems.
Keeping this type of worker satisfied is all about giving them new challenges and an opportunity to grow through learning. You’re more likely to keep them around if you ensure the work they’re doing changes frequently and helps sharpen their skills. Keep them from feeling stagnant or bored.
Decide The ‘When’
When should you start building a digital company culture? To be blunt, yesterday. If you start making changes when it’s obvious change is needed, you’re already late. If you’ve realized that 80% of your revenue is happening on mobile, chances are your competitors realized this two years ago and made the necessary adjustments to their environment.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to start now. Begin with the team you have in place and assess current talent. Benchmark where you are, identify the personnel we talked about above and then do what you need to do to nurture them into more proactive roles in the right projects.
Not every company will need a complete overhaul, but every company will need some degree of change. It’s also worth taking a peek at your competitors to see what they’re doing. If you can be an early mover in a slower industry, you can capitalize on making this change.
It may feel overwhelming, but undertaking this exercise as soon as possible will ensure that your company isn’t outpaced in today’s ever-changing digital landscape.