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Digital Acceleration

Global Leadership Forecast 2018

Accelerating the Digital Journey:

Changing Old Leadership Mindsets and Ways of Working

Joe Dettmann, Adam Canwell, Richard Wellins

In our section, “Digital-Era Leadership,” we put forth a new model of leadership and demonstrated that leaders who are more digitally capable exert a positive impact on their organization’s performance. We also showed that this new-era digital leadership requires a full and complex range of skills, including interpersonal, analytic, and technical. To thrive in this new era, most organizations will need to build new skills and capabilities; they’ll also need to overcome old mindsets and ways of working. This won’t be achieved by the delivery of formal training and learning alone. The workplace must become the learning environment. To assure this transition, everyone in the organization will need to be learning every day.

Accelerating the Digital Journey

How Do Organizations Accelerate Their Digital Journey?

We explored dozens of organizational operating environments that elevate the bar from simply “doing digital” to truly “being digital.” Three emerge as critical:Impact for organizations in a high state of digital maturity

  • New learning cultures. Building digital-era leadership capability requires a workplace where everyone learns every day. There’s a heavy emphasis on experiential development. Highly capable digital-ready leaders, the pioneers, actively manage their own growth and development. Compared to peers who aren’t as digitally skilled, they’re more likely (89 versus 58 percent) to take on stretch assignments to build new skills. They’re also more likely to provide input to grow the business (67 versus 34 percent) and seek it from others to grow themselves (92 versus 66 percent).

    Getting the culture right delivers more able, confident leaders. The figure above shows the differences in leaders’ confidence to face these challenges. Pioneers (digitally adept leaders) are significantly more confident than the digital laggards in handling every challenge. They are 5.6 times more confident operating in a digital environment, and 5.1 times more likely to anticipate and react to change.
  • New working environment. Today’s high-performing operating environments are purpose-driven and team-based, with shallower hierarchies. They enable workforce mobility and deliver a consumer-grade technology experience to internal workers, aligning modern performance and rewards practices to the right behaviors.

    Developing the right environment drives engagement, productivity, and learning. Digital-ready leaders are more likely to respond that they are “definitely engaged” at work (75 versus 22 percent). They’re also more likely to see their organization as embracing or even rewarding failure in pursuit of innovation. Twice as many digital-ready leaders feel a sense of accountability for effectively leading their people.
  • New role of HR. Building digital organizations requires a reset of talent and leadership infrastructures. The HR function must transform to become nimbler, data-driven, tech-savvy, and tied to the evolving business needs.

    Yet, HR is one of the least effective functions. Only 16 percent of HR professionals report being very prepared to operate in a digital environment. This is quite ironic: How can digitally challenged HR leaders take the point on modernizing the way talent will need to be developed, engaged, and deployed in the future?

There is a considerable payoff for accelerated transformation. The figure above examines five elements essential to operating in a highly digital workplace. Digitally mature organizations (those farther along in their digital transformation) have stronger overall cultures than their less-mature counterparts—by a factor of 10.5. As we mentioned above, they’re more likely to encourage and reward experimentation and far more focused on future possibilities, not past constraints. And, they’re nearly seven times more likely to lead with agility. Finally, data-driven decisions are used more heavily.

Where to Start
  • Examine every aspect of your talent management system. Make sure it’s building capable, future-ready digital leaders.
  • Ensure that you’re reinforcing a culture where people continuously grow and learn. The workplace, not the classroom, has become the primary learning environment.
  • Invest resources to build HR leaders’ skills in using digital technologies and predictive analytics. As they become more adept, they’ll embrace the new way of working.
How to Excel + Differentiate
  • Measure and work on your organization’s learning culture.
  • Take an integrated approach to building a future workplace. Use rewards, workforce mobility, and technology experiences and leverage physical space and structure to drive collaboration and innovation.
  • Stop talking and start transforming. You need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, starting with HR as custodians of your organization’s assets.
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