Many companies were already undergoing a digital transformation before Covid-19. ZDNet found in a 2017 survey that 70% of companies were either in the process of creating a digital transformation strategy or implementing an existing one. Then the pandemic upended life as we know it, forcing businesses and consumers to go almost entirely online. As we emerge from the pandemic, companies with a strong focus on enhancing the digital experience will be well-positioned to navigate fluctuating employee and customer demands.
What is a digital-first work culture?
A digital-first work culture naturally embraces technology. Over the past two years, you’ve probably had ample opportunities to learn which technologies work well for your business and which you should leave by the wayside. But technology is only one part of the equation.
The second, and arguably more important, part of a digital-first culture is the culture itself. It can be tough to help remote workers feel like part of the team and to give remote customers an excellent experience. A digital-first culture uses technology as a support that enhances collaboration, inclusivity and other aspects of work culture (rather than trying to build a culture around technology).
Why it’s more critical than ever
The unprecedented global shutdown of 2020 accelerated the shift to digital at a pace that no one could have predicted. By June 2020, a PwC survey showed that 98% of employers had many or most of their employees working remotely at least one day a week, and 89% planned to continue this arrangement long-term. In the summer of 2021, a FlexJobs survey indicated that 58% of workers wanted a fully remote position, while 39% wanted a hybrid arrangement.
But it’s not just remote work that grew during the pandemic. From telemedicine to online shopping and grocery delivery, consumers also turned to digital options. A December 2021 report by the Department of Health and Human Services showed a stunning 63-fold increase in Medicare telehealth visits in 2020.
Post-pandemic, most people will want to get out and about more often. But that doesn’t mean they want to go back to the old ways of doing business. Digital-first work cultures allow companies to offer an excellent experience for employees and customers who prefer to remain primarily digital.
How to effectively implement a digital-first work culture
So how do you create a digital-first work culture? Focus on a three-pronged approach: Choose the right technology, implement asynchronous (non-real-time) communication, and offer remote team building. Here are some tips.
1. Tools and tech
Every company is different, so be sure to talk to your IT team to decide what works best for you. But at a minimum, digital-first companies typically offer:
- Document-sharing tools
- Videoconferencing software
- Project management systems
- A customizable platform for collaboration, such as Slack
2. Asynchronous communication
Remember the early days of Covid-19 shutdowns, when technical glitches and mass confusion led to a lot of downtime? Switching most of your office communications to asynchronous channels can go a long way toward improving work culture and productivity. Things like:
- Messaging and chat
- Collaborative document sharing
- Recorded video
3. Team building
Inclusivity and belonging are cornerstones of a great work culture, but they can be harder to achieve with remote teams. Lean on technology to help support such initiatives as:
- Remote courses. Learning something together can help build bonds across the miles, whether work-related or just for fun. You can lead optional classes yourself or ask employees to teach something they’re passionate about.
- Online games. It’s easy to find online gaming setups, whether your teams like role playing or fantasy sports. It’s also a great way to get your introverts involved, since many people find it easier to chat through their online avatars.
- Virtual watercooler. On a platform like Slack, you can create a channel solely for non-work conversations. Post some conversation starters and encourage employees to start their own threads. And don’t be afraid to add photos, videos and GIFs to break up the wall of text.
Digital is here to stay, as more people work remotely and consumers turn to online services. Building a solid digital-first culture is a win for everyone, but it can be challenging to know where to start. Collaborative tools like Slack and videoconferencing software can help you create a digital-first culture that makes life easier for your team members and your customers.
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