Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Less than a quarter of UK workers happy with board’s digital vision

August 24, 2016

UK employees are positive about digital technology in the workplace, yet many are being held back by a lack of clear digital leadership in their organisation.

This is according to our new study of 3,000 UK workers, which found company culture is the most significant factor in determining digital roll-out success.

Leadership plays a massive part in determining that culture. Senior executives have the power to not only set the right tone across the business, but also to make the big decisions that will impact the wider working environment.

Our research discovered a strong correlation between high leadership scores and whether workers viewed digital roll-outs as successful.

Chart – leadership score vs. number of successful digital roll-outs:

Fig 16

Confidence lacking

We know there’s a direct link between strong leadership and the perceived success of digital roll-outs, but our research also highlights a worrying issue:

When it comes to digital, employees’ confidence in the board is mixed at best. At worst, it’s distinctly lacking.

Less than one-quarter (24%) of those we surveyed are happy with their board’s digital vision. And one-fifth are actively concerned about their company’s digital future.

A further third (29%) believe their leadership team is struggling to push through new digital ways of working, highlighting a lack of faith in the board to shape company culture towards digital.

Perhaps the most frustrating finding, however, and one that truly highlights the disconnect between boardroom and shop floor, is that more than a quarter of workers claim to have been ignored after suggesting digital technology they thought would benefit the business.

This last point is simply unacceptable in today’s business environment. Clearly it doesn’t apply to the majority, but to think there are some senior leaders out there rejecting digital advancement that could actually help their business seems almost baffling.

Clearly there is a disconnect here – perhaps senior leaders do have a clear digital vision but are failing to communicate it in the right way, or perhaps they really don’t put the same value on it as the employees we surveyed.

Either way, if we want to have a strong digital economy it’s clear our leaders need to step up and inspire confidence in their staff.

Some sectors better than others

The figures above apply nationally and across all sectors, but naturally some industries perform better than others when it comes to digital leadership.

Legal had the lowest digital leadership score across all industries covered, perhaps unsurprising given that it’s not a sector generally associated with cutting-edge digital technology.

Healthcare, too, scored low. Again, this is something we would expect to see as the healthcare industry’s struggle to catch up with the digital revolution has certainly been no secret. But with the internet of things (IoT) taking off in this sector, we can only expect things to improve in the coming years.

But education also fared poorly – a shame given how many brilliant digital use cases have come to light in this sector over the years.

On the other end of the scale, arts and culture scored highest for digital leadership, with HR in third place.

Another surprise, however, was manufacturing and utilities achieving the second-highest digital leadership score. Surprising because this is a traditional and often slow-moving sector, so it’s uplifting to see its leaders taking digital seriously.

Chart – leadership score by sector:

Fig 17

Time to close the gap

This research shows a clear disconnect between the boardroom and the rest of the business when it comes to digital culture. But alarming as this may be, it also presents an opportunity. Employees are ready and willing to adopt digital technology – all they need is clear leadership.

There’s no quick fix or one-size-fits-all cure for this, of course. But if you follow the steps below you’ll at least be heading in the right direction:

  • Communicate – it is so important not only to have a clear digital vision but to communicate it properly with the whole organisation. Leaders must set a precedent from the top-down, be positive about digital and encourage others to come on that journey with them.
  • Remove barriers – leaders have the power to break down organisational barriers that could hinder digital progress, such as outdated IT systems of negative employee attitudes.
  • Learn from other sectors – this report highlights clear differences in the quality of digital leadership across different industries. What are those high-performing sectors doing differently, and what can you learn from them?

We now know the key to digital success is through company culture, and we also know that a company’s culture is largely influenced by those at the top.

So, my question for any leaders reading this: what is your digital vision, and how are you going to share it with the rest of your business?

Download the full report today for lots more insight around digital leadership in the workplace.

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