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Building a digital culture

By Melissa Harper, Senior Vice President of Global Talent and Inclusion, Bayer

Have you ever thought that if only you had more information, you could solve all your problems? With an estimated 90% of the world’s data being generated in the last two years, it seems like we should have all the answers. But there’s a big difference between simply accumulating information and using it in a targeted way to get the answers you need. The need to synthesize and apply data is at the heart of today’s obsession with using digital technologies to streamline everything we do.

At Bayer, the term ‘digital transformation’ describes how to leverage data and technology in a way that improves decision-making, increases innovation and enhances business performance. While this may seem relatively straightforward, the process is entirely dependent on establishing a digital culture. For a company that started 150 years ago as a small collaboration between friends that has grown to a global life science company that employs more than 100,000 people in 90 countries, building a high-performing digital culture that fosters innovation and growth has become a business necessity.

Innovation: we need it now more than ever

Our world is facing extraordinary challenges. Increasing population growth and life expectancy will test the limits of our ability to provide adequate food and healthcare, especially in a world of limited natural resources. Emerging digital technologies will play an increasingly vital role in addressing the challenge of sustainably feeding and healing a growing and aging population.

But even as we apply new digital solutions to today’s challenges, we must recognize that the search for innovation never stops. Each leap forward eventually is met with a challenge that requires human ingenuity to overcome.

Digital Culture: the foundation of true transformation

With human ingenuity at the center of any real transformation, we believe that our culture needs to keep pace – or even outpace – the digital revolution taking over our industry. When we say ‘digital culture,’ we are talking about a workplace environment that facilitates the transformation of vast amounts of data into meaningful insights to inform our decision-making. This means translating large, complex sets of data into understandable and consumable information that enables employees and customers to find solutions faster and more efficiently. But the key to finding these innovative tools begins with instilling a ‘digital first mindset’ throughout our organisation.

At Bayer, we are refocusing our efforts to address our digital employment needs through a dynamic ‘re-skilling’ process. This involves not only critical thinking and re-training but also a recalibration of our recruitment philosophy. Much like the path Bayer is taking with our ‘open innovation’ research strategy, we are looking beyond our internal organisation by expanding the role of a contingent workforce, including a more flexible, less one-size-fits-all approach, so that we can stay ahead of the digital curve. In a world of rapid change, a ‘not invented here’ mentality is no recipe for success.

Achieving success in a digital environment also requires a reimagination of how we connect with each other. In an era of instantaneous communication and overlapping generations with divergent perspectives, there is no uniform process that applies to an entire workforce. Hyper-personalisation builds on this reality by taking a deeper dive into understanding what drives individual performance to optimise learning and development and to enhance the overall work experience. Through constant connectiveness, companies can strive to satisfy the specific needs of each of their employees, while also fostering a healthy work/life balance.

At the center of the future workplace is understanding how best to pair the role of AI with human ingenuity to make sure employees are achieving – and customers are getting – the efficient solutions they desire in a thoughtful, customised way.

Digital leadership: measured and directed by data and insights

Building a new digital culture requires leadership and commitment to a vision. In fact, Bayer actually generates data that provides insights into our leadership to help us drive better business decisions across the board. We’ve learned that the qualities of a high-performing digital leader are not much different than that of any other great leader – they should be able to inspire and motivate employees to follow a strategic path. At a fundamental level, digital leaders must possess a basic technical competency that enables them to clearly understand the market implications of a potential new digital technology. But technical acumen is not enough – digital leaders also must be able to develop people and build empowered teams that are diverse, inclusive and highly customer-focused. Training corporate leaders to adopt these strategies and assume this mindset is imperative to shoring up your talent pipeline and responding to the needs of this workforce of the future.

Leveraging different forms of measurement and pulse surveys across your organisation is also crucial to generating data, measuring employee engagement, and quantifying leadership effectiveness. At Bayer we have quarterly pulse surveys that generate employee feedback on leadership. This consistent ‘pulsing’ of data gives us the opportunity to acquire more information in real time and catalyse impactful change in a timely way. The data we gather also helps predict outcomes such as attrition and engagement – giving us visibility into the future and allowing us to plan accordingly.

Adaptability and openness: the key to bringing forward this transformation

Companies must become more flexible and agile in structuring their teams to prepare for a future that is undergoing rapid and continuous change. Creating the innovations that provide customer solutions and drive business success can only come from a workforce that is willing to adapt to change by creating a culture that is personalized, visionary and relentless in its pursuit of excellence. A company that embraces a transformative digital culture is a company that wins.