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How corporate universities help managers lead the Digital Transformation

How corporate universities help managers lead the Digital Transformation

By José Maria Plaza Zamora, Senior consultant Sofrecom - February 20, 2018

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As digital technologies are radically changing the business landscape and the way we work, corporate universities have an opportunity to develop their full potential as strategic partners of the companies they serve, helping managers and employees to embrace and lead this cultural change and accelerate the transformation of the business.

Technological innovations are radically transforming the business landscape in many ways. The digital transformation is here to stay, and not only form a technological point of view. New business models require new mind-sets, new skills, new behaviors, new ways of interacting and communicating with the customers and among colleagues at the work place.

Even if managers understand the impact of the digital transformation for the business and for themselves, in many cases they struggle to cope with the speed and nature of the changes.

Successful corporate universities are playing a major role helping managers to lead the digital transformation by raising their digital awareness, knowledge and mindset; and developing the leadership and management cultures required in the digitization journey.

Based on our experience, here are 4 set of initiatives that corporate universities are putting in place to contribute to the digital transformation:

1. Digital from the top

Executive management has to embrace the digital transformation and lead by example. Companies are more likely to take the path of digital reinvention when leaders are committed to taking action.

A “digital leadership” program to equip executives with the knowledge, mindset and ways of working required in the digital age is a good starting point. Having the CEO sponsor a digital culture program for all employees sends a clear message and shows strong commitment with the digital vision. “Reverse mentoring” to allow executives learn digital tools from junior team members is a powerful way to demonstrate the new mindset that is required and inspire others to seek for decentralized ways of working.

2. Develop a digital culture

A good number of corporate universities are launching “digital inside” programs for all employees to raise awareness across the board and start developing the digital mindset. Connecting the program with business priorities, sponsoring it at executive level, encouraging employees to participate with attractive contents and methodologies, offering “digital passports” after completion are some of the good practices to maximize the impact of such programs.

Some corporate universities are setting up specialized “digital academies” to provide further support and develop the digital skillsets. They also act as change agents from a learning point of view, developing digital ways of learning (e.g. instant on-line training platforms, MOOC, COOC, gamification).

A “digital ambassadors” program is a good way to accelerate the transformation by empowering early adopters to share their digital expertise with their colleagues.

3. Reinforce the role of managers

Managers need clarity and support to better embrace the digital transformation. New managerial behaviors are expected: empowering the team, giving them the tools and the skills to take initiatives to better serve the customer, decentralizing decisions, encouraging innovation, risk taking, initiative and learning from mistakes, removing silos, replacing hierarchical thinking by self-managed teams.

Defining a “digital referential” to underline the managerial behaviors that are needed in the digitization journey is useful to have a clear vision of their new role.

New management development programs are needed to quickly deploy the digital referential, raise awareness and build up the prioritized managerial skills.

4. Foster collective agility, shared leadership and innovation

The digital challenges require agility, leadership and innovation from all employees.
“Agile project management”, “agile decision making” are currently among the top training solutions proposed by many corporate universities. “Shared leadership” programs aim to develop employees’ potential as leaders, to make a positive impact regardless of their position and bring their full potential on board.

“Digital awards” programs are helping companies get great ideas from employees while encouraging innovation. Some advanced corporate universities are starting to propose “multi-stakeholders open innovation” programs, bringing different actors in the company’s ecosystem to work together on innovation challenges.

Digital transformation is clearly not only about technology, it is about mindset and behavior, and it requires new leadership and management styles. The way corporate universities support this cultural shift will be critical to ensure successful digital strategies.