The link between culture and the digital workplace

May 11, 2016 by


Culture word cloud


We all know that organizational culture has a huge impact on the design, evolution and success of any digital workplace. Taking into account the famous quote from Peter Drucker, culture really will eat your digital workplace strategy for breakfast. In thinking about and planning your digital workplace you must consider culture, but this is a complex and sometimes abstract subject and it is not always obvious where to start.

In a recent DWG Member Knowledge Exchange we attempted to unpack organizational culture and explore its links with the digital workplace. DWG researcher and consultant Shimrit Janes took us through her recent research note on Understanding the relationship between organizational culture and the digital workplace, which is free to download from the DWG secure member extranet.

Shimrit’s research draws on interviews with DWG consultants, a literature review and DWG resources. It provides a practical view of culture, and covers tools and approaches that can help digital workplace teams consider how their own culture will influence strategy, implementation and adoption in the digital workplace.

In the Knowledge Exchange Shimrit outlined three main outputs from the research, namely that:

  1. Values and practices are the foundations of culture.
  2. There is no one single organizational culture that specifically supports the digital workplace.
  3. Some common cultural values act either as facilitators or blockers of a successful digital workplace.

The foundations of culture

Having examined different models of organizational culture, Shimrit concluded that two common areas can be identified as being the basis of culture. The first of these comprises “values” – essentially the DNA of the organization – which may sometimes be very different to the published values and may not always be immediately obvious.

The second element is “practices”, reflected in the behaviours and processes seen within the organization. These practices flow out of the values. Shimrit showed us a convenient tool to map practices and their associated values, which can help digital workplace teams to diagnose their own culture and, in turn, plan projects and the required change management effort.

No ideal culture for the digital workplace

Shimrit also explored how there was no one particular culture that is best suited to the digital workplace. This is partly because an effective digital workplace mirrors culture, amplifying and enhancing its positive elements.

The digital workplace can also be used to help evolve culture successfully, for example in the way that Barclays has changed attitudes to digital tools and even customer service through its “Digital Eagles” initiative. Sometimes the digital workplace can lead to a “values crisis” where it is disruptive because it challenges original values and this, in turn, can act as a catalyst to evolving values.

Cultural values framework

In the research, Shimrit has been able to identify 13 cultural values that act as either facilitators or blockers to the wider digital workplace. Within any organization, these values may be in either a weak or a strong state – or anywhere in between. Digital workplace teams can use this framework to consider how strong or weak each value is within a team, division or the whole organization and to plan accordingly.

Shimrit also observed that each characteristic has a caveat. For example, “Loyalty” allows people to express pride in the organization and supports trust, helping people to share knowledge and to contribute. However, too much loyalty can result in a lack of constructive criticism.   


culture value facil & blockers

Thinking points

The next phase of the research will be to look at some of the universal cultural elements that can impact a digital workplace, to build on the conceptual groundwork laid above. Until then, you can continue the conversation with Shimrit in the Comments section below and she would be very interested to hear your thoughts on some of the thinking points from her research including:

  • How would you describe your organization’s culture? Is there one overarching “personality”, with pockets within it? Or is it more a case of multiple personalities existing side by side?
  • How do the values and practices that make up your organization’s culture help or hinder your digital workplace initiatives?
  • To what extent would you say that an effective digital workplace mirrors the organization’s culture?
  • And to what extent would you say that there is no one distinct culture that is more conducive to an effective digital workplace programme?

Additional resources

Find out more

Whilst Knowledge Exchanges are reserved for DWG members, we do invite a select number of guests who are considering DWG membership.

To find out more about becoming a member, contact us and we will gladly arrange a personal briefing to help you understand which membership options will best meet your needs and budget.


Categorised in: Digital workplace, Research reports

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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