In some organisations, behavioural and cultural issues are at the root of many failed business strategies. There is often no specific responsibility assigned to who is driving behavioural change, with a CIO becoming a prime candidate for cultural transformation.

CIO UK looks at how a CIO can transform the company culture in leading behavioural and cultural change in the workplace. (Read next: How CIOs can improve communication with their team.) 

How a CIO can drive behavioural and cultural change: Productivity

Culture in the workplace has remained an important factor for driving change. A better company culture means a happier workforce.

Driving transformation has remained a priority for CIOs, with 63% of the digital leaders seeing changing company culture as part of digital disruption.

The cultural aspect determines how well the business grows and the staff’s capability to adapt to the work environment.

Behavioural change has been cited by several organisations, and Group CIO Ed Hutt has transformed the work culture at Fitness First to support digital transformation. (See also: Fitness First Group CIO Ed Hutt interview- on connecting fitness wearables and IoT)

“When I started my digital transition, staff would wander in when it suited them, beach shorts and flip-flops were the norm, and the working practices were lax,” he said.

Group CIO Hutt has seen his innovative strategy and experience lead to cultural transformation at the organisation with a digital self-service delivery at Fitness First.

After 12 months, Fitness First’s work culture featured a “new level of professionalism” in terms of the dress code, its delivery outcomes and work collaborations, in which Hutt sees as one of the “most extreme” strategies he has ever led.

“The need for the organisation's culture to be changed quickly was very demanding in order to prevent inhibiting activity from continuing,” he said. “By challenging what was done, how it was done and offering alternative viable solutions as used by other organisations (and taking people to see those organisations), I have been able to drive cultural change and deliver the business benefits to the wider organisation in which they initially wanted,” Hutt said.

How a CIO can drive behavioural and cultural change: Building relationships in the workplace

The CIO’s role is seen in helping to fulfil and motivate their fellow colleagues in working towards the shared business goal.

A priority for organisations has seen a customer-focused strategy being a concern for CIOs in meeting their expectations and demands.

Communication, support and follow-ups from the CIO make great progress for the business in adopting a cultural change for the workforce.

Effective leadership can develop a behavioural change in meeting the organisation's cultural expectations and business mind-set.  

Adopting a cultural change has led to many CIOs creating new ways to interact with their fellow colleagues and CIO Catherine Doran has implemented a group which compromises employees collaborating with different departments at Royal Mail.

CIO Doran saw the organisation “request” her support for behavioural change in getting the programmes “off the ground” to help define the work culture.

“Two years ago I set up a group called the “Culture Crew”, which varied in seniority and tenure with Royal Mail, to work on the task of defining our desired culture, in helping to determine what actions we could take to help make that a reality," she said.

The behavioural strategy, undertaken and led by Doran, had found difficulty in the first year in gaining the interest and engagement from staff members.

“As a CIO I had to go back to the drawing board," she said. "We set up a series of workshops to which all staff were invited (including contract staff and staff from third parties who work in our buildings) and invited people to enumerate what they like about the culture, what they would like to change and how they would measure success… in which we used RMG values and the umbrella (there are three - Be positive, Be part of it, Be brilliant) around which to organise our thinking,” Doran said.

How a CIO can drive behavioural and cultural change: Be a team leader

The behavioural and cultural aspect of the organisation should be determined on how well a CIO can lead their teams.

As the CIO possesses strong managerial and leadership skills it has now become their responsibility to help deliver an effective work culture and brand.

CIOs should share personal stories and experiences with employees. This can help give team members the opportunity to try new things and take risks within their roles.

A challenge for CIOs has 29% of digital leaders struggling to manage an increase of responsibilities, according to BT’s digital report.

Of course, a CIO’s role is no longer working to ‘keep the lights on’ but as a function to deliver tech for business transformation. To do this, CIOs should build and maintain relationships with their digital team, cross departments and executives to ensure IT remains at the core of a business strategy. 

As communication and team collaboration remain essential in business today, Director of IT Services Neil Williams has seen his focus shift to business engagement and provisioning a change of behaviour, focus and approach at The University of Derby.

“When I took the role of IT director in 2010, the IT services department was unbalanced – focused predominantly on the delivery of technology rather than service,” he said.

“Since then, I have led the service to a position where the focus on business engagement and the provision of an assured, flexible and transformational service is now the norm and has enabled my influence and contribution to extend beyond the IT systems to influencing corporate strategy and corporate transformation.”

Williams’ time as the Director of IT Services has enabled him to embed a clear understanding of what he needed from his staff to help deliver a professional, high-quality IT service that the University could be proud of.

“I aim to lead by example and provide a role model for many of those within my teams who have aspirations to be leaders in the future and to ensure that all staff understand the role they have to play within this,” he added.

Better engagement through scheduling one-to-one meetings, arranging group workshops and attending team lunches can encourage open communication between colleagues while also driving the behavioural and cultural change in the organisation.

How a CIO can drive behavioural and cultural change: Give employer feedback

CIOs should keep staff members engaged to ensure they are on target with business goals. It can be an opportunity for CIOs to give feedback on how to improve the cultural aspect of the organisation.

To do this, CIOs should set up a suggestion box which can collect comments, questions and additional requests from staff members which can help gather employee input.

The system can promote new ideas while also allowing employee to remain anonymous. What’s more, it can help engage team members in their roles while also increasing their overall work productivity.

Indeed, gathering research from employee data can help set patterns of behaviour while also discovering company subcultures.

Company subcultures can segment employee values and beliefs which are different to the wider organisation and thereby change over time.

CIOs should have a strong understanding of the subcultures to adapt to their needs and ensure the company stays on track. This can not only help add credibility to a CIO’s role but to make employees feel recognised with the contributions they are making in their roles.

How a CIO can drive behavioural and cultural change: Set targets

A CIO should have a clear purpose of why they are driving a behavioural and cultural change in their organisation. While it is also essential that employees are aware of the purpose of the change.

A detailed plan should include individual set targets and areas for improvement to help ensure overall expectations are met. An effective way to do this is through having meetings and regularly engaging with employees to help set manageable goals. During this time, CIOs should let teams know what is expected of them and what targets are in place all depending on the organisation.

In organisations, communication and leadership is key to influencing change, Director of IT Jonathan Monk is using his leadership skills to ensure his team work productively to the ‘aggressive timeline’ set at The University of Dundee.

“We have a lot of work to do so the way we try and keep them engaged and this is by continually re-focusing them on the goals set by the university,” he said.

The university is currently moving its organisation to cloud as part of a digital transformation programme and will see Monk collaborate more effectively with his team to prevent a work overload.

"I am listening to their listening to their observations and taking as much as we can to help reduce the stress. You need to let staff have an outlet and if things do need to be changed listen and help make those changes,” he said.

By setting high standards it can help create a better work environment improving staff professionalism while also increasing team morale.

Benefits of cultural change

Changing the culture of the workplace can lead to employees not slipping back into their old behaviours in not helping the business to progress forward.

A CIO can develop their leadership and coaching skills to enable an efficient workforce and influence behavioural and cultural change to drive business transformation.