How can companies truly embrace a 'culture of change'

The old saying of "change is the only constant" rings true now more than ever. With high levels of uncertainty in the economy, companies must now ensure their business strategies are agile enough to adapt to any changes that may come their way. Kirsty McKay, group manager, digital transformation, Coates Hire, shares with Marketing what it takes to truly embrace a "culture of change" in a company, how IT teams are important in customer experience, and how companies can plan for the future while being ready to potential changes in the near future.

At Coates Hire, McKay is responsible for creating a digital landscape which meets customer needs and expectations in alignment with company goals. She has created a multi-discipline team which is delivering changes across numerous digital platforms, with quality and speed-to-market at the fore. With over 15 years of portfolio, program and project delivery experience, McKay specialises in translating strategic objectives into business outcomes,and is adept at navigating the complex cultural, process and technological changes that this often requires.

Catch McKay and top-notch commerce experts from across the region at “Modern Commerce in Asia Pacific”, a FREE two-day virtual summit by Sitecore on 26-27 May for commerce, marketing and IT leaders, as they discuss commerce and marketing success strategies for 2020 and beyond. Click here for details. Sitecore's virtual summit is done in partnership with Marketing.

Marketing: We’ve been talking about “culture of change” for a while now. How do companies really embrace it without it just being lip service?

McKay: Most of us have worked in organisations where the next big thing is met with eye-rolling side glances, negative chat at the water cooler or a general feeling of "here we go again". A culture of change is where adaptability and resilience are in your organisation’s DNA, but it can be hard to achieve. The simplistic goal is to be in a state where change isn’t seen as a negative but a positive, and if the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor isn’t there, being able to play to the old adage “one door closes, another one opens”.

How to make sure it’s not just lip service? I think there are some key capabilities which should be lined up with a company’s values and behaviours but broadly translate into:

  • Lead from the front – your leaders need to buy-in to this cultural shift. If they are not onboard then they are probably not the right fit. This means demonstrating adaptability, positive attitudes and owning the changes being made.
  • Have open and transparent two-way interactions – more information, more discussion, more opportunities to listen to employees help to increase people's understanding of the "why" and also help avoid the resistance to change that fear and uncertainty brings.
  • Foster empathy – yes, we need to be commercial in our decisions but we need to be kind in our dealings with employees to create trust and respect on both sides.

Marketing: Why is closing the distance between IT teams and your customers vital, and what role do marketing departments play here?

McKay: The best customer experience (CX) technology solutions are those that meet the needs of the end-user to create an effortless experience. To do that you need to understand your customer, so it’s actually the pivotal role played by the marketing department which helps to close the gap. By operationalising the "voice of the customer", solutions are designed and delivered by your IT team which create real value. Just be wary of any silos you may have between marketing and IT, and look to collaborative methodologies such as agile or design thinking to bring the right skills together.

Marketing: Remaining agile is really important during a crisis, but how can businesses plan for the future while remaining agile to changes that might happen tomorrow?

McKay: There has been a seismic level of change at an incredibly fast pace – it’s like the global financial crisis and industrial revolution at the same time and in fast forward mode! Where organisations have managed to adapt and respond, a new era of improvisation and experimentation has emerged, particularly in the digital space with more of our favourite restaurants and retailers creating a commerce presence for the first time. But there has also been a shift in the operating model for many organisations with a heartening level of ingenuity as companies pivot (or a short-term swivel?) away from their core business – gin distilleries making hand sanitisers and car manufacturers producing face-masks. Both responses remind us all that in times of crisis it’s resilience that matters.

So we need to look at what we’ve learned during this period and build from there; not only in terms of the ways in which we work internally but how we interact with our customers. This means taking a proactive approach to change, become our own disruptors, and in doing so increase our ongoing organisational resilience.

Marketing: How do you think the idea of customer experience will change post COVID-19?

McKay: One of Sydney’s most loved restaurants Mr. Wong's has turned its hand to cook-at-home delivery options during the current shutdown. It doesn’t only come with the pre-prepped meal and cooking instructions, but it’s very own Spotify playlist as well… so even the humble takeaway experience has changed.

The entire customer journey will need to be rethought as we emerge from the current state-of-play. Almost every industry has been forced to a digital-first way of working but it doesn’t necessarily mean digital only. We’ve watched customer expectations shift from “want” and convenience to true “need” so as we move forward the experience will need to adapt to potentially a completely new set of personas whilst acknowledging that the baseline has been raised on us all.

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