3 Steps to Grow a Digital Culture

I’m Clive, and in this blog I’ll be talking through different initiatives underway at NSPCC to increase the understanding and effectiveness of digital across our large and complex organisation.

I’ll describe 3 Steps we’re using to Grow a Digital Culture. I appreciate we are a major national charity fortunate to have considerable resources and a large digital team, but the principles behind these 3 Steps can work for any size organisation.

The starting point for many when it comes to measuring organisational performance and effectiveness is to assess digital skills. This was highlighted once again in the Charity Skills Report 2018 published in March 2018 by the Skills Platform and Zoe Amar Communications.

Sarah Atkinson from “Commentary” in the Charity Skills Report 2018

Research findings included :-

  • 45% of charities said they don’t have a digital strategy
  • 69% cited their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement
  • 65% stated that developing digital skills would help encourage retain staff
  • 51% worry about insufficient leadership support to develop digital products and services

You can read and download the full report here

Lara Burns from “Sector Response” in the Charity Skills Report 2018

A key finding that resonated with me in my role as Head of Digital was
given the pace of change, is our pace of digital progress fast enough ?

Digitally we deliver vital services and communicate and interact with millions of people. We have pockets of sector-leading digital excellence including our award-winning Childline app, NetAware and Pantosauras — but we cannot claim to be a completely digitally mature organisation yet.

Whether looking at how we engage people externally, how we use systems and processes internally or how we innovate in our service design, there are definite opportunities to improve, as well as clear challenges in how we get there — and how quickly.

For this financial year beginning April 2018, I have devised a series of initiatives designed to accelerate our digital transformation in areas such as
• Digital Skills Building
• Knowledge Transfer
• Growing a Digital Culture
• Strategic Planning
• Improving Performance and Effectiveness

This blog will focus on 3 Steps we’re using to Grow a Digital Culture.

1. Build A Foundation of Common Digital Skills

Our Digital Engagement team, led by James Barker, manages the digital elements of all types of campaigns from varied stakeholders across the organisation. We receive more than a dozen briefs a month, a mixture of fundraising appeals and events, brand awareness, policy and campaigning, online safety, behaviour change, promotions and information/support.

To optimise our effectiveness, we need to ensure that everyone involved shares a common understanding of how digital channels work — and uses a common lexicon. By achieving that, digital — and what good digital looks like — is in the discussion from a campaign’s inception.

Our first step was to conduct a skills audit of the digital team with Zoe Amar and Madeleine Sugden. This identified knowledge gaps, overlapping needs and helped define the right kind of foundation course needed for all.

After research, I chose to subscribe to an excellent accredited online course from Econsultancy called Fast Track Digital Marketing (FTDM) which over 12 bite-size modules teaches different elements of the digital marketing mix, and shows how different digital channels and disciplines fit together.

Fast Track to Digital Marketing — an accredited online course from EConsultancy

I have asked the digital team to lead by example and aim to complete the FTDM course in the first 6 months — and then to nominate and assist two non-digital colleagues through the course in the latter 6 months, particularly those responsible for devising campaigns and raising briefs.

Additionally, the digital team will provide extra FTDM support materials on our intranet, the Green, explaining how each module relates to how we do things at NSPCC. This way someone can learn about, say, SEO on FTDM, and then read on the Green from our SEO specialist explaining what they’ve done on specific campaigns. Thus we create deeper and contextual learning.

So far, halfway through the year, 59 staff have started their FTDM learning journey, and 16 have already completed all 12 modules.

FTDM is one example of a subscription course that can achieve the desired purpose of building a common foundation of digital skills. Digital literacy spreads from the central digital team and across the whole organisation.

growing digital skills and literacy across the whole organisation under Hub and Spoke

There are free choices out there that can be used for similar including
Accenture and Future Learning
Learn My Way

2. Be A Little More ‘T’

T shaped people and/or learning” is a concept that can have relevance to whatever functional discipline we operate in, and can also be referred to as “cross-functionality”. This can be a challenging concept in organisations that tend to be arranged in functional specialisms.

The principle is that as well as any particular specialism, people should be encouraged to develop a broad general understanding of multiple topics.

The combination of knowing a lot about something, and a little about a lot of things can greatly help individuals and teams to work together.

Being a little more ‘T’ works on both an Individual level

a Digital Marketing example of how an individual may have broad basic knowledge and a deep specialism

and also at a Team level.

The explanation and diagram shown below illustrates how individuals in a given team can possess different mixes of ‘T’ skills with varying degrees of overlap so that the team as a whole possesses both broader and deeper cross-functionality. This can be used to introduce more Agile ways of working as explained here :-

a T-shaped team extends collective breadth and depth from different individuals

If you haven’t heard of T-shaped people and/or learning before reading this blog, then some ‘Dr Google’ research will lead you into a fascinating meander. Whether you choose to engage with it lightly or deeply is up to you.

At its simplest level, I interpret the underlying principle of T-shaped thinking as the desire to learn a little about lots of things that have some connection to what you know a lot about.

FTDM is one way that our digital team and colleagues are all becoming a bit more ‘T’-shaped about digital marketing.

Reward your curiosity and commit to continual learning, development and improvement in whatever way is relevant for you — and your team.

3. Unleash Your Digital Champions…and yes that includes You !

At a team workshop, we asked the Digital team to describe one thing they would like the team to be known for.

The number one response was “We are All Digital Champions”.

This was really gratifying to hear as we have a mixture of roles and responsibilities in our large cross-functional digital team with varied levels of direct interaction with colleagues around the organisation. Some, like our Business Partners are responsible for building deep relationships with particular areas, and so by definition Digital Champions in thought and deed every day. Others don’t have something specific in their Job Descriptions, but the fact that they still think of themselves as Digital Champions is exactly the spirit we are trying to nurture. In every interaction, all of us in the Digital Team are Digital Champions.

Recognising that key people at different levels and in different teams need to lead, inspire, advocate, influence, coach, train and Champion is a critical step in growing a Digital Culture. Through initiatives like FTDM and T-shaped learning we will identify internal Digital Champions across the organisation with whom we can build extra close relationships and together drive change. It’s like we’re creating our own internal influencer marketing programme.

To grow a digital culture, Digital Champions are needed at every level, including right at the top.

Earlier this year, Baroness Barker, the Lords spokesperson for the voluntary sector, said “Just as a good board has a treasurer, it should also have a good digital trustee, who’s responsible for insuring everybody in the board understands what is happening.

This is becoming more common. Last year I was honoured to be co-opted as a Digital Trustee for membership network Charity Comms.

If you’d like to find your own Digital Trustee, Reach Volunteering have some excellent advice and a list of available prospective candidates

Here is how Mencap created their Digital Champions.

Lloyds Bank has a framework for building a Digital Champions programme.

One aspect of Digital Championing is to share knowledge and to build wider recognition and awareness of activities and expertise. Our blog The Digital Dunk is one example of this, being published externally on Medium and internally via our intranet, the Green.

The Digital Dunk lives externally on Medium and internally on the intranet, the Green

Similarly, our Digital Production team and I have started to curate and publish a new quarterly internal newsletter called Digital Innovation News which highlights 10 interesting technological initiatives that have caught our attention to prompt discussion and stimulate ideas. It’s a quick easy-to-read format (1 idea per page) with organisation-wide internal distribution.

the contents page for the first issue of our internal newsletter Digital Innovation News

Horizon scanning and knowledge sharing like this is needed as some new tech is very challenging to some aspects of our charitable work. Developments like voice tech and AI are fascinating and exciting for digital teams to explore, but can also be deeply concerning and risky for us when viewed through the lens of safeguarding or our personalised therapeutic care. Exploring whether there is an acceptable middle ground proposition to trial and pilot will take time, careful consideration and deep discussion. This newsletter will help build wider internal awareness of what’s going on and highlight the rapid pace of external change and innovation. Debate will flesh out legitimate concerns so we can consult together constructively and devise an appropriate solution.

As well as your internal Digital Champions, you should find your own external experts to compare notes, horizon scan, benchmark and keep your knowledge and awareness current so you can regularly advise your leadership team. For me these are a mixture of wonderful, inspiring peers at other charities as well as technologists, practitioners and sector specialists.

Building your network as a Digital Champion is vital, and I regularly attend cross-sector digital working groups and meet-ups, attend and speak at conferences, mentor via Charity Comms and read (and listen to podcasts) voraciously. I share things I learn from on Twitter.

I’m next speaking at the November Overherd event where I’ll be talking about the wider digital transformation programme that Growing a Digital Culture forms part of.

Another type of Digital Champion is a mentor. If digital is still new and a bit intimidating, then be reverse mentored by someone who is a digital native. We’ve regularly done that at NSPCC matching up senior staff with digital specialists to quickly de-mystify a particular area.

Finally, the most important step of all….You need to epitomise every day being a Digital Champion for your own organisation. You need to walk the talk and actively demonstrate the behaviours, passion, resilience, versatility and curiosity that you wish to engender and inspire in others.

So there you have it. 3 Steps to Growing a Digital Culture. Let me know if you found it helpful and what steps you may have taken. As always we’d love to hear your comments — and if you like it, please share and follow. Thanks