Building your team for the digital age

Tom Goodwin is the EVP of Innovation at Zenith Media, his role is to understand new technology, behaviors and platforms and ideate and implement solutions for clients that take advantage of the new opportunities these make possible. Tom’s focus is leading the innovation and content wing within Zenith, unleashing the power of emerging platforms, content marketing, influencer programs, and new media and devices to product robust business results. An industry provocateur and commentator on the future of marketing and business, he's a columnist for the Guardian, TechCrunch and Forbes and frequent contributor to GQ, Ad Age, Wired, Ad Week, Inc, MediaPost and Digiday. Voted a top 10 voice in Marketing by LinkedIn and one of 30 people to follow on Twitter by Business Insider, Tom spoke at THINK 17 and is a contributor to the THINK Innovation Platform. There is a lot of talk in the business world right now about the need to recruit, foster and retain people with digital skills, particularly as digital integration becomes normalized for businesses that want to compete and ultimately win. But what does this really mean, particularly for credit unions, and how does one go about it? Are “digital skills” about knowing how to code? Are they about understanding social media? Are they based on having key knowledge of cryptocurrencies? Or are they, in some ways, all of the above? I think it’s more useful to focus less on the skills themselves and more on the attitudes and values required to better serve members in the digital age. We now live in a world where members are more spoiled than ever: They compare the services, products and experiences you offer, not with how much they’ve improved, or with other ways to get financial products and services, but with every other experience they’ve had. At a time when you can text and see an Uber driver in real time, change your seat on a plane using Twitter or book a hotel with a swipe of your finger, we need to be working hard to create customer experiences that compare with everyone else’s. We need to benchmark against what’s possible and what’s desirable and not just what is being done by our peers, and all in the name of inspiring trust and confidence while continuing to build relationships with our members. #1 Create a vision The first step in this process is to establish a vision. Be honest about your ambition levels, thirst for change, resources to invest and your appetite for risk. Do you want to re-engineer your credit union entirely to be digitally transformed, or are you hoping to make incremental improvements to ensure you don’t fall too far behind? Keep in mind that if you think it’s expensive to change, the cost of not changing may be far, far greater. It’s likely better to get ahead of the game and become a first mover than it is to catch up later. It’s vital today to consider what you want to be, so you know when you’re there. #2 Digital Transformation Strategy Based on your ambition level, timelines and investment approach, you then need to adopt a transformation strategy. It is far easier, faster and cheaper to add new technology around existing departments and processes, but it also produces far less impactful results. Changing around the edges is a good way to keep up appearances, but a terrible way to actually leverage the power of technology to do things better. The world is full of companies with new front ends on old websites, glossy homepages that after a few clicks find legacy pages lurking below. Many mobile apps are far better than desktop sites because they were done most recently, by better teams, with more money and from scratch. The most successful companies in history have all been built with new technology and processes at the core. They have embedded Slack or other collaborative software in their companies. They build around mobile first. They are keen to embrace artificial intelligence to see how they can rebuild around the next key technology. You need to establish the degree to which you are prepared to rebuild foundations rather than polish the facades of your business. #3 Build a Digital Culture Having only a few digitally savvy folks isn’t the best winning strategy, as they will likely get bored and leave. You need everyone to adopt a curiosity, and enthusiasm around new technology, to teach those who understand your company best to love what is now possible. Within this attitude of digital evangelism and curiosity you will need to augment with those who are digital specialists, but make sure they feel at home and are nurtured. You may need a “Digital Evangelist” or “Head of Digital” to start this process and signal the importance of change, but the goal of these people is to bring about a sense of thirst and pride for the digital world in everyone and to ultimately make themselves redundant. We don’t have Heads of Electricity or Computers, and yet we know how to use both. These people ensure we have a mixture of digital experts as well as those who are experts in the products you make and the customers you serve. It’s this killer combination of thinking, understanding and doing what works best. Not everyone needs to know how to code, not everyone needs to know how to embed APIs or what new social media behaviors can allow, but everyone needs to play a role in this. #4 Make Mileposts Known When we embark on implementing change, we need to know what success looks like. Digital transformation can be measured in many ways. We’ve heard of metrics like sales uplift, net promoter scores and referral rates — and these are vital to measure. But sometimes what matters can’t be measured so precisely. Success can be defending against a threat you could not see coming, customer happiness, a reluctance to move to other financial services companies; or it could be reputation, PR value or an ability to change. In summary, the world is changing and technology makes new things possible. Ultimately, it can reconfigure expectations and behaviors and redefine our competitive set. It is vital in these times for companies to build a strategy rooted in technology in order to unleash the power of the new and to take control of their respective future. For credit unions, building a team and fostering a culture that empowers you to step confidently into a digital future is the first step toward future sustainability and member satisfaction and growth.