6 minute read 1 Dec. 2020
EY - Miner using tablet

Can you harness digital advantage by unlocking the power of culture?

By Antoine Mindjimba

EY Canada Associate Partner, People Advisory Services

Dedicated advisor specializing in change management, culture, diversity & inclusion and transformative leadership. World traveler and former-professional hockey player.

Contributors
6 minute read 1 Dec. 2020

Author:  Antoine Mindjimba  Mining & Metals, Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, EY

Contributor:  Theo Yameogo  EY Canada National Mining & Metals Co-Leader

Digital transformation holds tremendous potential for mining and metals companies looking to solve today’s toughest sector challenges.

But if you don’t integrate your roadmap, vision, strategy and execution for digital transformation right into your culture, even the best efforts to digitize could fall significantly short.

From one industry to the next, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the many ways technologies like automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain can enable business continuity. Organizations that had already invested in advancing their digital journey are now reaping the benefits. That competitive edge will likely continue to grow in a post-pandemic world.

That’s true across the mining and metals sector, too. EY research shows digital transformation can help improve safety and productivity – a key industry priority. In the longer term, digital investment could enable mining organizations to deliver environmental benefits, such as removing waste or reducing energy and water use, and help transform uneconomical reserves.

Those are compelling use cases, particularly for an industry where the workforce itself represents a top industry risk, and technology is poised to enhance or redesign 77% of the sector’s roles by 2030.1

Sectors roles

77%

of the sectors roles will be enhanced or redesigned due to technology by 2030.

Even so, the sector can’t harness the full potential of digital transformation without the right culture in place, and that’s typically been a real challenge. More than one-third of respondents to a recent EY poll pegged culture as the biggest obstacle to digital adoption.

Still, that tide is beginning to turn. Eighty-two percent of mining organizations say their people will be more open to change in a post COVID-19 market2, making this an ideal time to dive in and drive the kind of cultural change that supports real digital transformation.

Open to change

82%

of mining organizations say their people will be more open to change in a post COVID-19 market.

The question is, how? Consider these three key steps to start weaving digital into your organizational culture and begin unlocking its potential now:

1. Clearly define your digital-centric culture

Employees need to understand the upside of digital ways of working before they can embrace them. Showing the value of digital transformation, dispelling misinformation and building genuine understanding are all foundational to the success of any digital transformation program.

It’s important to move people away from old-school thinking and shine the light on real use cases — like employing digital to automate the riskiest tasks or more efficiently run remote operations. Identify what digital looks like for your unique mining and metals organization. Zero in on the behaviours that enable or impede the adoption of digital ways of working. Map out the barriers to changing behaviours and processes, then clearly delineate possible solutions. That straightforward narrative empowers your people with the deep understanding they need to accept and adopt digital in meaningful ways.

Begin by asking questions like:
  • What are our digital transformation priorities, and how can we articulate them clearly?
  • Which behaviours will enable digitization? 
  • Where are the opportunities to give our people a say in digital transformation priorities? 
  • Which systems and processes are most conducive to digital transformation, and how do we make them part of the solution? 
  • What are the outcomes we would like to achieve through digitization?
  • How will we communicate the benefits of our vision for digital transformation? 
  • Who are the right stakeholders to explain the vision across levels and functional groups?

2. Enable transformative leadership

Leaders must own the digital transformation agenda by aligning on it and communicating the why behind the what. For some mining and metals operations, that might mean developing net new leadership capabilities fit for purpose in a digitally disrupted world. For others, it might be a matter of adapting the way you communicate top-down buy-in for this kind of paradigm shift. 

Either way, it’s absolutely essential for the leadership team to work together and with natural influencers at all levels of the organization. That’s how you enable people to comprehend the vision, champion the right behaviours, and build the bottom-up support for change that only comes from authentic, engaged leadership.

Begin by asking questions like:
  • Is the leadership team aligned on the rationale for digitization?
  • Did we define a clear and compelling roadmap to be shared across the organization?
  • Are we communicating enough on the purpose of this transformation? 
  • How do we enable our leaders to live the transformation and emulate lasting digital behaviours? 
  • Who are our internal digital ambassadors and how will we motivate them? 
  • What kind of learning or training do we need to prioritize at the leadership and all-hands levels to encourage broad adoption of the digital mindset? 
  • How can we promote a spirit of coaching in teams?

3. Drive the value of change activation

Successfully changing your culture requires deliberate and active change management. Culture is the “how” of your business. To change a culture, you must first change the ways your people work and how they get things done. Mining and metals organizations must build a plan for behavioural changes and change management right into their digital transformation roadmap. It can’t be an afterthought; it’s a necessity. 

Connecting clear communication strategies, tactics and initiatives alongside every stage of your digital transformation journey is critical. It’s equally important to include key metrics that help track behaviour adoption, as well as the impacts on customers, employees and financial performance. Without clear metrics, there’s no real way of knowing how effectively your people are moving towards new digital processes, programs and tools. Put simply: if you can’t measure it, you can’t get it done. 

Begin by asking questions like:
  • How will we communicate our change story in ways our people can relate to and get behind? 
  • Which internal silos do we need to target to encourage support of digital transformation? 
  • Where are the opportunities for two-way communication across the organization? 
  • Which metrics are most relevant for us now, and how will we track and report against them? 
  • How will we reward and encourage our people to nudge behaviours in the right direction?

What comes after what’s next? 

Change doesn’t happen on paper. It takes shape with real people adopting new behaviours as they work together in real time. Underestimating the impact your culture has on your organization’s ability to seize the upside of digital transformation could mean missing out on the full benefits these new ways of working present.

As the pandemic ultimately recedes, and the industry becomes increasingly open to embracing change, mining and metals organizations are faced with a golden opportunity to transform culture in ways that drive digital transformation – and all the benefits that can bring. The key to this benefit realization is establishing a clear vision of your digital-centric future, mapping the behaviours necessary to get there, demonstrating new ways of working from the top-down and sustaining this change through change management considerations and KPIs.

Now’s the time to start transforming culture in ways that fuel digitization and drive better results to foster and maintain competitive edge in a post-pandemic world.

Summary

From one industry to the next, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the many ways technologies like automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain can enable business continuity. Organizations that had already invested in advancing their digital journey are now reaping the benefits. That competitive edge will likely continue to grow in a post-pandemic world.

About this article

By Antoine Mindjimba

EY Canada Associate Partner, People Advisory Services

Dedicated advisor specializing in change management, culture, diversity & inclusion and transformative leadership. World traveler and former-professional hockey player.

Contributors