Rolls-Royce Builds a Digital-first Workforce Culture

By Michael Guilfoyle

Industry Trends

Several instances of human-centered digital transformation were discussed at the 2019 ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida this past February.  This year’s event attracted more than 950 attendees from across industry, infrastructure, and municipalities.  It provided attendees with an exceptional view of the progress of digital initiatives.  In a session entitled How Digital Transformation Impacts the Workforce, I was joined by Jonathan Matthews of Rolls-Royce.

Jonathan Matthews is the Ecosystem Operational Lead for R2 Data Labs within Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s leading industrial companies.  R2 Data Labs provides analytics to Rolls-Royce’s power systems group and its various business units.  Mr. Matthews discussed how his organization uses those analytics for open collaboration to capture and drive best practices across 48 global sites. To view and listen to Jonathan's presentation, click here.

The R2 Data Labs metric goals are to improve quality, cost, performance, compliance, and delivery for the power systems group.  Mr. Matthews is responsible for delivering the operational performance of the digital ecosystem, working in collaboration with Rolls-Royce business units and its innovation hub.  The R2 Data Labs team has three core objectives: identify and engage with best-in-class external partners to accelerate Rolls-Royce’s future data innovation technology capabilities; disrupt, to co-create value; and enable and rapidly execute the delivery of the Rolls-Royce Group & R2 Data Labs strategy.

Digital-first Workforce Enables People to Create Value Using Technology

Mr. Matthews focused on the service his group provides to the company’s aerospace business, the most Digital-first Workforce Employee%20Perceptions%20of%20Digital%20Technology%20Varied%20Greatly.JPGdigitally advanced within their power system portfolio.  Rolls-Royce has more than 1,300 aerospace customers of its data services, which monitor more than 13,000 engines, 6,000 to 8,000 commercial flights, and five million data parameters per day in civil aerospace.

In discussing the importance of people in digital strategies, Mr. Matthews commented that, since his competitors all have access to the same technology, what differentiates Rolls-Royce is how the people at the company embrace and create value from that technology.  To leverage this differentiation, Rolls-Royce needed to establish a “digital-first” culture where employees embrace transformational technology.

Tasked with establishing a digital-first culture, R2 Data Labs understood that employees of Rolls-Royce varied greatly when it came to how they perceived and used digital technology.  That perception ranged greatly, from those that felt overwhelmed and deflated by digital technology to those that were grateful the company was embracing it.  R2 Data Labs mapped out these different views or “personas,” a term commonly associated with user adoption in marketing.

Digital-first Workforce Culture Accounts for Different Comfort Levels

These different personas existed irrespective of an individual’s role.  The R2 Data Labs team knew that digital transformation could only be successful if all employees – regardless of persona - embraced change and shifted their mindset to think digital first.  To put this concept into action, R2 Data Labs created what it refers to as “The Digital Academy.”

Launched in 2017, The Digital Academy’s mission was to create a growing and interactive community ecosystem to teach digital skills and build awareness of external digital landscapes.  The academy established a formal program to connect, educate, and enable Rolls-Royce employees to think in terms of digital approaches to business.

Digital-first Workforce Culture Maps Mindset, Skills, and Enablement to Career Framework

To fulfill its mission, the academy connected colleagues with similar traits to explore and embrace digital ideas.  Additionally, it exposed Rolls-Royce employees to external examples of digital-first thinking from organizations ranging from Oracle to Manchester United.  A network of internal digital ambassadors supported these initiatives.

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The company then went on to map its efforts into what it called a digital elements table.  The table provided a view of a digital culture and mindset, skills, and enablement.  These elements were then mapped to an individual’s career framework, providing them a way to align their professional growth with increasingly digital-first thinking.

Collectively, the efforts of the academy empowered Rolls-Royce employees to better understand and embrace digital thinking.  By doing so, the R2 Data Labs group provided the company with a formalized means to establish digital-first thinking across a diverse population with varying competency levels.

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