Thriving in the digital economy: opportunities for EBMOs

To remain strong, independent and effective representatives of their members, Employer and Business Membership Organizations (EBMOs) should strive to be role models for members and reflect their members’ best business practices.

News | 01 December 2020
To remain strong, independent and effective representatives of their members, Employer and Business Membership Organizations (EBMOs) should strive to be role models for members and reflect their members’ best business practices. As digital technologies increasingly pervade different spheres of business activity, businesses and EBMOs alike will need to develop new capabilities to respond and innovate at the pace of constantly changing technology and market conditions.

Digital technologies offer novel possibilities for generating value in the form of previously unimagined products, services, solutions, and ways of working. Making the most of these possibilities, however, requires more than periodic adjustments to skills, resources, and operations. Effective adaptation to the faster moving, more connected digital environment involves becoming a digital organization, with the capability to fluidly reconfigure and rejuvenate human and digital resources.

What underpins this kind of dynamic capability? Organizational culture -- in the form of values and practices -- plays an important role. EBMOs and their members can learn from research that reveals hallmark values and values-in-practice common to high-performing digital organizations like Amazon, Netflix, Hubspot and others.

Values common to these organizations include:
Openness: learning from both people (expertise) and machines (data)
Speed: responding rapidly even with incomplete information then improving iteratively
Autonomy: acting independently but transparently to serve customers
Impact: striving for local intimacy and global relevancy
These organizations reveal their values-in-practice in…
Extensively digitizing their operations to support continuous measurement and monitoring of activities, and then making data-driven decisions wherever possible.
Experimenting systematically by gathering data to support robust analysis, learning from the results, and quickly innovating at scale.
Collaborating instinctively across functional, geographic, and even organizational boundaries to find information and expertise to resolve stakeholder concerns fast.
Focusing intensely on customers, using increasing returns to data to anticipate unstated needs and offer solutions proactively.
Using deep data-driven transparency into performance on all dimensions of importance and at all levels to promote discretionary but accountable effort to serve clients and meet organizational goals.

This cultural system fits the fast-moving, connected digital economy because it supports generation of new information, rapid learning, clear feedback, and follow-up action through both machine-driven and people-powered avenues.
EBMOs can explore their own cultural readiness for the digital economy by reflecting on the digital-age values – openness, speed, autonomy, impact – and asking:
• Which values resonate with our organization? Do our actions reflect them?
• Are any values incompatible with our organization? Why?
Next, EBMOs can examine opportunities to reinforce digital-age practices and norms, by asking:
1. How can we respond to our members and clients’ needs more proactively? How can we expand our focus beyond our current services to anticipate their future needs and develop new offerings of value?
2. How can we collaborate more broadly to meet those needs? Are we open to working with others and learning from their expertise? Can we become stronger and more relevant by asking for help – even from our members?
3. How can we expand the impact of our limited resources by making better use of all data, information, and knowledge available in our ecosystem? How can we empower our staff with consistent and complete data about core activities?
4. How can we better measure our impact and influence? What key performance indicators (KPIs) can help us better measure, monitor and manage our services? Are we collecting data on those metrics regularly? Are we ready to make decisions based on those metrics?
5. How well are we performing ourselves? Are we ready and willing to measure our own performance? What key performance indicators (KPIs) can help us better monitor and manage our own operations? How can we systematically measure those metrics?

The digital economy favors companies that are decisive, data-driven, innovative, open to learning, and customer-centric. By emulating the data-based practices that scaffold high performance in this environment, EBMOs too can thrive and grow.

About Dr. Deborah Soule

Dr. Deborah Soule, is an independent researcher and consultant, and an adjunct instructor with the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Manning School of Business, Northeastern University, and Emeritus Institute of Management. She teaches courses on business, management of technology and innovation, digital transformation and multi-sided platforms, organizational learning, and business analytics. Dr. Soule’s research focuses on organizing and leading in the digital economy, examining how organizations apply and adapt to advancing digital technologies and pervasive connected data.
Dr. Soule is currently working with ACT/EMP in the position of Principle Researcher for the DaaSA project “Data as a strategic asset for the organizational development and capacity building of EBMO”.

To learn more about the DaaSA project and outputs to be produced in 2021, click here.