Why talk about Identity?

Mobility, cloud-based platforms, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality – the tech-induced, global outlook of doing things has become an integral part of our work and private lives. With increasingly fluid boundaries, old ways of working have become obsolete; digital technologies force organisations to transform. Nevertheless, digital transformation is not about technology; it is much more, it is a mindset – a thirst for innovation that needs to be reflected in workplace culture.

Clearly, with new digital business models and new ways of collaborating, insular thinking and behaviour no longer add value to a globally, often geographically dispersed workforce operating in a tech-driven world. So, business leaders and change agents need to lead the conversation on strength-based identity management to prepare for today and tomorrow.

So, why talk about identity?

At the heart of successful digital transformation is people. People act through their identities in the interactions inherent to the change process. Their performance will make or break the transformation process. The change agent’s understanding of own and other identities has a key role in this success. The digital value chain holds three major domains for changing the conversation to strength-based identity:

Blog10_imageFigure 1: Major domains for strength-based identity

  1. Culture: People’s identity shape the workplace culture that makes transformation achievable Need for successful change
  2. Collaboration: People with many different identity profiles collaborate across boundaries – Need for measurable performance
  3. Cyber capacity: People adopt a number of different personas across face-to-face and cyberspace – Need for raised identity awareness

Business leaders – Be ahead

Business leaders need to be at the forefront of moving the conversation to behaviour-driven identity management. Despite knowing that the world of work is changing some still struggle, and continue with the use of traditional concepts, such as personality profiling and staff surveys.  Either this only predicts individual performance or is too general to affect outcomes.

“Yes, but it’s dangerous to speak about identity”. In our organisation, we can’t do this”.

HR Business Partner, Financial service organisation, UK 2016

For leaders behaviour-driven identity management must include three essential steps:

  1. Understand ways of identity profiling and its role in the organisation
  2. Leverage behaviour-driven identity management with teams and stakeholders
  3. Scale identity management in business units and across the organisation, and even a community

Equipped with the knowledge and a comprehensive toolbox, the roll-out process can begin:

Cyber capacity for the individual

As mentioned above, people adopt a number of different personas across different platforms. For example, wellbeing might be an integral part of your identity. You may want to share sports activities with colleagues and friends for different purposes, perhaps to arrange meeting points or display your performance on different platforms, such as Meetup or Facebook. Sharing information can be a double-edged sword. Whilst winning a valuable network of like-minded people, it also puts you at risk, in both the cyberspace, e.g. identity theft and potentially in the physical space, e.g. burglary when away from home.

Which of the identities carefully selected from an overall identity profile to put on display? There is a need for raised awareness as to how to portray yourself safely. Moreover, there is a need for alignment. What opportunities are there and what are the connected risks? Build capabilities that help mitigate cyber risk caused by human behaviour, reducing opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit human weaknesses. Both, raised awareness of own behaviours and superior security awareness, should be an integral element of the workplace culture.

Power collaboration for measurable results

As the organisational structures of ‘networked teams’ become more popular, switching between face-to-face and cyber interactions, and even switching between platforms becomes an ever more critical capability.

High-frequency quality interactions get everyone on the same page
and working in sync.

Collaboration is enacted through interaction, which in turn is enacted through identity.  Through raised levels of identity awareness, the workforce is able to build robust work-based relationships across generations, geographies, functional, and organisational boundaries. By that, internal and external teams can put customers at the centre of community collaboration. From important virtual etiquette for initial contacts through to achieving measurable team results by working on cloud-based platforms, identity and its awareness and skills unlocks workforce collaboration skills.


Culture is king

In addition to team collaboration, organisations need to consider that working with a digital response strategy without the right culture is a random act of digitization. With the many different identities people bring to the virtual capability, – multi-faceted, often overlapping and contradictory, all under one roof – there is need for a culture of technology use, to provide a  foundation for the company’s digital strategy. A workplace culture that people not only accept, but genuinely believe in and value – one that empowers them to implement the company’s digital strategy. However, how to create “their” culture?

Unlock people’s identity first, scale it to team level, to then
create your organisation’s identity.

Moving from identity to culture works best when you marry workforce engagement and data. People simply love exploring more about their identity and the strength that comes with it. The sum of workforce identity profiles results in a powerful map that can be further negotiated among people and leaders to finally result in a shared culture that people genuinely believe in and value – simply “theirs”.

Culture is an organisation’s identity. It is developmental and sometimes contradictory, getting it right is not only achievable but crucial to the success of any business.


Abraham, P.E. 2015. Cyber connecting. The Three Lenses of Diversity. Surrey, UK: Gower/Ashgate

Agrafiotis, I.; Bada, M.; Cornish, P.; Creese, S.; Goldsmith, M.; Ignatuschtschenko, E.; Roberts, T.; Upton, D.M. 2016. Cyber Harm: Concepts, Taxonomy and Measurement (August 1, 2016). Saïd Business School WP 2016-23. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2828646 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2828646

Kane, G.C.; Palmer, D.; Philips, A.N.; Buckley, N. 2016. Deloitte University Press: Aligning the organization for its digital future: http://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/topics/emerging-technologies/mit-smr-deloitte-digital-transformation-strategy.html?id=us:2sm:3tw:4dup2985:5eng:6DUPress:20160926:mitsmr2016:du_press&linkId=29139511, accessed May 2016

Smircich, L. 1983. Concepts of Culture and  Organizational analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28 (3), 339–358,



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Priya E. Abraham
Consultant | Digital transformation strategist | Identity expert | Keynote speaker | Author
Priya’s particular interests are encouraging a human-centric approach to technology, maximising companies’ innovative potential and using technology to change people’s behaviour in order to improve the human condition.