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3 smart ways to inspire employees to embrace digital dexterity

In our rapidly changing world, digital dexterity is key. Here are three methods leaders can use to get staff commitment.

When you check in for your flight online, communicate via social media, search for a restaurant on Google or learn how to make a soufflé on YouTube, you combine your ability to use digital technology with your ambition to improve your life with it.

This combination gives you digital dexterity. Now, imagine the possibilities of using digital dexterity at work.

Gartner Executive Guidance: Digital Dexterity at Work says “employees with high levels of digital dexterity are 3.3 times more likely to launch and complete digital initiatives quickly, and to deliver value from doing so, than those with moderate digital dexterity.”

According to Gartner research, 90 per cent of corporate leaders’ top priorities can only be achieved with the help of technology, and almost 60 per cent of global CEOs expect their companies to undergo business model transformation in the next few years — digital dexterity is needed now more than ever to help employees deliver faster and more valuable outcomes.

Employees with high levels of digital dexterity are open to technology’s potential; they’re willing to be flexible in their roles and take risks. They’re also adept at iterative and collaborative ways of working and possess strong technology and data savviness.

Gartner’s research shows that these employees make a significant difference to the outcomes of digital initiatives, yet roughly only 9 per cent of employees meet this bar. When it comes to digital dexterity at work, ambition has even more of an impact than ability, as it relates to openness to innovation, risk and the willingness to learn new skills.

So how can leaders get employees as excited to learn and use new technology in their jobs as they are to try a new app on their phone?

To help you build digital dexterity in your own organisation, we tested hundreds of potential actions that leaders can take in areas such as skills and competencies, training and coaching, leadership behaviours, company culture, team structures, and the use of digital workplace technologies. We also looked at demographic factors at both individual and company levels.

We’ve identified three things you can do to inspire your employees to embrace digital dexterity.

1. Make digital dexterity a priority

Explain how and why digital dexterity is important in setting the tone for your team. Employees in companies where leaders “set the tone” are 2.4 times more likely to have high digital dexterity. Gartner’s article “Mobilize Every Function in the Organization for Digitalization”, Jackie Wiles explains why all organisational functions can, and should, be engaged in driving digital transformation.

2. Create an environment for digital dexterity to thrive

Encourage learning, innovation and continuous improvement to build digital dexterity into your culture. Our research identified four actions leaders can take to create an organisational environment that fosters these attributes:

  • Support iterative, collaborative ways of working
  • Position IT workers to be digitalisation consultants
  • Broker connections to technology and business model expertise
  • Enable technology self-service

3. Support the abilities in people that lead to greater digital dexterity

Develop key competencies such as business acumen, adaptability, political savviness, fusion collaboration and systems thinking. Many of these skills have been sought after for years because of their impact on employee performance in general. When you accelerate the growth of these competencies in your employees, you increase the likelihood of those employees having high digital dexterity by almost tenfold.

A recent Gartner article by Mary Baker, titled “Motivate Employees to Reskill for the Digital Age,” explains that to successfully navigate digital transformation and help employees re-skill as needs shift, HR leaders must reorient learning and development to build connected learners.

Learn how to prepare your workforce for the digital future. Download “Digital Dexterity at Work.”

“Digital Dexterity at Work” is part of the Gartner Executive Guidance series. Each guide in this series provides can’t-miss insight on the most important challenges and topics facing business leaders today.

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