Digital Dexterity: What It Is, Why It's Important, and HR's Role In It
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
As Intel CEO Bob Swan recently wrote in a letter to customers, “We are witnessing what will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services across every domain.” He’s right: virtually overnight, countless businesses were forced to adapt to a remote world in response to coronavirus—condensing what would typically be a multi-year digital transformation plan into days or weeks. But those with digitally dextrous employees had a head start.
Coined by Gartner a few years ago, the term "digital dexterity” doesn’t denote a particular hard skill or set of technical abilities. Rather, Gartner defines it as “both the ability and desire to use and apply existing and emerging technology for better business outcomes.” And this soft skill gives companies a significant advantage. Gartner found that highly digitally dextrous employees are 3.3 times more likely to quickly and effectively execute digital initiatives—and McKinsey research shows that making bold moves to adopt digital technologies early and at scale is correlated with higher projected revenue and profit growth.
While your business may now have adjusted to remote work, becoming more digitally dextrous can better position you for the next technological pivot on the horizon. Here are a few ways HR can support a digital dexterity strategy to create a more resilient and forward-looking company.
Identify and nurture digitally dextrous talent at your organization
Gartner’s research shows that only 9% of employees currently have high digital dexterity, so retaining digitally minded employees should be a priority.
Look within existing teams and speak to managers across the organization to discover which employees are taking the lead in arguing for, adopting, and managing efficient and effective digital solutions and processes. These early adopters could play a pivotal role in shaping your company’s future, so encourage managers to recognize their efforts and tap them for co-creation opportunities. They may also be able to help convert those around them by cheerleading training programs and transformational initiatives.
Prioritize digital dexterity during the hiring process
Hiring might have slowed or paused at your company right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reevaluate your hiring process to ensure it still aligns with your goals. Do you have interview questions or tests designed to assess potential hires for digital dexterity? And if not, how can you adjust your process to account for this?
This might be as simple as asking candidates to tell you about their experiences leveraging existing digital solutions or evaluating emerging ones. But whatever strategy you take, make sure hiring managers across the organization understand why they should be evaluating candidates for digital dexterity, and how this will benefit their team.
Enable organization-wide change by shifting solutions to the cloud
When organizations rely on outdated, on-premises technology solutions, it sends a message to employees that their company doesn’t value digital competency. This can deter workers from learning new digital skills, since they may have no use for them at work, and it may put tech-savvy candidates off from applying.
The most digitally dexterous businesses seek out strong digital solutions—technology that is agile, efficient, and accessible from anywhere. Most employees are already familiar with using tech like this in their personal lives, so it’s important to help bridge the gap between their experiences as a consumer and as an employee to show that your company isn’t behind the curve.
The good news is, you may have already moved some of your solutions to the cloud to provide the mobility and flexibility required to support a distributed workforce. But even if the move to remote work is only temporary, relying on cutting-edge technology should not be. Cloud solutions enable employees to collaborate and access business-critical information in real-time, regardless of where they are or what devices they may be using—helping to make your workforce as a whole more agile, efficient, and informed. That’s essential during times of crisis, but even when it’s business as usual, it’s an advantage your company shouldn’t ignore.
Lead by example, but don’t rush in
To successfully promote digital dexterity, HR must lead by example. Leveraging agile, cloud-based HR tools can help you set a new standard that the whole organization will be eager to follow. That said, don’t feel pressured to overhaul deeply ingrained systems overnight, as this may create more friction than efficiency. Start small, work out any teething problems, and move forward from there.
One great place to start is by digitizing your employee files. To learn more about making the transition from paper to digital successfully, check out The Complete Guide to Digital HR Document Management.