Digital dexterity is a fundamental attribute within the most successful workforces – and will only become more essential as businesses enter the rapidly approaching future workplace. Yet, many businesses struggle to assess and promote this vital skill among their own employees.

The increasing value of digital dexterity is due in large part to the digitization of the workplace, which was well underway prior to the pandemic.. But with the rush to remote work, we saw a massive spike in the purchasing of SaaS solutions to accommodate dispersed workforces. That’s not to mention all the new AI technology, IoT and blockchain trends promising even more change in the coming years.

Now, as employees return to the office and enterprises map out plans for hybrid work, the spend on digital solutions isn’t showing any signs of slowing. In fact, more than half of midsize companies significantly increased their spend in this area, and 69% are planning on increasing their spend on digital tools even further in 2022.

The frequent adoption of new technology means a lot of change and disruption for employees. In today’s workplace, the average employee uses 35 business applications and switches between them over a thousand times per day. This leads to higher rates of change fatigue, unhappiness, burnout, and high rates of turnover.

Change is inevitable, but the negative impact of change doesn’t have to be. In order to foster resilience in your workforce and insulate your business outlook, it’s time to proactively promote digital dexterity.

What Is Digital Dexterity?

Digital dexterity refers to the desire and ability of employees to embrace existing and emerging technologies to achieve better business outcomes.

Businesses increasingly rely on digital technologies to get work done – but  a business that seeks to successfully navigate and adapt to the swiftly evolving workplace needs a workforce that is  flexible and  adaptable enough to take these changes in stride.

New digital solutions are intended to increase employee productivity and profits, but without the right support, they can create negative digital experiences for employees – which in turn, lead to negative customer experiences.

The Digital Dexterity Gap

The digital dexterity gap refers to the skill gap for employees around digital technologies. If a business doesn’t understand and manage this gap, it can be a real impediment to digital transformation and overall business success.

Let’s say you’re a large financial institution. Your customer service department represents the frontline between your customers and your business. Pre-pandemic, everyone worked together in the office, and it was not so difficult to escalate customer issues to higher levels or across teams.

However, a hybrid setting with over half of the department working remotely has brought new communication challenges. In response, your business deployed a new collaboration tool to better facilitate communication across teams.  In theory, this tool should enable customer service reps to resolve customer issues more quickly, retain customers and stay ahead of the competition.

But the customer service team were not adequately prepped for the transition. And many of them preferred the older digital collaboration solution. Three months after the transition to the new tool, fewer than half of the team has fully adopted it,  the employees who are using the tool struggle to understand all of its capabilities,  and time to resolution for customer complaints has actually increased. Over the long term, this results in a loss of business revenue.

The root cause: the digital dexterity gap. Employees didn’t have the skills or support to adopt the new tool, and what felt like a small issue resulted in disproportionately negative consequences.

At this point, many enterprises understand that they need to invest in digital dexterity if they want to remain competitive but lack clarity on how to proceed.

There are many complicating factors to digital dexterity programs. Each employee comes into the work with different backgrounds—some may have very limited digital literacy, while others are extremely digitally dexterous, but have strong opinions on which digital solutions are best and can be resistant to change.

Questions of who owns digital dexterity can also be difficult to approach. At most enterprises, IT clearly owns the deployment of new digital solutions, while  employee engagement and skills development typically fall to HR. Bringing these two departments together is key to a successful digital dexterity investment.

Once HR and IT are aligned on a strategy, there are still questions around process. How do enterprises measure a soft skill like digital dexterity? How do they measure success?Having a plan to grow digital dexterity and a concrete, quantifiable method for measuring outcomes is essential to the success both of digital transformation projects, and for your enterprise as a whole.

How to Measure Digital Dexterity

The most important element of any investment in digital dexterity is leadership buy in. The C-Suite must be engaged in the process for success. In order to communicate the importance of digital dexterity and secure executive buy-in, you should:

  • Track and establish baselines for digital transformation and adoption within your enterprise.
  • Identify digital transformation roadblocks and draw the connection between these roadblocks, employee productivity, and business success.
  • Highlight how a lack of adoption leads to poor business results.

The C-suite may be your toughest critic, but they are also the most essential ally in successfully transforming the digital dexterity of your workforce.

The next step after securing buy-in is to establish a plan for measuring the impact of promoting digital dexterity. Set quantifiable, measurable goals. Real-time digital employee experience metrics can help quantify that which feels only qualifiable. Understanding whether an employee has greater digital dexterity might not be measurable, but you can measure the speed of digital adoption, employee sentiment throughout the process of deploying a new technology, and the MTTR of common digital transformation roadblocks.

Once you have a plan in place, you need advocates and evangelists for digital dexterity throughout the organization. These don’t necessarily have to be members of the IT team or leadership, and in fact, it may be more effective to find employees outside of these two groups who are engaged and energized about digital transformation and digital solutions. Finding these individuals who can advocate for new digital solutions and encourage their teammates to persist through hiccups and roadblocks is essential to driving successful transformation.

By using data-driven insights to foster leadership buy-in, setting measurable goals, and inviting engaged employees into the process, businesses can invest in the digital dexterity of their workforce in a way that promotes employee happiness, reduces turnover, increases productivity, and drives future business success.