Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic upended traditional business practices and accelerated the rate of digital transformation. In recent years, even the least tech-oriented industries have been transformed by the rapid shift to hybrid work and have had to embrace digitization or run the risk of falling behind the curve.
While these changes have driven businesses to leave behind outdated technology and adapt quickly, the reality is that many employees are falling behind. Technological innovations have caused a major shift in the types of skills that are required to fill current and future job functions — leaving businesses with critical skills gaps among their workforce.
Globally, it’s estimated that this digital skills gap could cost counties nearly $11.5 trillion in economic growth.
To maintain a competitive edge, people leaders have to consider the effects of digital transformation as it relates to employees and develop strategies to cultivate a more digitally intelligent workforce. Let’s discuss what digital intelligence means and break down how to empower your people to embrace it.
What is digital intelligence?
Digital intelligence describes the willingness and ability of an individual to learn, navigate, integrate and strategize the use of digital technology. Digitally intelligent individuals accept new tech innovations and use them to their advantage.
Examples of digital intelligence in the workplace
Here are a couple of practical cases of digital intelligence to give you a better understanding of what it looks like in a work environment:
- Integrating a remote or hybrid work strategy
Organizations have much broader access to global talent through the cultivation of remote or hybrid work environments. This type of work structure necessitates a level of familiarity with navigating a digital workspace to keep interactions between colleagues, managers/direct reports, teams and the overall organization functional and efficient.
- Utilizing automation
By now, most modern organizations leverage automation in some way to improve processes, decrease manual work and drive efficiency. Digitally intelligent individuals are those who embrace automation and recognize ways the technology can enhance their job performance.
How to foster digital intelligence at work
The future state of work is still unpredictable, but it’s clear that digital transformation is showing no signs of slowing down. In the wake of these changes and potential disruptions, your business is only as resilient as its people. That’s why it’s vital not only to leverage technology at the organizational level but to integrate digital intelligence as a core component of your greater people strategy.
Understand the qualities of a digital mindset
A digitally-minded workforce is open to learning and engaging with new digital solutions as they become available. Employees are curious, inquisitive and display innovative thinking which asks how they can utilize new technologies to the advantage of their work.
Leaders can promote a digital mindset in their workforce through:
- Offering resources and educational opportunities for upskilling and reskilling that make learning about new digital solutions possible.
- Integrating digital transformation into company culture by emphasizing the value of innovation and technological advancement.
- Encouraging a data-driven approach to business operations. The digital age affords access to countless data sources that were previously unavailable or only acquired through manual operations.
- Offering continuous employee development opportunities that help employees stay up-to-date on their technical skills and simplify the process of integrating new technology into day-to-day work.
Encourage digital intelligence at the leadership level
Like any aspect of company culture, fostering a digitally-savvy mindset will take time to accomplish. But it can be done, effectively and over time, with the right balance of resourcing and employee enablement.
The first step is to get company leadership to understand the importance of digital intelligence as a cultural value. From the C-suite to middle management, those in leadership often have the strongest influence on company culture. Train company leaders on the importance of digital intelligence and why embracing this concept is critical to the greater people strategy. They should feel encouraged to embrace and promote new technologies among their teams.
At the same time, it’s equally as important that leadership is open to the technological expertise of their employees. Millennials and Gen-Z are fast becoming the most highly represented generations in the workforce, and both are made up largely of digital natives who likely already embrace and utilize new technologies.
Empower digitally-intelligent employees through continuous learning
Empowering your digitally intelligent employees means providing challenging growth opportunities to those who already have technical expertise and giving adequate and accessible resources to those who need more support in navigating the digital landscape.
The reality is that even your most tech-savvy talent will need ongoing learning and upskilling to help them keep up. That’s why it’s critical to take a fresh look at your L&D programs through the lens of digital intelligence. Consider incorporating a mix of on-the-job training as well as a more formal workforce education to help employees upskill quickly while building credentials that will help them advance in the long term.
Prioritizing skills development and learning for employees is a win-win. Not only does it allow your business to address skills gaps before they arise, but it also helps employees become more engaged at work and feel more secure in their roles.
There’s no denying that the digital skills gap is here — by the end of 2022, 54 percent of the global workforce will need reskilling to help them perform in the digital sphere. Organizations that are slow to adapt and don’t prioritize digital intelligence among their workforce run the risk of falling behind the curve.
That’s why investing in your employee’s ongoing learning and education is critical to the long-term success of both your people and business. With these best practices in mind, you’re now able to evaluate your L&D efforts through the lens of digital intelligence and take appropriate action.
Curious to see workforce education in action? Take this quick 5-question assessment to unlock a set of custom resources that show how education can help you address your most pressing talent challenges — from upskilling to workforce agility.