There is a palpable focus by organizations on being future-ready and a big constituent of this readiness is having digitally dexterous employees and business processes that can make the most of the myriad technologies available. But using digital technologies is a multifaceted and intricate task with minimal margin for errors. A recent study by Gartner shows that only a fraction of organizations is digitally dexterous to enable the successful integration of new ways of work solutions. The study relies on a survey of 3,120 workers who had a full-time employment with an organization with 100 or more employees and were “required to use digital technology for work purposes”. Let’s take a closer look at the survey and its findings.
Gartner defines a ‘digital workplace’ as one which enables new, more effective ways of working, raises employee engagement and agility, and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies. In this context, the report considers employees to be digitally dexterous if they “have the cognitive ability and social practice to leverage and manipulate media, information and technology in unique and highly innovative ways”, and states that employees possessing high-levels of digital dexterity are more open to working from anywhere in a ‘non-office’ fashion and are inclined to use consumer (or consumer-like) software solutions while working.
Organizations’ (lack of) Digital Dexterity
The Gartner survey shows that a mere 7 percent to 18 percent of the organizations around the world possess the digital dexterity required to make the most of new ways of working. While workers in the US displayed the highest level of digital dexterity at 18.2 percent, those in Germany came in a second close at 17.6 percent. Employees in U.S., Germany, and the U.K. demonstrated higher digital dexterity as compared to workers from France, Singapore, and Japan. While U.S. workers were the most ‘Tech positive’ at 37.1 percent, Japanese employees were the least at 12.5 percent. The survey also found that larger organizations are more likely to have a higher level of digital dexterity as compared to smaller ones.
The numbers paint an abysmal picture of the future and indicate that despite a high level of awareness about the importance of being digitally agile, organizations are not doing nearly enough.
Furthermore, the survey shows that factors beyond the control of an organization influence its level of digital dexterity for which companies need to have an explicit knowledge while designing digital strategies.
Digital Dexterity isn’t about age
The youngest workers, expectedly, have the highest tendency to adopt new ‘digital-workplace-driven products and services’. They view technology in the workplace positively and also have a strong desire to work in ‘non-office’ environments. However, young workers are also more inclined to go solo, for “they reported the lowest levels of agreement with the statement that ‘work is best accomplished in teams’.” Workers between the ages of 18 and 24 years are the most ‘Tech positive’ at 33.9 percent and also the most inclined to work from anywhere (21 percent).
Surprisingly, the oldest workers are the second most likely to take up new ways of work. Workers between the ages of 55 and 74 years view teamwork positively, do little routine work, and hold the highest affinity for ‘internal social networking technology’. Consequently, middle-aged workers (between the ages 35 and 44 years) have the lowest adoption rates of new ways of working. The study attributes this to “feeling fatigued with the routines of life as middle age approaches”. They are also the most likely to describe their work as ‘routine’, and are least convinced that technology can help them work or in ‘mobile work’. These findings dispel the notion that older workers are generally least inclined to new ways of working solutions and struggle to use them. The results suggest that more than age, the type of work that is undertaken by an individual has a bigger say in his or her level of digital dexterity.
Augmenting Digital Dexterity
Helping employees and businesses to be digitally dexterous is a complex process and also unique for every organization. The process is contingent on factors like the industry, company vision, and culture, and has to make room for ‘new ways of work’. Forcing employees to follow strict workplace policies and rigid management rules not only hinders the progress of the employees, but also the organization. Furthermore, it is critical that every company transforms on its own. There is no scope to adopt digital practices and models designed by other organizations, for they have been built uniquely. Craig Roth, Vice President, Research, Gartner says, “Solutions targeting new ways of work are tapping into a high-growth area, but finding the right organizations ready to exploit these technologies is challenging... Embracing dynamic work styles, devices, work locations and team structures can transform a business and its relationship to its staff.
But digital dexterity doesn't come cheap. It takes investment in workplace design, mobile devices, and software, and larger organizations find it easier to make this investment.”
Despite being well aware of the perils of a workforce with obsolete skills, companies are lagging behind in supporting their workforces to be future-ready. This gap doesn’t bode well for the stakeholders and needs to be plugged in urgently. Digital transformation is already underway and is set to intensify in the future; the only way to evolve is to be open to change and acquaint employees with the changing paradigm of work.