Digital Dexterity is Key to Thriving in a Forever-Changed Economy

By Mike Hendrickson, Vice President of Tech & Dev Products at Skillsoft 

2021 is a year that will no doubt bring lightning-fast, technological change, and perhaps a host of challenges. We’ve adapted well in our personal lives, quickly adopting new technologies that make it easier to go about our day – whether it be smart home solutions we control through voice-activated assistance or fast digital payment systems like Venmo. And yet as individuals, we haven’t fully adopted technologies in the workplace in the same seamless manner.

Digital Dexterity in The Workplace

Digital dexterity is “the employee’s ability and desire to use and apply existing and emerging technology to drive better business outcomes,” according to Gartner. Those who have high levels of digital dexterity have a significant edge over their counterparts with moderate levels. The evidence is clear. In a research report released in June of this year, Gartner found that those employees with high digital dexterity were 3.3 times more likely to quickly and effectively execute digital initiatives in their organizations.

So what does it take to be digitally dexterous? Tech savviness and willpower, sure – but there’s much more to it. Nearly every other element of digital dexterity requires “power skills” like adaptability or resiliency that empower people to thrive in working models that are collaborative and iterative like Agile. And Agile isn’t going away – Agile methodology has demonstrated the virtues of simple, customer-driven and fast solutions to business challenges. According to Skillsoft’s Annual Signals report, Lean into Tech: 2020 Tech Skills Trends & 2021 Predictions, 50 percent of the Top 20 courses consumed by learners were in Agile and DevOps, and in 2021, Agile and Scrum will be key skills to develop.

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But digital dexterity is scarce – the same research report by Gartner found that only nine percent of employees have high digital dexterity. So how do organizations prepare their people to become more digitally dexterous? Aside from learning solid core technical skills, to develop digital dexterity individuals will need to acquire a few essential mindset skills – a technological aptitude, open-mindedness, and ambition. These mindsets apply to both tech and non-tech employees seeking to become a more complete and digitally dexterous contributor to their organization. With a hybrid skillset, it will be those who have tech skills, but are also conversant in adjacency domains and skills, are driven, and have a well-honed digital dexterity mindset that will be in high demand around the globe.

A Series of Mindsets

Those who have technological aptitude and are insatiably curious are more willing to adopt new tools, technologies, and new ways better manage their workloads. They’re also drawn toward mastery, driving them to deconstruct new technologies and processes in ways that allow them to see how best to effectively utilize that technology.

An open mind is key. Change is human, but humans tend to resist change. Having an open mind allows for exploration and the discovery of new and better approaches. This mental flexibility that allows individuals to embrace change is vital in helping develop dexterity.

Expanding awareness of the company’s vision leads to continuous growth as an organization changes and adapts to market conditions. For tech professionals in particular, greater comprehension of business principles can lead to better understanding of their contributions to the organization. This in turn provides tech professionals with the ability to become more involved in discussions related to the business. Far too many tech professionals, while able to easily master a new tool, are limited in their grasp of the role that tool could play in a larger company effort. The pure “tech-geek” is a dying breed, and rather, digital dexterity equips professionals with the acumen to understand their industry’s true business promise and increase their business agility.

Workers with digital dexterity have to be ambitious, not just in the context of their career advancement, but rather they must adopt the mindset of becoming lifelong learners. Technology – and the world – is constantly changing, and rapid change requires continuous upskilling and reskilling. Skillsoft’s Lean into Tech report found a 52 percent increase in learning hours between February and April 2020, and a 200 percent growth in live Bootcamp attendance from the previous year. Ambition fuels the need to keep learning as long as learners want to keep their edge.

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Here to Stay

The pandemic and various phases of quarantines have shown that learners around the globe have the drive to gain new skills and the voraciousness to learn. During a time of great challenge and change, the need for continuous learning has become even more apparent. Many have been thrust into areas outside of their responsibility. According to Lean into Tech, universally across the globe more than 60 percent of learning needs were in Software Craft, Infrastructure, and Data following the onset of the pandemic. Many organizations have been forced to evaluate their plan for digital transformation and often accelerate them. COVID-19 has sped up what could have been a multi-year digital transformation plan into just days or weeks.

Organizations and individuals with digital dexterity have the agility and resilience to adapt quickly to big change. By upskilling and reskilling their teams to become more digitally dexterous, organizations will create a strong line of defense against threats, ensuring a future-fit workforce that will thrive in our forever-changed and forever-changing World economy.

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