Summer 2021
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CTDO Magazine

Make Nice With Technology

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Help employees achieve digital fluency by understanding their working styles related to tech.

Digital fluency is not about understanding how to use technology—it is all about understanding the latest digital tools; what value they add to the way individuals work; and interpreting, creating, and strategically using digital information.

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Remote work is forcing employees to work, learn, and communicate virtually. And that has increased the need for competency in digital fluency. In fact, according to the LinkedIn Learning 2021 Workplace Learning Report , global L&D professionals list digital fluency as the number 2 most important skill needed, behind building resiliency.

Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the digital fluency skills gap that exists in today’s workplace. And it’s not just individual contributors—leaders also lack digital skills.

According to DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2021 report, leaders have low confidence in their digital acumen and ability to lead virtually. It reveals that about one-fourth of leaders say they aren’t at all effective at leading virtual teams.

“Our research shows that few organizations are developing these skills in their leaders. Fewer than 30 percent of leaders said they had ever received development for these two skills,” DDI reports.

Digital acumen, according to DDI, includes staying abreast of digital trends, understanding their implication for their business, and knowing how to leverage new technologies.

The speed at which some technologies are taking over the workplace is concerning for many leaders. Many businesses are turning to artificial intelligence for adaptability and efficiency, but the rapid rate at which some companies are adopting it is causing concern about ethics, governance, and regulation of AI, according to the KPMG report Thriving in an AI World. Even those with high AI knowledge (51 percent) believe AI adoption is moving faster than it should, compared to 44 percent of total industry respondents.

Accenture researched what people needed to thrive in a remote environment, and digital fluency was a key theme. That led to the emergence of four working styles and how those styles approach the digital fluency journey:

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Remote work collaborators. These individuals have never worked remotely but love the freedom and flexibility. They are enthusiastic about upskilling but need to see how new digital tools add value to their work.

Adaptive team players. These individuals are primarily in early-career roles and are likely Generation Z or millennials. What may be beneficial are cohort learning models that explore new ways of working or apprenticeships for learning from seasoned leaders.

Relentless innovators. They have the highest digital fluency scores in Accenture’s research. Having the time and space to tinker with new technology motivates them. Encourage them to participate in hackathons or to mentor others.

Disciplined achievers. These individuals are often below manager level, and 40 percent have two-year associate degrees. They need to work in cross-functional teams. Seeing how digital technologies enable different parts of the organization will help accelerate their digital fluency. 

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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