Digital Fluency: Your Team’s Edge

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By Elise Awwad

December 15, 2021
4 min read

You’ve likely heard it said before, “every company is a technology company.” This notion has been used by leaders time and time again, over the past decade plus, and the spirit behind this quote is still relevant. Regardless of your industry, you provide a product or service that without technology you likely wouldn’t be able to maintain or grow your market share in.

Fast-forward to today and this quote still holds up. Digital innovation is still at the top of CEO’s priorities. According to a July 2021 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey, 82% of CEOs plan to continue or significantly increase their technology modernization spend. And when asked what their expected drivers of business success are over next 12 months, more than half believe that innovation/new products or application of technology will be in their top three. But what’s also interesting is 34% identified increased operational efficiencies as one of their top three drivers.

While technology continuing to drive innovation, one could also argue that for nearly every department across the organization it could also increase efficiency.

What is digital fluency?

For departments outside of tech, digital fluency is becoming a key complementary skill to the standard role-specific skills your team needs. It’s the ability to effectively access, interpret, manage and share information in a digitally connected environment. It is also leveraging technology to uncover missed opportunities, identify problems, create new processes and address findings with critical thinking, complex problem solving and social intelligence.

Why digital fluency is important

First and foremost, “digitally fluent companies are leading the pack in revenue growth,” according to Accenture. They are 5.4 times more likely to project revenue growth over 20% in the next three years, and 61% lead their peers in operational efficiency.

The National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) designed a framework for middle market companies to help drive digital transformation. Here are the five separate but interrelated areas of focus within this framework:

Source: “The Case for Digital Transformation,” National Center for the Middle Market, 2020.

Operationalizing across teams

If you’re struggling to innovate within your team, it might be because when you have invested in technology and innovation, you overlooked the strategic aspects of cultivating digital fluency. That’s where ‘Our Workforce’ from the above comes in. Purchasing new technology and having employees adopt it is not analogous to creating a collaborative, digitally aware culture where the Operations or Accounting team, for example, is invested in the full end-to-end process.

Ideally your team is introducing department specific technologies, and therefore your team should be involved throughout the technology lifecycle:

To harness the new technologies and benefit from digitally fluent teams, companies need to focus on their internal structure and hone their approach to workflow and systems. This transition will require a fresh look at business strategy, a commitment to upskilling current talent, and possibly hiring new talent to transform the department and ultimately business.

How to build digital fluency

You’re likely already on your way to building a digital fluent team—you have first adopters, superusers, and digitally curious minds. But not everyone learns at the same pace and some people might be resistant to change, so you’ll need to evaluate person by person and team by team to determine the gaps to create learning pathways. It is important to offer the direction, tools and support they need to learn new concepts and apply the technology to their roles and the future career path they’re envisioning.

Ways to help build digital fluency among your team include:

  • Identify digital skills gaps within your department that you need to drive efficiency and stay competitive
  • Create targeted employee learning pathways relevant to current and future roles
  • Promote a culture of continual learning and professional development within your department and company

When you establish a cultural expectation of working with and driving digital innovation across all departments, you’re helping to future-proof your people and company.

Preparing to grow digital pathways

When you incorporate more advanced digital processes into your business, you spark the larger effects of transformation. For team- or company-wide transformation to fully take root, management and leaders must support the shift in culture and align those shifts to business cases and outcomes.

While developing digital competencies introduces new challenges for workers and organizations, it also solves many pain points. According to a survey by Accenture, “digitally fluent organizations capture strong returns in innovation, people experience, and customer value.” By prioritizing digital fluency as an organizational objective, you’ll help enable your team to develop the right skills to innovate, grow and bring your business into the future.

About Elise Awwad

Elise Awwad is the Chief Operating Officer of DeVry University. She has oversight of all student operations to ensure a positive and consistent experience for DeVry students and corporate partners

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