Every Employee is a Digital Employee

The accelerating integration of digital elements into most work processes is leading to a world where every employee is a digital employee.

The headlong movement into digital business means that just about every business endeavor has a technology component, a situation in which every budget is an IT budget.

By the same token, personal technology in the workplace is everywhere. The use of shadow IT services at a business unit level has greatly increased, and digital duties are expanding in almost every job.

All of this has led Gartner to conclude that “every employee is a digital employee.”

As Matt Cain, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, discussed in his session at the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit, there are two major factors driving this conclusion – growing employee digital dexterity and accelerating digital job requirements.

Digital Dexterity

Many employees own and operate a high-speed wireless network at home, and self-support an ever-expanding array of devices and operating systems. Apps and Web services are ingrained in almost every aspect of our lives, including banking, investing, media viewing, socializing, communicating, scheduling, media creation, research, health management and hobbies.

“We participate in the sharing economy using consumer-mediated services for transportation, lodging, professional services and retail,” Mr. Cain said. “Others are experimenting with lightweight application integration services to automatically aggregate, filter and distribute information from multiple sources. The next phase is to create our own Internet of Things (IoT) networks with – among other things — wearable devices, automobiles and household appliances.”

All this digital activity is generally done with great enthusiasm and skill, and with very little vendor-supplied support. The result is that an increasing number of people get unprecedented awareness, agility, efficiency and enjoyment from technology.

This means that most employees have digital competencies that would have been almost unthinkable a decade ago. The challenge is for organizations to formally tap that skill set for better business outcomes.

Digital Job Requirements

Many jobs now require a degree of digital competency that did not exist five years ago. In the manufacturing sector, factory floor operators have significant digital duties for machine setup, operation and process flow. Marketing is now largely a digital occupation, requiring digital skills for campaign design, execution and analysis. Sales requires the ability to explain digital services, understand digital requirements, and act as an intermediary between the customer and the digital staff. In fact, it’s hard to name a job function that does not increasingly require digital expertise.

“There is a direct correlation between employee digital dexterity and digital business execution. Digital dexterity enables employees to more easily grasp and execute new workplace digital duties and exploit digital moments,” Mr. Cain said. “Employees boost agility and awareness through the use of digital skills, tools and services from their consumer lives. And the pace of digitalization will only accelerate. Smart machines, virtual personal assistants, real-time translation services, wearables and video everywhere will all have an impact on work processes.”

However, consumer digital dexterity does not automatically translate into business proficiencies. The consumer experience creates a foundation upon which business digital dexterity can be built. It’s up to the organizations to formally embrace and extend employee digital dexterity. One way to do that is implement a digital workplace strategy.

The digital workplace is a business strategy for promoting employee effectiveness and engagement through a more consumer-like computing environment. By 2018, Gartner believes most organizations will be forced to employ something like a digital workplace to coordinate a response to workplace trends. Most new organizations will employ digital workplace concepts from the start.

If done well, the digital workplace can result in a shift toward the more open, dynamic and innovative work environment needed in a world where every employee is a digital employee.

All recorded sessions from the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit can be viewed at Gartner Events on Demand.

More detailed analysis is available to Gartner clients in the report “(What to Do When) Every Employee Is a Digital Employee” This report is part of the Gartner Special Report “Boosting Workforce Effectiveness with a Digital Workplace.” This special report brings together a range of new Gartner research that helps the IT group plan, build and run digital workplace initiatives.