Comms Leaders' Role in Digital Business Transformation

September 14, 2019

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

Corporate communications leaders are well-positioned to build employee digital dexterity and create value for the organization.

The digital business era, characterized by the rapid inception and adoption of digital technology, is radically transforming the way businesses and employees operate. In a world where every employee is a digital employee, the communications team is key to creating an environment in which digital dexterity is valued and modeled for maximum impact.  In particular, communicators can foster digital dexterity among employees in two ways:

  • Craft a digital business narrative.
  • Implement digital initiatives that engage a broad spectrum of employees with digital strategy.

Digital dexterity is in short supply

Employees with both the ability and desire to use and apply existing and emerging technology to drive better business outcomes are considered to have digital dexterity.  “Unfortunately, the 2018 Gartner Digital Dexterity Survey finds only 9% of employees have high digital dexterity,” says Alexandra Earl, Senior Director, Advisory, Gartner. “Organizations that want to execute successful business transformations must first cultivate digital dexterity among their employees.” Gartner research finds digital business transformations succeed when employees are digitally dexterous. Highly digitally dexterous employees are 3.3 times more likely than moderately digitally dexterous employees to execute quickly and effectively on digital initiatives. 

Create an effective digital business narrative

Gartner research finds that regularly discussing the company’s digital business narrative with employees can more than double their digital dexterity. Communicators can drive this effort by leveraging their storytelling ability. “Only 17% of organizations discuss narratives consistently,” says Earl. “A successful digital business narrative highlights the importance of digital dexterity and builds a consistent, shared understanding of what digital business transformation means and how individual employees should contribute.” Gartner research finds that effective digital business narratives share four key attributes: 

  • Transformational. Discuss business model transformation, not just enhancements to the current business or use of new technologies.
  • Customer-centric. Emphasize customers’ needs and the jobs they want done.
  • Integrated. Avoid mixed messages. Make the corporate narrative and the company's digital business narrative the same or embed the digital business narrative into the corporate narrative.
  • Relevant to employees. Help employees understand how to adapt their own jobs and beliefs to support digital business transformation.

Embedding these attributes in the narrative increases the likelihood that it will resonate with employees. 

Read more: Gartner Top Technologies and Trends Driving the Digital Workplace

Engage employees in digital initiatives

Communicators’ expertise in channel selection, audience listening, messaging and accountability systems is valuable in driving employee engagement Organizations may find that efforts tailored toward their employees’ existing digital capabilities and attitudes are more effective at developing digital dexterity. Gartner research identifies five digital personas that reflect different employee attitudes toward digital dexterity.

  • Caretakers are those who believe that digital skills don’t help them and that their organization gives them poor technology. 
  • Engineers are late-career experts in digital technology who are satisfied with their work.
  • Mavericks are younger workers who bring their own technology to work and have distinct attitudes about digital work.
  • Navigators are mid-career and deft, but not expert, with digital technology.
  • Pilots are mid-career, comfortable with technology and spend less time at their desks.

Communications leaders can use these personas or develop others to create targeted engagement solutions for each profile, and to better inform IT leadership decisions on how to offer digital training and support.

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