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Digital dexterity explained: Everything you need to know

Help employees face their fear of change in the digital world. Digital dexterity can improve employee engagement and efficiency -- all while creating a better business outcome.

Resistance to change has always plagued organizations as they make plans to move forward. In the digital world, digital dexterity is the opposite of this resistance.

Digital transformation has been at the forefront of business conversations for the past decade, as companies have done away with outdated legacy systems and replaced them with new technologies to increase business efficiency. However, some employees resisted this change, and leaders have struggled to get employees on board.

But the COVID-19 pandemic kicked digital transformation efforts into high gear as people were forced to work from home and use tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom to communicate. Even those with limited tech know-how had to adjust and face tech shame to navigate the new way of work.

Now, businesses are learning to empower employees and help them navigate change. By improving digital dexterity, employees not only embrace technical change, but the company can also improve its bottom line with better business outcomes.

What is digital dexterity?

Digital dexterity is the willingness and ability of employees to learn and use the latest technology -- a necessity in the age of digital transformation.

When a workforce has digital dexterity, it is more adaptable and open to new tools. While there may be a learning curve, those with digital dexterity are willing to take the time and effort to learn the new technology.

Business leadership needs to help employees feel empowered and supported to learn new skills. Employees don't need to be micromanaged and fear change.

Learn more about the benefits of digital transformation.

Why is digital dexterity important?

The use of new technologies, such as AI, online meeting platforms and super apps, will increase for small businesses. With the adoption of these digital capabilities, the modern workplace relies on employees to use emerging technologies in their daily workload. Digital dexterity is becoming an essential part of a company's strategy to move forward.

HR departments should lead initiatives to improve digital dexterity, but there also needs to be support from IT and leadership.

Once leaders buy into the concept of digital dexterity, they see benefits for their company.


Even though it may take some time and money to improve a workforce's digital dexterity, it can improve a company's bottom line, showing it has exceptional ROI. Here are some other benefits of digital dexterity:

  • Enhanced efficiency. Employees can get more done quickly. Automation of mundane tasks gives employees more time to focus on additional activities.
  • Higher productivity. Technology can help employees accomplish more, which may lead to higher engagement and less burnout.
  • Adaptability. The workforce is ready to embrace each new technology as it emerges. Even if they are not comfortable, they strive to learn and get better.
  • Improved agility. Increasing productivity and efficiency doesn't always mean better quality. But, when the workforce is nimble, employees are more effective in their roles and know how to use digital tools to their advantage. They can pivot in their roles and make needed corrections to improve quality.
  • Better alignment. Businesses can streamline goals and train their employees. They can also improve customer service, prepare for any digital disruptions and adapt to any cultural changes through consumer technology.

Why do companies lack digital dexterity?

Some companies excel at digital transformation, while others fail. A lack of digital dexterity can hold a company back from change. There are three main reasons businesses have issues reaching digital dexterity: lack of vision, poor leadership and outdated thinking.

Lack of vision

There needs to be a mission and vision driving technology efforts. Companies need to define issues and how they can approach the problems. Digital transformation involves more than new software; it also involves new processes. Take time to reflect on milestones for digital efforts, such as implementing new programs and improving process times. Then, measure success by looking at ROI on the digital updates and amount of work hours saved after implementation. This improves digital dexterity because employees know there is an end goal to learning new technologies.

Poor leadership

If there is no clear owner to lead digital efforts -- or if it is spread out among too many people -- this can be a problem. Business leaders need to buy in and promote a change in corporate culture for a successful outcome. There needs to be someone accountable for rolling out each digital initiative.

Outdated thinking

Innovation is never possible without changing the way employees think. By resisting new technology, companies can make themselves obsolete, like BlackBerry and Blockbuster. An employee's refusal to change is typically a result of ignorance or fear, and the best way to combat these obstacles is through education and empowerment. Employees need to learn the positive effect technology can have on their jobs.

How to achieve digital dexterity in the workplace

Employees like to know the why when there are changes, including technological advancements. With clear goals, employees know why they should learn new skills and how they relate to their jobs' end goals.

Here are some other ways to build digital dexterity.

1. Understand employee mindset

Start checking with employees to see how they feel about technology, what they need and if they feel supported. This can help with planning and let the company know where it stands. Make an anonymous survey to encourage honest answers. Use the answers to see where the workforce needs help and how to implement any training to make employees feel comfortable with existing or new technology.

2. Get leaders involved

A company's leadership team sets the tone for the entire company, so if they complain about new processes and technology, it may be difficult to get employee support. Management needs to be supportive of a digital world and show the positivity of change.

Middle management should assess employees for tech aptitude and focus on boosting all employees' skills and comfort levels.

3. Encourage continuous training and learning

Empower employees with continuous training programs and learning opportunities to improve digital skills. Give them time to educate themselves, but also encourage employees to support one another.

4. Include digital dexterity in company culture

Make digital dexterity a priority with any changes. Loop it into every initiative, and be sure employees understand the change to limit any fear. The adoption of new technology can be challenging, especially with resistance. Be sure to make digital dexterity a priority with employees through training and support.

5. Improve communication and collaboration

An organization with better collaboration and communication can help with employee digital dexterity. Collaboration across multiple departments, such as HR, finance, IT, marketing, sales and service, can enable others to communicate ideas and tips on how to navigate digital processes.

Consider having digital coaches assist others with any key skill set for tasks. Identify an employee with a desire to learn and teach others. This person can then coach other employees through technology issues. Not all digital talent lives in IT, and employees may feel more comfortable asking a co-worker for assistance versus their manager or IT department.

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