Note: This article leverages Accenture’s Digital Fluency framework concepts and research. Views reflected in this article are my personal views and reflection. 

The Covid-19 took on the role of Chief Innovation for most businesses. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound influence on the way businesses now function. It helped businesses accelerate the Digital Transformation to unprecedented levels and invalidated all the past assumptions. Now every business is a Technology business. Going digital used to be an aspiration for businesses, but now it’s imperative for survival. 

Businesses no longer view Digital transformation solely as a source of innovation. It has become a requirement for business continuity, enabling teams to work anywhere and organizations to rapidly adjust in the face of a crisis. Whereas they typically used to move forward cautiously with digital transformation, today, companies rely on it for the stability and agility it offers their operations, workforce, and customers. At the very least, Covid-19 has made remote working or hybrid working the new normal. While most companies could shift their workforce online without any issues, some struggled with outdated tools, poor digital setups, and most importantly, the absence of Digital Literacy amongst the workforce, supply chain ecosystem, and target customers. 

While remote working is here to stay, the future is a hybrid working model. This new system of working is a game-changer, and the faster businesses acclimatize, the quicker their productivity will rise. As enterprises move from the Respond stage to the Renew stage, their primary focus should be on building Digital Resilience through Digital Fluency. In the long run, companies can mitigate risks, swiftly adapt to change, and come out of future crises stronger. 

What is Digital Literacy?


Well, for starters, thinking a digitally literate person is someone who knows how to do essential online functions-like checking emails, Googling for relevant information is a fallacy. 

Simply put – Digital literacy means how proficient an individual is with technology and how well they can use it to optimize your productivity. 


Think of digital literacy as learning a new language. A new learner will be able to get by with essential words. But a person fluent in a foreign language will be able to get by and understand the nuances of the language and have deep, meaningful conversations, read books in that language, or even write books and poems in that language. So, you see, Digital fluency helps with many things like discovering new knowledge, unleashing creativity, and yielding increased productivity. It has a multiplier effect on the workforce, and in turn, the organization. 

A study conducted by Accenture in 2020 revealed, “Digital fluency is the lynchpin to unlocking workforce agility. Accenture found that digital fluency framework predicts and explains 54% of a worker’s ability to be agile.”


Accenture Global Digital Fluency study shows only 14% of companies are digitally mature. These companies capture strong returns in innovation, people experience, and customer value because their workforce has learned to be agile.

Digital fluency is the missing ingredient in many digital transformation efforts. In most cases, I would argue that it’s not the technology that’s holding an employee back but the lack of digital infrastructure, Culture, leadership, and skills, which are required to thrive alongside technologies.

Digital literacy in the workforce can be tricky, especially for a large organization with thousands of employees. Companies must consider each employee’s age, background, educational qualification, and current digital literacy level. Although the challenges are beyond Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), it also includes resistance to change, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), tracking the change management, continuous process of change, etc. 

To be successful, businesses will need to provide the right digital tools and training to the workforce, including leadership and cultural support to build Tech intensity, I.e., an organization’s ability to adapt and integrate the latest technology to develop its unique digital capability and trust factor. Thus, businesses need to look at standard change management processes (e.g., Prosci Change Management).

Digital Fluency is an integrated framework measured by your digital workforce’s technology quotient (TQ) + Digital operations + Digital foundations + Digital leadership and Culture.

Digital Fluency Framework

Digital Literacy adoption for any business needs to start with the identification of different Digital Personas. Each persona comes with its own unique needs and readiness to be digitally fluent. Identifying these people in the workforce allows companies to bridge the digital skill gap and unlock greater agility. Based on the current understanding and different levels of digital prowess of the workforce, at a high level, most of the personas would fit in 


4 Digital Persona Arch types. 

  1. The Remote Collaborator
  2. The Disciplined Achiever
  3. The Adaptive Team Player
  4. The Relentless Innovator
Arch TypeCharacteristicsHow to improve / Action
The Remote CollaboratorMotivated by a sense of belonging and see technology as a critical enabler of their growth.The company needs to show them how new digital tools add value to their work. Create personalized roadmaps, milestones, and social recognition.
The Disciplined AchieverThey are highly motivated to learn digital skills and want to be financially rewarded when upskilled.Make sure they work in cross-functional teams. Set clear learning goals and accountabilities for obtaining new digital skills.
The Adaptive Team PlayerThey actively seek team-based environments that challenge them to grow in their careers and highly enthusiastic about new digital tools, and look towards organizations to provide customer-grade technology experiences.Consider cohort learning models to explore new ways of working in social contexts. Gamification of learning may be a good motivator
The Relentless InnovatorThey are among the most educated of all three personas and actively seek to push the digital boundaries at work.Giving them the time and space to tinker with new technology motivates these people. Also, consider putting them in leadership positions where they can mentor others.

Check your Digital Fluency Level 🡪 the Digital Fluency Quiz. 

Bridging the Digital Literacy Gap

The COVID-19 highlighted the Digital Achievement Gap, I.e., the Gap between the high-performing digital-savvy companies and the under-performers.

Digital transformation empowers an organization to be more efficient and ready for change, creating new experiences for workers and customers alike. Some of the emerging technologies that are an integral part of digital fluency, such as the cloud, can equip the business to pivot quickly amid change and allow for the democratization of AI, robotics, and self-enablement for workers. But someone must lead the organization’s journey to hone its digital edge.

So how do companies go about this mammoth task? Here are five ways companies can identify and bridge the literacy gap. 

1. Adapting is vital:


When trying to reinvent a company digitally, the first thing to do is to be mindful of the paradigm shift. The more quickly the company’s leaders adapt, the easier it becomes for the workforce to sharpen their digital skills. Leaders need to work alongside employees to equip them with the right digital infrastructure, Culture, leadership, and skill-development opportunities.


2. Create a strong Foundation – Reimagine the role of  the CIOs:


A company’s digital transformation is based on how well employees understand that digital platforms and tools will enable their performance growth rather than hinder it. They need to be made aware of the advantages these technologies offer, and only then will they be willing to make the change. Moreover, small or large businesses need to offer compelling new experiences for their workforce to help them become more tech-savvy. 


As technologies become business partners for companies, CIOs need to build a tech-forward strategy that enables a higher and faster growth rate. Furthermore, CIOs now need to go beyond just meeting with C-suite. They need to gain in-depth and nuanced insights into creating a digitally rich work environment that benefits the employees and subsequently the business. 

Technologies equip people with the right skills and transform the ways of working to benefit the business as a whole.

Digital technology is reinventing how we work but don’t worry, and it’s not trying to replace us. If anything, it showed us that humans are an integral part of the workforce; now that’s a win-win.

Pro Tips 

a.) Businesses need to evolve their approach in this new era of affinity between humans and machines. 

b.) Plan for humans and intelligent machines / Bots working together to improve productivity, innovation, and growth and allocating work to people + machines, balancing augmentation and automation. Build project-based teams and map skills to new roles you create.

c.) Plan for Culture, processes, and policies for Composite AI (Human + AI-powered personal digital assistants / Bots/robots working together. We already see the Machine becoming the customer or action originator; the Machine acting as intermediary approver and decision router. Soon we could see a machine-to-machine transaction within the context of day-to-day working and decision making.

d.) Build and deploy “Systems of Knowledge and Learning Experience” and start with maybe simple on-demand digital learning experiences and other custom programs, continuously assess, re-skill up-skill, and certify the workforce to lead now and in the future.


3. Switch to Cloud-based solutions:


For large businesses to truly hone in on their digital edge, especially in this fast-changing environment, they need to make the switch to cloud-based programs and devices. Cloud services offer the flexibility necessary to ramp up business needs and enable employees to easily access information that can help them make informed decisions, be more intuitive towards changing business needs, and improve their work quality. 


Additionally, cloud-based programs also provide resources that support AI and various other systems that help determine business opportunities and fix any operational problems and provide top-notch customer service. 

4.  Raise your Technology Quotient:


For a company to be digitally fluent, it has to raise its employees’ Technology Quotient (TQ). To do that, the company must first assess the digital skill of each employee. This helps businesses understand workers’ enthusiasm, expertise, and value seen across technologies. Through surveys, digital tests, and even opinion polls, the company will get a fair understanding of how keen and willing employees are to improve their TQ. 

Once companies make the assessment, they need to help personnel understand that they are nurturing their skills by sharpening their digital literacy

However, before training employee’s companies need to recognize that every employee is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be used to train everyone. A few factors need to be considered:

  • How enthusiastic an employee is to the new model of working 
  • People need to have skills and the competency to be digitally efficient 
  • Employees need to understand the value of being digitally skilled 
  • Prioritize skills, balancing between technical, judgment, and social abilities. 
  • Cater to their willingness to learn and accelerate training with VR, AR, and AI.

Companies need to take a holistic approach to their enablement, knowledge sharing, and learning experience of the workforce. They can set up a one-on-one training session with higher-up management, use a visual aid to help them better understand the process, offer the flexibility of online classes, bring in industry experts and hold workshops, etc. The key is to combine various methods of training and to provide unwavering support throughout the training process. 

Companies need to build and deploy “Systems of Knowledge and Learning Experience” and start with simple on-demand digital learning experiences and other custom programs, continuously assess, re-skill up-skill, and certify the workforce to lead now and in the future. 

To be successful in this journey of Tech Intensity and to raise the Technology Quotient, Businesses need to create continuous feedback loops between the work, skills, learning, and credentials required–both for the jobs of today and tomorrow. With Hybrid Workstyle and AI Augmented work environments, businesses need to define productivity much more broadly–inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing–to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates, and those who are in the workforce today. All of this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.

5.  Refine the journey as required

As with any strategy, companies need first to measure the digital fluency of their personnel and then create a baseline measurement of the current digital literacy level. This measurement will serve as a yardstick that will help keep track of the company’s digital literacy growth. It will also help businesses understand and take account of any stumbling blocks. Thus, this measurement can be adjusted according to what works and doesn’t work for the employees and the company. 

To help make this baseline measurement easier, organizations can implement a Digital Skills framework. It may be a topic for the next post.

Is Digital Fluency alone enough?

According to the research group IDC, being digitally literate isn’t enough. Companies also need to start being Digitally Resilient. 

Sandra Ng, Group VP of IDC Asia/Pacific, has this to say: “Perhaps the most worrying takeaway from the recent pandemic concerns our lack of preparedness as nations, industries, and companies to deal with similar systemic crises, which are inevitable in our increasingly digital and interconnected world. Old approaches have proven wanting. Nonetheless, organizations must not only respond fast to threats but also learn to rise above them opportunistically. Our new digital world calls out for a new technology-enabled approach to deal with future crisesDigital resiliency.”

Digital Resiliency was previously only associated with online literacy and cybersecurity. Still, of late, digital resiliency means how swiftly and effortlessly a company can operate through adversity, readjusting to the current situation without any financial impairment, damage to its reputation, all while safeguarding its customers. 

Digital Resiliency is more critical now than ever before because it helps companies bounce back quicker and spring forward from future disruptions. More importantly, they help businesses capitalize on the changing conditions. And the only way a company can become digitally resilient is to be digitally fluent. Simply put, digital businesses will not just survive but thrive during challenging times by building their company’s optimal digital capabilities to support their strategies no matter what the source of disruption.

So how can a company become digitally resilient? For starters, investing in Digital Infrastructure (referred to as Digital Foundation in the Digital Fluency framework). To stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to invest in digital tools and technology, data, analytics, and automation. Moreover, businesses need to prepare for the future by developing data-driven decision-making to handle future volatility. They also need to identify and solve any vulnerabilities their business faces, adjust to the rapidly changing customer needs, empower employees with digital fluency, enhance cybersecurity and ensure financial liquidity.  

Summary

The Covid-19 pandemic has helped companies realize the importance of digital technologies. Woven through the profound sense of uncertainty shaping our world, there is a sense of tech intensity. Businesses now need to capitalize on this opportunity and grow stronger from this adversity by investing in digital literacy. That will help organizations rebound from crises quickly and create a sustainable competitive advantage in the future.

The past year has shown us that being digitally literate is the future of business. It helps create flexibility in the workplace, helps solve many challenges faced by companies, and paves the way for employees to gain a skill set that can transform their careers and help them explore new job opportunities and open them up to more unique markets.In conclusion, I believe Digital Resilience is a strategic imperative for every company to underpin competitive advantage in an uncertain world. If done right, improving a company’s Digital Fluency can build long-term Digital Resilience, improve workforce productivity and ensure stability.