Enabling employees who will drive your business into the future and beyond

How digital dexterity is a powerful tool against disruption and change

By Tim Harnett

Organizations today all struggle for relevance and longevity. With digital disruption affecting every industry, the average company tenure is predicted to shrink from 24 to 12 years by 2027. The lifespan of an organization depends on its ability to adapt to new technologies and processes, and failure to adapt to digital change shortens that lifespan. Both traditional and newer industries face internal disruption and external innovation-driven changes, forcing everybody to reassess how best to prepare employees for the new reality of work.

To stay relevant, organizations must make digital processes a core part of their strategies. Thankfully, digital process expectations are evolving. “Employees of all generations are adopting many of the same perceptions and traits around technology,” says Skip Marshall, vice president and chief technology officer of human capital management at Tribridge, a DXC Technology company. “We’re starting to see a flattening of the technology curve from an expectation perspective. Technology adoption and assimilation is happening at all generational levels.”

Organizations will need employees with digital dexterity to adapt to change and combat disruption. But what, exactly, is digital dexterity? Marshall explains: “Digital dexterity means having the adaptability and flexibility to quickly and iteratively leverage technology advancements that will improve your organization. Technology evolves at an exponential pace, requiring a nonlinear approach to keep up with exponential change.”

Why should organizations nurture digital dexterity in their employees? “Without these skills, you’ll end up with a gap between what technology provides and offers and your employees’ ability to adapt to change,” Marshall says. “Ideally you want your employees to progress and advance, so your organization can advance as well.” How can organizations develop digital dexterity in their employees? Marshall suggests several ways.

Have senior management lead the way

Employees need senior leaders to set the tone and example of how to succeed in this new environment. Senior leaders should set clear objectives and realize that addressing disruption is more about developing people than implementing new processes. “Technology itself is irrelevant if employees aren’t adaptable,” Marshall says. “Your employees need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, leveraging their cognitive capability around technology and adjust to what’s coming. There’s no other way to keep pace.” Specific technologies come and go, but the need to react to new processes is pervasive. Employees can’t be experts on technology without also being experts on knowledge. Strong leadership allows learning to happen by example, instilling a learning mindset throughout the organization.

Senior leaders should find ways to enable learning and development among all individuals — not just their high performers. Collaborative environments can help with this goal.

Provide a collaborative environment

Organizations should do all they can to create a team-centric environment where their employees can learn and grow. Workplace culture will play a big part in organizational survival. “Your culture will drive what the workplace has to do to understand how to move forward,” Marshall says. Culture includes how organizations are structured and networked. When addressing digital disruption, collaborative environments will benefit both employee and employer and best be able to meet challenges. “Hierarchal structures don’t necessarily allow for the adaptability and flexibility of the future workforce,” Marshall says. “Team models and Agile approaches to managing employees will become critical in the future.”

Digital dexterity requires more than just IT skills; soft skills will also be crucial to solving tomorrow’s problems. Organizations should think beyond what technology they need employees to learn and focus on how best to create true collaboration within their teams. At the same time, employees should view technology as an opportunity, not something to be feared. Viewing technology as a way to learn new skills and chart their own paths allows employees to contribute more to the organization than if they believe technology will just eliminate their jobs. Automation may make some jobs redundant, but it will also create new jobs and opportunities. In the past 25 years, 33 percent of new jobs were ones that hadn’t existed before, in areas associated with technology. In the coming years, digital processes may continue to create new jobs and worker opportunities.

An organization’s intangible assets (processes, people and ideas) can now make up as much as 80 percent of its value. With so much value driven by intangible things, proactive organizations need to put their employees first. Marshall reiterates that digital dexterity is less about technology than about people. “At the heart, digital dexterity is driven based on the development and growth of individuals — their ability to take these advances and apply them within the context of your organization and drive your business forward.”

1 EAnthony, S. et al. (2018). 2018 Corporate Longevity Forecast: Creative Destruction is Accelerating.
2 Manyika, J. (2017). Technology, jobs, and the future of work. McKinsey & Company.
3 Skroupa, C. (2017). “How Intangible Assets Are Affecting Company Value In The Stock Market.” Forbes.

DXC Technology (DXC: NYSE) is the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company, serving nearly 6,000 private and public-sector clients from a diverse array of industries across 70 countries. The company’s technology independence, global talent and extensive partner network deliver transformative digital offerings and solutions that help clients harness the power of innovation to thrive on change. DXC Technology is recognized among the best corporate citizens globally. For more information, visit dxc.technology.