RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Digital transformation has been a priority for companies in recent years, but now it is an imperative for survival.
  • Our research found that digitally fluent organizations capture strong returns in innovation, people experience and customer value.
  • The 2020 Accenture Global Digital Fluency Study uncovered four digital personas that reveal distinct patterns of digital workers.
  • Understanding these personas allows business leaders to identify them in their own workforce, and close necessary skills gaps.


Being digital is an imperative for survival

Almost overnight, organizations worldwide had to move the majority of their workforces and operations offsite due to the pandemic. This feat would not have been possible without digital technology. Digital transformation has been a priority for companies in recent years, with talk about managing change, equipping workers with digital skills and moving to the cloud. Today, this move is no longer an aspiration. Being digital has become an imperative for survival.

Digital fluency is a framework measured by your digital workforce’s technology quotient (TQ) + digital operations + digital foundations + digital leadership and culture.

Unlock your people’s potential

Accenture Research talked to more than a dozen chief information officers (CIOs) who shared their success stories and concerns for the future. Remarkably, during the pandemic, many technology leaders were able to take an 18-month digital transformation plan and execute it over a weekend. The speed of these digital transitions was unprecedented. However, not all organizations have built on this digital opportunity to create a thriving enterprise.

Our 2020 Accenture Global Digital Fluency Study shows that just 14% of companies are digitally mature. The organizations that are most digitally fluent can capture strong returns in innovation, people experience and customer value because their workforce has learned to be agile.

Business leaders—and workers, too—are struggling to navigate this new technology-enabled world of work. To be successful, workers need to have access to digital tools and training—but also leadership and cultural support—to unlock their full potential and ingenuity.

Becoming digitally fluent

Digital fluency should be thought of in a manner similar to how people use languages. If someone is literate in a language, they will understand the basic tools of speech such as reading and speaking. However, if someone is fluent in a language, they will be able to create something new with the tools, such as craft a poem or engage in robust conversation. Fluency unlocks newfound knowledge, creativity and innovation that literacy is never able to achieve on its own.

Being digitally fluent is no different. Digital fluency allows people to build on technological foundations and not just work alongside them, but also unleash newfound creativity and ways of working. It may be no surprise that our research found digital fluency is the lynchpin to unlocking workforce agility. We found that our digital fluency framework predicts and explains 54% of a worker’s ability to be agile.

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

Digital Fluency Framework

Why digital fluency? Digitally fluent companies are leading the pack in revenue growth.

2.7

times more likely to have experienced high revenue (over 20%) growth over the past three years.

5.4

times more likely to still be projecting high revenue growth (over 20%) in the next three years.

69%

are considered a great place to work by their workers.

68%

lead their peers in customer satisfaction.

62%

lead their peers in innovation.

61%

lead their peers in operational efficiency.

Four digital personas

The digital fluency framework simplifies the complexity of honing your edge with the help of a digital workforce, but it is not a one-size-fits-all formula. We mined our research data for distinct patterns that would show different types of digital workers. We found four statistically unique “people” in our dataset. These personas include:

  • Remote Collaborator
  • Disciplined Achiever
  • Adaptive Team Player
  • Relentless Innovator

These four personas show up across all industries, geographies and functions. And each of their digital experiences differ depending on their own unique needs, tenures, comfort with remote work and perceived digital support.

Each persona comes with their own unique needs and readiness to be digitally fluent. Identifying these people in your own workforce allows you to accelerate closing your digital skills gap to unlock greater agility.

Digital workers on the digital fluency spectrum

Amplify your edge

Business leaders have made the move to digital. But it’s time to now sharpen your digital edge by promoting digital skills and adoption in the workforce. The entire C-suite—from the chief executive officer to chief information officer and chief human resources officer—has a role to play in equipping workers with the right digital infrastructure, culture, leadership and skill-development opportunities to thrive alongside technologies.

The digital fluency framework is a smart way to plan for the path forward.

Build a digital foundation

COVID-19 highlighted the gap between the high-performing digital-savvy companies and 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 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 honing its digital edge.

The CIO has an integral role to play on the journey—yet the role itself has changed. The CIO is no longer the purveyor of services to the business. Digital has become embedded in the way the business works. The CIO can help lead the journey and set the timeline for building the digital foundation, from rotation of applications and data to cloud-based solutions, to creating a digital workplace rich with opportunities for self-enablement and automation.

Improve workforce TQ

The workforce’s technology quotient (TQ)—workers’ enthusiasm, expertise and value seen across technologies—is an important part of the digital resiliency framework. Organizational psychologists long ago determined that to move the needle on digital adoption, three factors need to be in place:

  • The right attitude. People must be enthusiastic about the topic.
  • The right skills. People need to have the actual skills and competencies in place to be successful.
  • Social relevance. People must see that its valuable to the job and organization.

Few digital skilling initiatives take all three facets into consideration. Our study uncovered that although digital tools and technologies are valuable to many, when it comes to skills, workers lag far behind.

Use data analytics to determine the readiness of your workforce to work alongside technologies. Where is the gap – in their enthusiasm, skillset or relevancy of value? What does each persona need to increase their TQ levels? Design performance, rewards and learning around each type of digital worker.

Understanding the current global digital workforce TQ

Enable digital operations

Organizations must infuse digital technologies, such as cloud, into daily operations to enhance performance. These technologies enable people to work more efficiently, make informed and fast decisions and be more responsive to changing business needs. But it is not as simple as just digitizing processes. Digital transformation must be viewed more holistically with considerations about how it affects processes, policies and way in which people work and interact with customers.

When the technologies are there and people are equipped with the right skills to use them, it can transform ways of working to benefit the business as a whole. For instance, enabling greater access to information can help people to be more effective in their jobs. But people need to understand the value these innovations bring. Otherwise, technologies sit idle and are not brought to bear to improve day-to-day work.

Shape a culture of digital leadership

Digital transformation affects all aspects of business. For it to work, the digital foundation, digital operations and digitally skilled workforce collectively need the backing of leaders and a culture that is aligned on digital. What should new work structures look like? How should roles and responsibilities evolve? In what ways can digital enable better knowledge sharing and collaboration? How can leaders be trained to communicate better, have greater empathy and earn trust in a remote work environment?

Digital introduces new challenges for workers, but it can also solve many of them. For instance, as remote work takes hold, people may be in greater need of flexible work arrangements. They may want opportunities to co-innovate and they may want access to training that enables them to develop the right skillsets to transition into higher paying jobs and explore new roles and industries. Digital is what can make all of this possible.

Being digitally fluent will be key to future survival and growth. Our research shows there is a long runway ahead of many organizations. However, people are eager and ready to learn. Where will you get started?

Eva Sage-Gavin

Senior Managing Director, Global lead – Talent & Organization / Human Potential


Emma McGuigan

Lead – Microsoft Business Group


David Shaw

Managing Director – Talent & Organization/Human Potential

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