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Development & Retention

Strengthen and Enhance Your Digitally-Ready Team

Even before the disruption of the global pandemic, organizations were already dealing with rapid-fire digital transformation. Advances in automation and technology, paired with seismic shifts in business strategy, brought us to the brink of change. Disruption from the pandemic pushed us over the edge. Developing digitally-ready teams shifted from a long-term goal to a short-term imperative nearly overnight.

Since then, employees have found success working remotely and have been empowered to demand greater flexibility with their work. In a tight labor market, employers have to give their teams the freedom to choose when, where and how they work.

But it takes more than transferring your processes online to build a digitally-ready workforce. To work effectively in a long-term virtual environment, teams need underlying digital competencies. Is your workforce ready for the long-term hybrid future of work?

To explore this, Aon launched its Digitally-Ready Workforce Report. We surveyed 1,551 professionals around the world to understand how they perceive their company’s digital readiness. Respondents were asked about their company’s ability to attract, hire, reward, develop and retain digitally-adept and future-ready talent.

As part of this study, Aon looked at team readiness for digital transformation. Here’s what our research revealed about the state of digitally-ready workforces.

Monitor Continued Changes to Teams’ Working Norms

How we work has evolved a lot in a short span of time, and those expectations are still changing. Employees are demanding flexible, hybrid work arrangements, and companies are scrambling to deliver.

Aon’s research, undertaken over the course of 2020 (since remote working became widespread), has found that:
  • 84% of organizations are exploring options for different working models.
  • 77% are actively identifying functions and roles to work virtually.
  • 59% allow employees to self-select whether to work virtually.

Organizations recognize that they won’t be “returning to normal.” We’re working within a new normal now, and that requires giving employees control over their work lives.

We conducted our Digitally-Ready Workforce Report in early 2020. At the time, only 53% of respondents believed that their teams were well-prepared to work in a digital environment. Most organizations recognized the need to improve how they support their virtual teams.

But only 25% of respondents reported that their teams operated flexibly. We found that flexibility varied by sector. Technology and telecom companies reported a high degree of flexibility across their teams’ working processes. Companies in the financial services, transportation, and logistics industries, however, reported less flexibility.

More than half of respondents haven’t yet defined the competencies needed to achieve digitalization goals. Identifying these critical competencies, and building the reskilling infrastructure to attain them, are critical steps to building digitally-ready teams.
 

Develop an Infrastructure for Digital Transformation

We’re no longer wed to the office environment. Workers have proven that they can be high-performing in a remote environment. Companies that don’t allow that flexibility will risk losing their top talent. Organizations will experience increasing pressure to keep roles remote when they can be performed remotely.  

To accommodate this demand without losing productivity, we must prepare our workforces to work with a higher degree of flexibility. Developing skills and competencies for an increasingly virtual workplace will be a focal point moving forward.

Since the pandemic forced their hand, companies across the globe have adopted new technology to support virtual team working. But the shift to remote work during the pandemic was reactive.

Operating effectively as a virtual team is about much more than integrating advanced technology into your daily processes. For your workforce to thrive in a data-driven environment, team members need to practice enhanced communication and self-management skills. To develop those skill sets, you need a workforce that is agile, curious, and quick to learn new things.
 

You can’t achieve a digitally-ready workforce without the right infrastructure in place. According to our survey, only 35% of organizations have processes in place for determining digital potential. Now that we have time to anticipate changes, we can develop the infrastructure to enable a digitally-ready culture.


Leading teams virtually requires more intention and targeted communication than in-person leadership. The behaviors needed to propel teams forward in a dispersed environment differ from those needed for in-person teams. Dispersed leadership also requires channels for more fluid pathways for career progression.

You have to identify teams and leaders that exemplify future-ready competencies like learnability, agility, and curiosity. Only once you can pinpoint these traits across your organization can you begin to strengthen your digitally-ready workforce.
 

Identify the Traits of a Digitally-Ready Workforce

Digital readiness refers to a person’s ability and enthusiasm to navigate new ways of working. It is about embracing constant change, adapting to ever-developing technologies, and leveraging the advantages they offer. Digital readiness does not refer to how skilled a person is at specific tasks.

For years, Aon has researched the impact of digital transformation on the workplace. Our research reveals the competencies you need in a digitally-ready workforce. Traditional competency frameworks fail to emphasize the behaviors and abilities required for a digital, future-ready workforce.

Aon’s research set out to explore and define the core behaviors and competencies that prepare your company for constant change. This enabled us to build our Digital Readiness Model. This model brings together the three core competencies of learnability, agility, and curiosity with eight supplemental competencies. These competencies enable your team to work flexibly within a virtual environment.

Flexibility is another important trait to foster in a digitally-ready workforce. The flexibility dimension of Aon’s ADEPT-15 measures the extent to which a person can adapt in their approach to work. Use it to identify employees who score high on flexibility in your workforce.
 

Employees who score highly for flexibility are comfortable being uncomfortable.

They constantly push themselves past their comfort zones to gain new experiences. Flexible employees are eager to take on projects or assignments where new knowledge or skills are required. They will be more likely to seek challenges and new experiences at work.

Currently, only 20% of survey respondents strongly agree that their teams are prepared to work in a virtual environment. Companies need to reskill their workforces to foster digitally-ready teams capable of navigating a virtual environment.

Reskill Teams to Thrive in a Digital Workplace

To deliver continued success, organizations must invest in strengthening and enhancing future-ready competencies in the workforce. Traditionally, companies have looked externally to fill skills gaps, but external resources are scarce and currently in high demand.

Instead of relying on external talent, invest in reskilling, upskilling, and developing your existing workforce. Reskilling your workforce is more reliable, makes more economic sense, and fosters a resilient organization.

The essential skills and behaviors that your organization needs may already be in place at pivotal points across the company. Use assessments to identify points where these skills and behaviors are strongest. In the short term, assessment data identifies individual managers and employees who display digital readiness. Rely on this data to help you decide which employees are ready to participate in long-term virtual work models.

Assessment data also lays the groundwork for long-term reskilling. Once you know which employees are most likely to thrive in a virtual workplace, you can study their habits. These employees make good candidates for future leadership roles. Employees who score highly on agility, curiosity, and learnability can help influence and reskill their peers.

Use workforce assessment data to identify where digital skills are weakest. This will give you a better understanding of where you need to add digitally-ready teams to develop a resilient workforce. Create reskilling channels to develop future-ready competencies at the weakest points in your organization.

Create Opportunities to Foster Digitally-Ready Teams

Soft skills like agility, curiosity, and learnability are difficult to teach. But exposing employees to the influence of digitally-ready teams among their peers can help grow those traits across the workforce. Digitally-ready talent can model future-proofed behaviors for employees who are less digitally competent.

The best way to learn agility, curiosity, and learnability is to practice them. To do that, employees need opportunities to take a chance on something new in a safe, controlled environment. Employees need to learn to react flexibly to changing circumstances.

Encourage employees to cross-train in the company of a seasoned colleague. This allows them to ask questions and exercise their own judgment in real-time, on-the-job learning.

The more exposure employees get to new roles, the more they’ll be able to expand their capacity for digital competence. Create channels for employees to move within the company. Make career opportunities transparent, and encourage employees to identify areas of interest from among your career roster.

Reward managers for helping their reports find points in the organization where they can learn digital skills. Train managers to help employees optimize their unique skills, even if that means losing them to another department.

As you build fluid, flexible teams, you should see digital competencies increasing in your workforce. To set a baseline, measure your workforce for digital competence before developing transparent career pathways. Monitor internal career movement for a specified amount of time. Assess your workforce again to quantify the impact that exposure to new workplace scenarios has had on digital competencies.

Workplace change is constant, and you need a workforce that can anticipate and react to change. By strengthening and enhancing digitally-ready teams, you can begin preparing your workforce for the future.
Aon

Aon | Assessment Solutions

Aon's Assessment Solutions provides clients with powerful tools and insights to help them make better talent decisions at every stage of the employee lifecycle. This includes pre-hire assessments, identifying future leaders, screening for digital skills and agility, and AI-enabled solutions.

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