The changes in our fast-paced, digital environment demand from us to constantly keep up and adapt. While this is a great driving force for innovation, it can be overwhelming. More than ever, having the right strategies in place to observe, learn, and implement processes to ride on the wave of digitalisation is essential. In this article, we’ll walk you through the ways in which Digital Leadership helps your business cope with these fluctuating demands and how it can improve the employee experience (EX) at your company.
What do we mean by digital?
Before we get into the details of digital leadership, let’s be clear on what we mean by ‘digital’. You might instantly think of all things social media: posts, updates, stories, tweets, reels, and the many other types of audio-visual content your see via your mobile devices everyday. While this is part of the digital transformation, there’s much more to it.
From the dawn of the internet to the constant developments and improvements that make digital processes smoother, more user-friendly, and more applicable in everyday-life— this is digital transformation. It’s sending messages to friends across the globe, and conveniences like automatic check-outs in supermarkets.
These innovations impact both our daily lives and the ways businesses operate, making entire positions redundant while creating entirely new ones that haven’t existed before. It is no wonder that some compare the far-reaching effects of digitalisation and globalisation with the Industrial Revolution.
What is digital leadership?
How then does digital leadership come into play? If by ‘leadership’ we mean the strategies on how to lead, manage, and inspire a business, digital leadership then means how such strategies need to be aligned with the technological innovations around us. This means using the digital assets of a company to make improvements on all levels— organisational and individual.
Organisationally, it can mean investing in new technologies to keep a competitive edge in the market. Boosting research and innovation means not only keeping up with digital transformations, but being a driving force in creating them and leading rather than following. This can be applied both to internal processes, as well as the implementation of new services and products. These can include areas such as Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR), but they could also be the use of an AI powered chat-bot on your website. Digital leaders therefore make sure that digital assets are used in the best possible way and to their maximum value and capacity.
Why digital leadership matters for employee experience (EX)
What does this mean on the individual level? A company is made up of employees. So, while making sure to incorporate the latest digital strategies, it is important not to forget that these need to be aligned with the individuals working at the company. This is especially important at a time when different generations from Boomers to Gen Z are part of the workforce. Different levels of digital competency and skills shape the forms digital leadership strategies will take.
In this sense, effective digital leadership strategies could, for instance, entail conducting employee surveys to assess levels of digital competence, offering opportunities to up-skill, or training courses to increase digital literacy based on the results. No digital innovation will be useful if employees don’t know how to make use of them effectively. The same goes for leaders. In order to successfully implement digital tools and processes, leaders need to understand their advantages and limitations, as well as have a clear idea of how to use them effectively with company goals in mind. This is also important for monitoring the changes and see how effective they are.
Throughout these shifts, leaders should maintain culture at all times so that changes can take root properly.Stefan Katanic, “Effective Digital Leadership Is Key to Digital Transformation” (Forbes)
At another level, digital leadership does not only deal with ways of working, but with ways of thinking. For example, understanding the uses of digital tools for employees, or with target audiences in mind. Digital transformation refers to our ways of communicating, of reading and watching, of consuming. All of these things can be done from the comfort of our homes now, as the digital sphere is one beyond geography. This means leaders not only need a clear understanding of the functions of digital tools, but the creativity and thinking-outside-of-the box approach to find ways to adapt, improve, and invent. While this is necessarily linked to putting in effort and resources, the benefits reaped from it are extensive.
The benefits of strong digital leadership
- Keeping a competitive edge will help you outperform your competitors.
- Implementing transformations (and not just investing in flashy tools or projects) helps facilitate meaningful change.
- Furthering your employees’ digital literacy and providing training will help improve the employee experience (at your company while also improving operations.
- In the long run, this will help to improve sales and increase revenue.
How to measure, test, and improve digital leadership
Feedback solutions can be an essential tool in understanding where improvements can be made. With the help of surveys, leaders can get a feeling for the digital literacy of their employees to see where up-skilling can be useful. It’s also a good tool to source creativity among employees by asking for their input and ideas— after all, they are the ones using the tools and processes. 360-degree feedback also helps to feed back ideas through the different levels and helps to get management and leaders evaluated. This helps check the effectiveness of their digital leadership and monitor the changes made.