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3 reasons your company needs digital leaders

By Academy Xi

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While digital transformation and disruption are not new concepts, the pandemic accelerated the need for any aspects of company processes that weren’t working optimally to be addressed. In many cases the issues were impossible to ignore. And we aren’t just talking about the technology sector – every industry is impacted by digital transformation and the pandemic has amplified it.

As companies require more sophisticated approaches to business to remain competitive, and technology continues to advance, the need for our workforce to be equipped to handle digitally based tasks is paramount and organisations are struggling to keep up.

Thankfully there is a solution that can be driven by senior leadership, which will provide crucial benefits to your company and people for the longer term.

Digital Leaders

If you want your business to thrive rather than simply survive through a digital transformation and you want to retain your people and see them empowered and engaged, then championing digital leaders within your company is vital.

In this article we’ll explore digital leadership and three reasons why your business needs to promote and support digital leaders:

  • What is a Digital Leader
  • Reason #1: Bridge the digital skills gap
  • Reason #2: Save Resources & Increase Productivity
  • Reason #3: Drive Engagement & Innovation

What is a Digital Leader?

It is important to keep in mind that the most impressive tech on the market won’t make a meaningful impact on the bottom line of your business or company culture, but the humans driving it will. In order for digital transformation to truly ‘stick’ in your company, there needs to be commitment from the very top of the organisation and they need to be 100% behind the digital leaders.

Empathetic, patient and forever learning and exploring opportunities to embrace new and emerging technology that can elevate your operation, digital leaders are entrepreneurs at heart. But the role is much more than scoping out new tech.

With a customer-centric focus, a digital leader will join the dots between strategy, culture, structure and technology and using data driven insights, create a vision for your organisation. They inspire individuals and teams by demonstrating the benefits of new ways of working and lead with a focus on desired outcomes.

Recent research completed by McKinsey reveals that digital leaders “appear to keep up a drumbeat in their businesses that can be four times faster, and twice as powerful, as those of their peers.”

Now is the time to begin identifying who would make great digital leaders in your company and here are the top three reasons your organisation needs them.

Reason #1: Bridge the Skills Gap

With 87% of jobs now requiring digital literacy skills, the capability gap is a very real concern for Australia’s workforce and the national government is supporting a range of initiatives to try and remedy the acute situation.

While the challenge of finding strong digital talent continues to be a struggle for HR teams and external recruiters alike, championing digital leaders within your organisation is a proactive step you can take to help transition your workforce and rise to meet the latest digital demands.

One of many workforce trends in 2021 was less of a focus on job roles and more on specific skills needed to give organisations a competitive edge. This trend will certainly continue into 2022 and beyond as company’s address skills shortages and disrupted business models. McKinsey’s quarterly research also supports this, with 53% of executives seeing reskilling their existing workforce as the most useful action to close capability gaps.

  • What is the digital leader’s role in this process?

Aligned with a data driven vision that reflects the needs of the customer and business strategy, digital leaders empower others by sharing their knowledge and skills and identifying and arranging appropriate training needs to increase capability across the company. 

Bolstered with new skills and awareness and understanding of the longer term strategy and where they fit, people are more open to embracing new ideas and change. This results in less trepidation, more confidence and can lead to higher rates of engagement and retention. 

  • Make digital maturity your aim 

Ideally, you want your company to reach digital maturity as a benchmark. This means you are able to respond and adapt to tech challenges and trends effectively as an entire business, and not deflect them to the I.T department. 

With technology continually developing, digital maturity is an ongoing process. While it isn’t something to tick off your hit list, you can still aim for a shared digital growth mindset across the organisation. Individuals across all teams in any industry have digital skill requirements and having the mindset to match is important. 

Digital leaders will support your teams to embrace this mindset and help your company get well on the way to digital maturity.

Reason #2: Save Resources & Increase Productivity

Digital transformation can improve efficiency in organisations by automating what were previously routine tasks. A study by the Hackett Group in the U.S found that administrative and functional labour costs were being reduced by the ‘digital world class’ by 29%.

Your digital leaders can drive transformation in your company to create such savings and reinvest them into tech and training for your existing teams. The outcomes can drive more impact, increase productivity and reduce budgets spent on recruiting consultants or contracting external partners. 

Time is also saved with digital leaders steering projects backed by data. Senior leadership recognise that data driven insights are clear indicators of which direction to take and this ultimately results in faster strategic decision making. This often means getting ideas through the gate and to market at pace.

Reason #3: Drive Engagement & Innovation

The main concepts of digital leadership need to be adopted at the top of an organisation for engagement and innovation to be able to trickle down through the entire business. 

Lead by example. An oldie, but a goodie. 

A report in the PwC Australia Rebooted series clearly emphasises that digital transformation isn’t about investing a large sum into new technology and thinking the job is done. The overarching culture and mindset of your organisation needs to be one of innovation, so that digital transformation exists at the core of your strategy and runs through the veins of what you do, as opposed to being a range of digital side projects.

Digital leadership is about overriding ‘Business As Usual’ thinking. It requires a high level of curiosity and asking a lot of questions of team members because when it comes to innovation, no one has all of the answers. As a result, this encourages engagement, with everyone’s experience and ideas contributing to forming new and creative approaches to old and expired ways of working.

Individuals and teams are enthusiastically encouraged by digital leaders to be fearless, step out of their comfort zones, to say yes to challenges and to seek out opportunities. 

When senior leadership empower digital leaders in their organisations to truly embrace their role, it can change the culture and outcomes of your company and ultimately put you ahead of the competition.

The Bottom Line

It isn’t a question of ‘if’ you should have digital leaders, but when. And the time is now.

Championing digital leaders to drive digital transformation and bridge the skills gap requires your business-model to be reinvented to enable all teams, departments and functions to work together in new ways. This can only occur with commitment from the top of your organisation. 

Taking a proactive role in addressing the digital skills gap in your business will empower individuals and ultimately benefit all stakeholders across your operation and positively impact your bottom line. Encouraging digital leadership within your ranks is a wise move in future proofing your company and keeping it ahead of the competition.

Ready to Put Your Company Ahead of the Digital Curve?

At Academy Xi, our mission is to optimise your organisation’s culture and performance through concise, actionable training in:

  • human-centred design
  • digital business
  • emerging technology.

Help your people thrive in new digital environments, instead of being left behind with training solutions for all staff levels, customised to meet the unique needs of your industry and organisation.