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How to combat ‘Digital Imposter Syndrome’

By Academy Xi

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Less than 40% of Australians feel confident that they can keep up with the rapid pace of change in technology (Digital Nation Australia, 2021).

Most of us have felt digital imposter syndrome at some point in our professional lives. When it comes to teams and organisations, this seemingly innocuous mindset can be a challenge for leaders. It can hold staff back from asking necessary questions, hinder productivity and stall growth. With many of us continuing to ‘Work From Home’, we’ve also lost the ability to physically turn to a colleague for help.

Join our panel of digital experts as we discuss how businesses and individuals can overcome digital imposter syndrome.

Join our speakers: 

  • Matt Tsourdalakis – Lead Product Designer, SelfWealth
  • Anjully Lozano – CX Design Lead, Officeworks
  • Taîss Quartápa – Senior Manager – Strategy & Consulting: Technology Advisory, Accenture

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • How businesses can take their people on the digital transformation journey
  • What mindsets work best to succeed in the ever-evolving digital and tech landscape
  • How workplace cultural change can alleviate anxiety around digital
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Academy Xi Blog

Combatting Digital Imposter Syndrome

By Academy Xi

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“Who can I ask about this system?”

“Everyone seems to know how to use this program except me.”

“I am going to need help – but am embarrassed to ask.”

Sound familiar? The struggle of Digital Imposter Syndrome is real. We’ve all felt it at some point in our personal or professional lives.

Researchers say that up to 70% of people suffer from some form of Imposter Syndrome at one point or another. The fact that none of us are immune to it doesn’t make it any less destructive to our confidence.

The Digital version relates to the way people feel about themselves when interacting with programs, platforms, systems, data, emerging tech etc. One study conducted by Chapman University found that tech-related fears were the second most common fear category amongst adults. 

How often have you encountered a new piece of technology in the workplace and held back from asking the necessary questions to truly understand how it works? You held your tongue. Without this knowledge you won’t know how to leverage its potential. Or your own. Think of that productivity lag. This is how a seemingly innocuous mindset can collectively hold up business growth.

So what can businesses do?

Start by listening.

The starting point for addressing fear is to understand it. Listen to your people. What are you hearing to be the major barriers for them? What are the big pain points? How exactly are they struggling to interact with specific tech? Where do they feel that they fit into the broader digital ecosystem? To quote Zendesk, “Digital transformation can be a rough employee experience”, but it doesn’t have to be when you know what issues are of greatest concern.” 

Take your people on the journey. 

In one of our recent blogs, we discuss that when rolling out digital transformation projects, it is critical to bring your people along for the ride. It all starts with demystification. Bring the technology that underpins your organisation out into the light. To capture the full potential of any single piece of digital technology, your people need to:

  • a) Know how to use it
  • b) Know who to turn to when they have questions and
  • c) Understand where it fits into the broader organisational digital ecosystem

Mx Taîss Quartápa, a senior manager at Accenture, says ‘When I was managing the graduates at a previous workplace, I saw various versions of this [digital imposter syndrome]. The reactions I got really depended on the individual but would range from “No, I can’t do that, I haven’t been trained on that” to “I have only learnt wireframing on x software, not on y software” to “I’m just faking it – I google things and copy what to do – I’m sure that won’t always work”.

Pictured: Taîss Quartápa

Provide the right training at the right time.

All organisational digital transformation is progressive. As a company, you need to crawl before you walk and walk before you run (digitally speaking). This same concept trickles down into the way you support your people. It is about giving everyone the right education at the right time. There is no use rolling out a training program for a new system if they don’t understand where it fits, how it impacts them or why the company has chosen to go in this direction in the first place.

Quartápa says that it is a matter of reframing. ‘If we reframe imposter syndrome to imposter experience perhaps we would evaluate it with a more objective lense.’ They believe self-doubt is normal, especially when venturing into the unknown and challenging territory — something they believe we continue to do daily as part of the very definition of our roles.

Alleviate anxiety through cultural change. 

Businesses need their people to be courageous. The message needs to be: “Let’s prioritise taking the action we need to achieve our goals over looking foolish and feeling fearful”. This is obviously a mindset shift in a working environment where ‘not knowing’ is often seen as weakness. 

In their teams, Quartápa says that “a willingness to ask for help is a key attribute to their success. I expect them to be curious, to keep trying new things and that I know that can be really hard, especially when you’re new and trying to demonstrate competence early. I know everyone says “there are no stupid questions” but there actually is such thing as a so-called stupid question. It’s the question that you could have found the answer to on your own. So, read books, ask peers or google it – there’s no wrong way to admit that you do not know everything, and that you are willing to learn more.”

Our opinion? We believe that the best possible place to start with this change is at the top. Consider how powerful it would be for your Executive Team to declare “We aren’t ‘digital natives’ and could use some help to adapt to these new ways of working.” Talk about courage.

If ever there was a time to support people struggling with Digital Imposter Syndrome it is in the wake of COVID-19. We all now have a much greater reliance on technology. In a time where we are expected to use digital skills intensely across various parts of our jobs, organisations need to be aware of the additional strain this can place on their people.

Want to give your teams a boost in digital confidence?

We have training solutions for every stage of the digital journey. From Intro Courses (1 day) to larger digital transformation programs, we can help. Discuss your digital training needs with us. 

Academy Xi Blog

Digital Transformation. It’s as much about your people as it is your tech.

By Academy Xi

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“By 2025, the average worker will need to learn 7 new digital skills.” (Source)

In terms of the way we work, the rate of change has undeniably sped up thanks to COVID. Where digital disruption was likely, it is now inevitable for most businesses. If 2020 gave us all a massive push toward digital transformation, 2021 is about continuing the forward momentum. 

The backdrop for learning and development has never been more dramatic. To capture the full potential of digital technologies, businesses are going to need to invest in the training and development of their people.

Keep reading for our take on:

  • How ‘digital imposter syndrome’ and a siloed workplace can hamper digital transformation efforts
  • Why incentivising ‘digital-first’ decision making will galvanise your digital transformation
  • What does successful digital upskilling and training look like
  • How to take your people on the digital transformation journey, step by step


Preparedness = people + tech

Most companies are now opting for a ‘digital-first’ mindset as they acknowledge the central role technology now plays to their success. What is a digital-first mindset? Simply put, it means recognising any new opportunity or problem is going to need to be solved as digitally as possible. When done right, it helps to increase efficiency, scale and find new ways to appeal to customers. However, these benefits fall flat when they are not paired with the right learning and development. As Forbes concisely stated, “digital-first business demands a people-first mindset”. Fostering a sustainable digital workforce trumps the implementation of any single technology.

A study from MIT concluded that businesses that invest in digital skills training for their people tend to outperform their competitors. They showed an average of 19% more growth and were 15% more profitable.

As core technologies become increasingly available, differentiation won’t come in the form of the technology itself. Instead, the key factor for success will be around the success of adoption. How well can your people adapt to take advantage of the new opportunities the technology affords. Unsurprisingly, this is all about upskilling for the individual within the broader context of learning and development for the organisation.


Taking your people on the Digital Transformation journey

As a leader, when you are planning for digital transformation, it is crucial to consider the people that are going to bring it to life. People make technology useful. If you have broad-scale, organisation-wide transformation in your plans, giving your people the right tools and mindsets to provide them with the confidence to enable its successful realisation.

  1. Demystify digital. It is often assumed that your people understand the people, systems and processes that make up your digital ecosystem. By laying out how the different parts of your digital business interrelate, you are training your people in an area that can provoke anxiety for many. 
  2. Help your people shed ‘digital imposter syndrome’. Like anything new, technology can be intimidating. To increase new technology adoption and confidence, it is going to take an investment in training and development. Without this, you run the risk of resistance and people finding workarounds. 
  3. Develop a shared language around digital. A shared, common language provides clarity around goals and ensures a common understanding. This is about laying a sound platform for your people to work and collaborate confidently in your ‘new normal’. This will also help drive new technology adoption and increase productivity.
  4. Encourage and incentivise ‘digital-first’ decision making. A digital-first company not only uses technology in innovative ways but also creates a culture, structure and processes to support broader digital uplift. Combine this with a culture of design-thinking and you’ve got a winning combination. Read how brands like Uber, AirBNB, Pepsi, and GE innovate using Design Thinking.
  5. Make tech not just the exclusive domain of your development and tech teams. What we’ve found is that when more people understand the why behind technological change, they are quicker to adopt it. Not everyone needs to be an expert. Even having a baseline level of knowledge can be helpful when needing to work with seemingly complex technology like software for example.
  6. Cultivate an agile talent pool. This is easier said than done but worthy of real, ongoing attention. The more agile your people are, the better your business can constantly reshape itself to address new market challenges, offer new products and services, and fend off competition. 
  7. Appreciate employee differences and provide support. Addressing employees’ differing workplace expectations based on their digital fluency can be extremely challenging. Gen Y and Baby Boomers are likely to find a ‘digital first’ mindset more of a stretch than Millennials and Gen Z. 
  8. Be prepared for a period of adjustment. When it comes to digital transformation, there is often a honeymoon period within organisations. Employees feel buoyed by the promise of a better way of doing things. This is often naturally followed by culture shock when people realize how much they don’t know, then adjustment, and then mastery. 

The benefits for those businesses that execute their digital transformation strategies are going to be profound. Namely, capture the potential of digital technologies and ensure their people are along for the journey. But to do this, continued interest and investment in training and development is required. To capitalize on the opportunity of digital, companies need to adopt a people-first approach to business.


Need help with digital transformation in your organisation?

Check out our suite of courses in disciplines such as Customer-Centricity, Data Capability, Digital Literacy and more. Download a course guide and contact us.

Need more proof that investing in your people is a strong strategy at any point along your digital transformation journey? Check out our latest blog “5 Reasons To Invest in Upskilling”.