Assessing for Digital Readiness

Although not a new concept, digital readiness (also sometimes referred to as digital agility) has increasingly become an urgent topic of conversation among talent professionals. Of course, the current world-wide pandemic and consequent need for remote work are both responsible for this renewed interest in digital readiness.

But how are companies and the talent professionals that serve them to think about this concept? What are best-practices when assessing for digital readiness, and perhaps more importantly, how does one separate useful concepts from mere hype?

In today’s article, we review the forces shaping contemporary views on digital readiness and discuss how talent management can be enhanced through best-practice assessment of this important construct.

Digital readiness: A new idea?

Reviewing competencies often cited as indicative of digital readiness, the experienced IOP will no doubt see familiar faces. Competencies such as learning agility, resilience and flexibility crop up often in the literature on digital readiness. These same competencies are often components of well-known IOP constructs like growth orientation and other high-potential indicators.

So in some way, digital readiness is a construct that overlaps with these past constructs. But that does not necessarily mean that digital readiness is simply an example of old wine into new bottles.

The unique aspect that digital readiness brings to this ongoing conversation is its focus on the digital world-of-work. It is undeniable that emerging technologies (and the disruption they bring) are shaping work differently compared to non-digital factors. And yet, many of our constructs of high-potential functioning were originally conceived in a non-digital world.

Let’s examine this new world-of-work that gave rise to the need for digital readiness.

The digital world-of-work

The modern, digital world-of-work is shaping the way IO professionals look at and manage talent. Organizations are increasingly aware of the forces that shape this debate, chief amongst them being:

  • COVID-19 and social distancing. The strictures and complexities of the current pandemic has forced organizations to re-evaluate not only their strategies, but how they deal with talent. Having the very best talent, especially talent that can work remotely and within a deeply digital environment, will become even more of a strategic imperative than before.
  • Emergent technologies. With the advent of AI, Big Data, the internet of things, VR/AR, and others, organizations need talent that can adapt to technological innovation and the changes that such innovations will make to business-as-usual. For instance, willingness and ability to cooperate with AI will increasingly become a central digital competence for most knowledge workers.
  • Disruption. With the examples of disruptive companies like AirBnB and Uber, companies are very aware of how simple, yet highly disruptive technologies can overthrow the dominant paradigms in almost any industry. Within such an uncertain context, highly flexible, digitally ready talent can be a massive advantage.
  • Talent supply. Although the current world situation may suggest that talent supply won’t be an urgent concern, the world of work’s changing nature means that finding the right digitally-ready skillset will become increasingly difficult.  Tertiary institutions are not always ideally placed or prepared to equip graduates with such skills, thus necessitating companies doing their own in-house training and development. Therefore, employees who can learn rapidly and flexibly are essential.
  • Generational impact. Although generational differences are often exaggerated in popular media, Millennials and post-Millennial workers will almost certainly shape their workplaces to conform to their expectations of digital technology and a seamless integration of the digital with everyday life. Companies must therefore create contexts within which such workers can perform and thrive.

Assessing for digital readiness

Given the above shaping forces of the modern world of work, we can derive a working definition of digital readiness:

  • Digital readiness is the attitude and ability that enables employees to embrace technology, collaborate with others and work effectively in a modern, digital environment.

Digital readiness is largely a behavioural and ability-based set of competencies. It is not related to being proficient with technology, such as one’s ability to use a spreadsheet application or savviness with mobile devices.

Digital readiness is therefore a more holistic, multifaceted construct than simply being a skill that can be acquired by attending a course.

As such, it stands to reason that identifying employees with high levels of digital readiness requires a more holistic approach to its assessment.

After an exhaustive review of available internationally-recognized, best-of-breed assessment solutions, our product team at TTS identified Aon / cut-e’s digital readiness assessment approach as most aligned with the above definition.

Using its world-class ADEPT-15 assessment, our product partners at Aon / cut-e researched different concepts of digital readiness in an attempt to measure this complex construct in a scientifically defensible manner.

Starting in 2015, Aon / cut-e’s researchers gathered data from across the globe and across multiple industries to understand what digital readiness meant for both organizations and individuals.

This initial research and data gathering led to a more refined study and analysis with the specific aim of deriving an assessment model of digital readiness. The final model that was supported by multiple validation studies captures the core and ancillary competencies needed for digital readiness.

For more detail about the competencies associated with the Aon Digital Readiness Model please click here.

Final thoughts

By using a combination of ability assessments and the ADEPT behavioral measure, our product partners, at Aon/cut-e have delivered a nuanced and well-researched answer to the question of how digital readiness ought to be assessed.

Within the larger context of best-practice assessments, we would argue for the inclusion of assessing for digital readiness as part of bench-strength, development and selection assessments.

The construct lends important additional information to talent professionals and decision-makers in their attempts to fully understand the nature of their existing and new talent. In addition, it augments important research already conducted on remote work and the ideal remote worker profile

The research and studies reviewed for the above work are clear: organizations that develop or select more digitally ready talent will reap the rewards for some time to come, both in the current pandemic and going into the uncertain, post-COVID future.

If you would like to know more about our digital readiness solutions, contact us at