Determining your organization’s Digital bench strength

The current and future world-of-work may take many forms but one constant is certain: it will be digitally complex. Ever since the heralding of the fourth industrial revolution, employers have been understandably concerned about their organizations’ flexibility and resilience in the face of vast (and often disruptive) changes that digital technology brings.

Indeed, as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and similar innovations begin to alter the business landscape, companies need to be especially adept at identifying the kind of talent they need to adapt to and prosper in the digital world.

Talent managers and IOPs will increasingly be called upon to assist the organizations they serve in this goal, and in today’s article, we examine best practices in ensuring that companies have the right digital talent (and leadership) on board.

Digital Readiness and Talent

Identifying high potential talent is a traditionally central competency for IOPs. But what about digital talent?

Although incorporating several familiar themes from previous conceptions of high potential talent, digitally ready employees need additional competencies and skills to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.

Our best-of-breed product partner, Aon Assessment Services recently completed a global survey of 1500 respondents from a wide variety of industries on the topic of digital readiness.

Some key findings from their survey:

  • Developing and executing effective digital strategies remain challenging for many organizations.
  • Supporting and cultivating digitally flexible teams are perennial problems for most organizations.
  • Most organizations have not identified the competencies required to thrive in a digital world.
  • The development of internal digital talent remains a challenge for most
  • There are major differences between how employees view their teams’ digital readiness compared to management.
  • Most organizations still reward in ways that won’t attract or retain digital talent
  • Most talent managers are especially aware of the lack of digitally ready talent, often more so than management.

Given the above findings, talent managers are understandably worried about their organizations’ ability to detect or develop digital talent.

Competencies needed for Digital Readiness

In response to the challenges discussed above, Aon’s research teams have developed a robust, validated approach to digital readiness that is based on digital behavior studies pioneered in the early days of the digital revolution.

What the researchers have discovered is that digitally ready talent tend to have the following core competency clusters in common:

  • Learnability: digital talented employees tend to seek continual self-improvement and capitalize on learning opportunities.
  • Agility: digitally talented employees tend to be flexible and tolerant of changing situations or environments.
  • Curiosity: digitally talented employees tend to be open to change and novelty.

In examining these foundational competencies, it becomes clear that digital readiness is far more than simply the ability to use a particular application or technology. It is far more dispositional in nature and cuts across traditional domains or disciplines (i.e. not just an IT or engineering-based set of competencies).

In addition to the foundational competencies, Aon also identified several supplemental digital competencies that predict success in digital working environments. These are:

  • Drive to succeed
  • Handling data
  • Strategic solutioning
  • Business acumen
  • Virtual collaboration
  • Digital communication
  • Mental endurance
  • Coaching mindset

As mentioned before, digital readiness is a combination of familiar competencies that have been traditionally associated with high potential talent (e.g. flexibility, mental toughness) in addition to competencies that have become crucial in the digital world-of-work, such as digital communication, curiosity and virtual communication.

Competencies needed for Digital Leadership

Of course, simply having digitally ready employees without equally digitally-ready leadership on board will not be enough to help organizations thrive in the digital world.

Consequently, Aon’s research also extended into the question of digital leadership. Based on these studies, digital leadership can be described as a series of competencies required to succeed at leading today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital teams:

  • Drive to lead: showing a keen interest in leadership of teams within a rapidly changing digital landscape.
  • Championing collaboration: actively promoting collaboration and cooperation within and between digital teams.
  • Humility: being self-aware and able to become a facilitator of change
  • Empowerment: encouraging and empowering others to embrace change.

In addition to the leadership-specific competencies mentioned above, capable digital leaders also embody the general competencies of digital readiness discussed in the previous section.

Determining Digital Bench Strength

Given the need for digital readiness and digital leadership with the talent pool, it becomes vital for organizations to have robust and defensible methods of not only auditing their existing digital capabilities but also to use such data to inform their future recruitment and development strategies.

This process is commonly referred to as determining one’s talent bench strength, or in this case, the digital bench strength of the talent pool.

In terms of digital talent, bench-strength, therefore, refers to the degree to which organizations have the right kind of digital talent on board to accomplish their tactical and strategic objectives. The stronger the bench strength, the more likely it is that the organization will outperform its competitors and succeed in uncertain times.

In addition to the ability to deliver on objectives, digital bench strength also refers to the capacity of an organization’s talent pool to fulfill leadership roles and tasks, especially within digitally demanding environments.

An important distinction to keep in mind is that bench strength also references fit-to-objective or fit-to-role. It is therefore not a generic concept, but highly specific.

Put differently, bench-strength is based on a highly contextualized understanding of the organizational and team environment that employees will have to perform in. This understanding also assumes a detailed insight into the requirements of the specific roles that talented employees are expected to fulfill.

So, in the case of digital talent, organizations will need to focus on two main elements when measuring their digital bench strength:

  • The person’s fit to a specific role within the digital workforce.
  • The person’s digital readiness and leadership potential within the digital world-of-work.

Both of these elements will need to be investigated in any successful digital talent audit.

Assessing for Digital Readiness and Digital Leadership

Here at TTS, we have become known as a thought leader in the field of talent audits, succession planning, and bench-strength assessments. In combining our experience of measuring forward-looking, potential-relevant factors, foundational competencies, and backward-looking experience with digital competencies, we are able to help our client organizations in their ongoing quest for digitally relevant talent and success in a digital world-of-work.

By using the robust models developed by Aon Assessment Services, and by implementing the assessments that have been designed to measure these competencies, we can reach a very high level of assessment fidelity when evaluating individuals’ digital readiness as well as their digital leadership potential.

In this regard, Aon’s award-winning, internationally validated measure of workplace behavior: the ADEPT-15 is a key component.

The ADEPT-15, along with selected ability measures, is ideally designed to measure both digital readiness and digital leadership competencies.

Indeed, research conducted on this topic reveals that using the Aon digital readiness and leadership models to identify and develop digital talent can significantly improve not only the digital competitiveness of an organization but also help to retain existing high potential digital talent into the future.

Final thoughts

In this article, we discussed best practices in measuring digital bench strength, a vital concept in the search for and identification of high-potential employees given the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.

By using a scientifically robust and well research global model of digital readiness and leadership, TTS is able to assist clients in not only selecting the best digital talent for their strategic needs but also in using assessment data to inform development interventions in order to cultivate existing digital talent.

We are excited by the advances made in adaptive and workplace-relevant assessments as embodied by Aon’s ADEPT-15 assessment and are proud to be bringing this tool to the local market.

If you would like to know more about TTS’s solutions for identifying high-potential candidates and measuring your organization’s digital talent bench strength, connect with us at:

To download the full Digital Readiness Global Survey report by Aon, click here.