Three Pillars of Digital Ready Leadership

November 6, 2020 Charlotte Schaller


Digital transformation requires strong human capital leadership.

Only 41% of HR leaders say their organizations have the defined set of skills needed for their digital transformation, according to research by Aon. Also, just one-quarter of executives rated their organization’s digital transformation efforts highly and said that they have the critical competencies in place.

At Aon, we have developed a three pillar assessment framework that identifies the foundational skills of digital readiness, drills into the core competencies and reveals the supplemental skills workers will need to thrive in the future. Building each pillar will give organizations the base of expertise for digital transformation.

Foundational Digital Readiness Competencies

The first pillar focuses on foundational skills, such as learnability, agility and curiosity.

Learnability is seeking continual self-improvement. Agility is adapting to changing situations with flexibility. Curiosity is being open to change and novelty. These core skills are the table stakes needed to prepare for digital transformation. All three show significant correlations to better employee performance.

Understanding and developing these competencies will allow your workforce to be flexible, seek self-improvement and remain open to change and novelty. This, in turn, will enable them to more easily reskill or upskill as roles evolve and requirements change.

Digital Leadership’s Specific Competencies

The second pillar consists of skills critical to leading digital readiness efforts, which are particularly crucial in cross-functional teams. Four competencies form this pillar:

  • Drive to lead (proactively taking the initiative and following through to accomplish essential tasks).
  • Championing collaboration (inspiring and interacting with others remotely and working together toward common goals).
  • Humility (being sincere, open and honest with others while being hesitant to take personal credit for success).
  • Empowerment (possessing a bias toward action).

Leaders need to be aware of their shortcomings too. A sense of humility and empowerment will help ensure they have the right skills around them to supplement themselves and empower their people in the right ways.

Supplemental Digital Readiness Competencies

The final pillar is about the five additional skills that digital readiness requires. These are:

  • Handling data (evaluating situations and analyzing information to form data-driven decisions).
  • Strategic solutioning (solving problems creatively and balancing the needs of all stakeholders).
  • Business acumen (understanding the business and customers’ requirements and developing new opportunities).
  • Digital communication (communicating, influencing and maintaining a rapport with others through technology).
  • Mental endurance (resilience and the ability to cope with pressure and setbacks).

Remember that critical competencies for digital transformation, such as adaptability, agility and business acumen, are not the same as the skills needed to use specific digital tools. However, there are many significant correlations between scores on the digital readiness model and digital technical skills, so using the competencies does predict digital skill level. For example, if workers score high on agility, this correlates highly with attitude toward using digital tools at work. Those who score high on learnability report a high level of understanding of how to get the most from digital tools.

Digital skills are expensive and likely short-lived. Testing for behaviors highlighted as critical digital competencies is preferential because behaviors last longer and are more predictive of superior performance than skills testing.

Aon’s Digital Readiness Model can be applied in practice to assess and understand an individual’s, a team’s or an entire employee population’s digital competencies.

Contact us to learn more.

About the Author

Charlotte Schaller

Charlotte joined Aon's Assessment Solutions in January 2015. Since joining she has worked across a breadth of projects including design and delivery of digital assessment and development centres, situational judgment tools, creation of online bespoke ability tests and team building workshops. She now heads the UK team; driving the growth of the UK market, managing talent and driving learning and development within the team, ensuring high quality delivery and service to their wide variety of existing clients.

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