Can Digital Potential Be Predicted?

May 15, 2020 Karolina Andersson

digital potential


Accelerating the speed of change and emphasizing what technological advancements it can offer is every organization’s goal. It doesn’t look as though the shift toward digital transformation is slowing down any time soon - and the recent disruption has merely accelerated it.

Forty-nine per cent of organizations taking part in our recent survey report that the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is speeding up their digital transformation agenda.

The challenge for HR leaders is how to enable and support workers to embrace the digital change and manage the digital transformation. How can HR leaders identify those who feel comfortable with such change both in the current employee pool and the wider applicant pool?  

Even before the current disruption, many organizations were questioning whether they had the internal capabilities to manage the change needed. Fifty-nine per cent of HR leaders responding to our global Digital Readiness Survey in 2020 said that their organizations did not have the defined set of skills needed for their digital transformation. Nor had they the processes in place to assess the digital readiness of their own people.

In this same research, we discovered that homegrown talent is currently not being sufficiently used or developed. Just 15% of organizations said that identifying and developing their internal talent was part of their digital strategy. Of course, this figure varies widely by sector but only 7% of the public sector, non-profit and education organizations have made internal talent development a priority.

However, one public sector client is embracing the digital future and is looking to understand what is required and what their current team can do.

A real life example

The HR department of a central government agency wanted to prepare for its move towards a more digital way of working. It could clearly see digitization’s benefits. It began by profiling its team members to explore how ready they were to meet the challenges of the digital transformation.

The agency wanted to understand how ready its team was, but also the areas on which to focus development and coaching efforts.

All 158 members of its HR team were invited to take part in the project. Approximately 100 people completed the battery of selected talent assessments and digital readiness surveys. This battery included:

  • A self-reported rating questionnaire asking participants for their perception of their own digital competence. This includes an assessment of their usage, specific knowledge and system knowledge of certain digital tools that the organization deploys.
  • An assessment of digital potential. Combining a measure of personality characteristics - from our digital readiness model and an ability measure to our gamified ability range smartPredict (gridChallenge). The personality characteristics of digital potential or digital readiness are based on three core foundations:
    • Agility – to be capable of flexing and adapting to new innovations and taking them in our stride;
    • Learnability – to embrace the learning of all things digital; and
    • Curiosity – the inquisitiveness needed to want to explore, find and understand new approaches.
  • A digital readiness survey which looked at the organization as a whole and how prepared the individual believed it to be.

The results

The organization wanted to determine if digital potential can predict digital competence. That is, can an individual’s digital readiness score predict the competence in and application of digital tools? If so, it would mean that an individual’s capability and disposition to embrace future new digital tools could be predicted.

The results from the study are interesting.

  • There is a strong correlation between assessed digital potential and the overall current self-rated digital competence. It seems that our self-reflection of how we use digital tools right now is a predictor of how we will embrace technology going forward.
  • Furthermore, overall digital readiness - or digital potential - is strongly correlated with current system usage, knowledge and specific knowledge.
  • Curiosity is correlated highly with self-ratings of strong interest in digital applications and topics (specific knowledge).

Interestingly, older people tend to self-rate their digital competence as lower than younger people. However, this is not reflected in their digital potential. In other words, digital potential is not associated with age. This busts the myth that older people tend not to have the potential for embracing the new digital workplace and have the ability to learn new skills.  

What does this mean going forward?

Being able to predict future digital competence from a digital readiness assessment means that the hiring team is now able to assess future applicants with this tool and predict how they are likely to embrace future digital changes.

Training, learning and coaching can be targeted at those with an interest in and potential to learn the new digital tools. Older-aged people are able to see that their age is not the limiting factor in their ability to work in a future digitally-transformed workplace. 

Contact us to learn more about digital readiness and how it can be measured.

About the Author

Karolina Andersson

Karolina Andersson is a legitimate psychologist and graduated from Uppsala University. She has previously worked in test development and training in psychological tests at the Hogrefe Psychology Association, as well as a psychologist in the clinical field. At Aon's Assessment Solutions, Karolina works in the development and implementation of recruitment processes, training and related consulting services.

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