When Change Comes Hard

By Phil Rainsberger

As organizations move to support mobile, team-oriented and non-routine ways of work, an increasing number of them are looking for assistance in adopting digital workplace technology, according to a recent Gartner Inc. study.

At first blush, the findings are surprising in that mobile, collaborative and generally adaptive ways of conducting business have been commonplace for better than a decade.  Surely, we've come to accept all that, haven't we? 

Well, apparently not.

What the study helps prove is the beyond-question axiom that when it comes to change, “technology is easy, but human nature is hard.”

In its survey of 3,000 companies worldwide on what Gartner calls New Ways of Work, fewer than 20% of respondents said they have the "digital dexterity" to adopt virtual collaboration and mobile work.

Per Gartner, organizations with high digital dexterity have employees with the cognitive ability and social practice to leverage and manipulate media, information and technology in unique and highly innovative ways. "Solutions targeting new ways of work are tapping into a high-growth area, but finding the right organizations ready to exploit these technologies is challenging," said Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner.

By country, organizations exhibiting the highest digital dexterity were those in the U.S. (18.2 percent of respondents), followed by those in Germany (17.6 percent) and then the U.K. (17.1 percent).

Workers in the top three countries were much more open to working from anywhere, in a non-office fashion. They had a desire to use consumer (or consumer-like) software and websites at work.

Gartner says some of the difference in workers' digital dexterity is driven by cultural factors, as shown by large differences between countries. For example, population density impacts the ability to work outside the office, and countries with more adherence to organizational hierarchy had decreased affinity for social media tools that drive social engagement. 

In a bit of a shocker, the survey showed that the oldest workers are the second most-likely adopters of these new ways of working, trailing only the youngest of professionals. Those aged 55 to 74 have the highest opinion of teamwork; have progressed to positions where there is little routine work, and view internal social-networking technology more favorably than any other age group in the survey.

For any of you out there aged 35 to 44, you and your age-peers are at the low point of the adoption dip, which Gartner said might be due to "feeling fatigued" with the routines of life as middle age approaches. They also were most likely to report that their jobs are routine; have the dimmest view of how technology can help their work, and are the least interested in mobile work.

Larger organizations on average had higher digital dexterity than smaller ones. "Embracing dynamic work styles, devices, work locations and team structures can transform a business and its relationship to its staff. But digital dexterity doesn't come cheap," said Mr. Roth. "It takes investment in workplace design, mobile devices and software, and larger organizations find it easier to make this investment."

As an organization, are you feeling digitally dexterous these days? More importantly, are your customers feeling more digitally dexterous (and operationally demanding of you) these days?If that's the case, let's talk. We can help.