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Digital Era Competencies: How Do You Stack Up?

Do you have the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for success in the Digital Era? Regardless of the sector you work in, your professional discipline, your place in the organizational hierarchy – and to some extent your career stage – there is a core set of competencies necessary to effectively leverage new technologies to achieve your goals and objectives. My latest post highlights some of those competencies in four general categories – concepts, platforms, tools, and skills – in addition to identifying unique competencies for managers and leaders.


Last week I published The New Digital Divide: Thoughts for Leaders and Laggards, which was inspired in part by my efforts to help individuals and organizations adapt to Digital Era realities and adopt new social and digital technologies and tools. At the end of that piece I highlighted the importance of leadership – including self-leadership – in bridging and crossing the divide. As new technologies increasingly permeate every aspect of our personal and professional lives, it is incumbent upon all of us
to prepare ourselves to be successful in the Digital Era – not just as workers, but also as citizens and community members. No matter what our starting point may be, we must take it upon ourselves to understand new digital technologies and make educated and informed choices about which technologies we will embrace and leverage. We must also commit to learning and excelling at the competencies necessary for Digital Era success.

My latest post focuses on those competencies. It’s an extension of some of the ideas I shared in a presentation I gave last fall at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business entitled Social Media: Beyond Marketing, Throughout Your Career. It also builds on the benchmarking work I did when I created a master’s degree specialization in social media and online communities for Northeastern University.

When giving career management presentations to professionals of all types, I’ve increasingly found myself highlighting the need to think about a new set of core competencies required for success in the Digital Era. As social tools and other digital technologies become more integrated into our work lives, it has become increasingly evident that developing certain knowledge, skills and abilities is important for a wide range of professionals in multiple disciplines and at all levels (see, for example, slides 6-15 from the Ross School presentation, as well as the SMinOrgs Social Media Primer). These competencies, however, seem to get short shrift in articles and discussions about social business and enterprise 2.0 applications, which tend to emphasize the importance of cultural values like openness and transparency. As I have argued in different ways elsewhere (like this post), it’s possible to successfully leverage new digital tools and technologies even in organizations with more closed, traditional cultures. But it’s almost impossible to be successful if people don’t understand what those tools are and how they can use them. Culture may eat strategy for breakfast, but when it comes to digital technology, competencies eat culture for lunch.

Click here to read the post. As always, your thoughts are welcome.

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Chris Cairns

Have you seen any organizations methodically look for HR candidates based on these type of Digital Era Competency attributes? Not talking about specific positions, but as general competencies they want from every employee.

Courtney Shelton Hunt

Great question, Chris. I would say the answer is generally “no,” as digital competencies aren’t recognized as general KSAs. That should change over time, however. Just as we now see stated expectations for the ability to use the Microsoft Office suite of products in a wide variety of jobs, we will see similar expectations for social tools and technologies.