Building Digital Competence 

Published on November 19, 2021.

Key Insights: 

Digital competence is a critical skill for leaders.
Building digital competence can help supervisors overcome key challenges.
Being open and intentional about continuous learning will help you build digital competence.

Feature Insight

We’ve been operating in a “business on top, pajamas on the bottom” work environment for quite some time now. Slack channels are in and dress slacks are out. Thanks to technology we’ve been able carry on despite the world-stopping power of the pandemic. All that is to say that technology is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. 

A recent report shows that digital competence is a critical skill for effective supervision and leadership. Digital competence is the knowledge, skills, and abilities that allow supervisors to effectively use technology to move their work forward and get results. 

Why is digital competence so important?

  • Strong digital competence is what helps us to carry out our work in a virtual and hybrid environment. It allows us to be efficient and flexible and is an important part of attracting and retaining talent.
  • We live in a world where change is a constant. Leaders who are able to leverage technology are more adaptable to change. They find innovative tools and resources to help their teams navigate change. 
  • When the pandemic forced us all to change the way we work, supervisors adept with technology were able to find and use new resources to bring their teams together and carry out their work. 
  • Leaders who want to build a culture of learning and inspire growth will need to see the value that technology brings. They will look for opportunities to learn and find new ways of doing things and then encourage their teams to do the same. Leaders will see technology as a tool for learning and enablement.

How can supervisors build their digital competence for themselves and their teams?

Since the onset of the pandemic, many supervisors have found that strong digital competence could help them overcome three main challenges to support a long-term or permanent shift to managing a virtual and hybrid team:

  • Finding coachable moments to make strong connections with direct reports
  • Ensuring others are included in decision-making
  • Addressing conflict to ensure collaboration among coworkers


Challenge #1: Finding coachable moments to make strong connections with direct reports.

How do you take advantage of “coachable moments” to provide support? 

  • In a virtual environment it can be difficult to find impromptu coachable moments. Schedule meetings for 50 or 25 minutes to allow time for impromptu one-on-one conversations in between.
  • Take advantage of the private chat function during the meeting or after the meeting. You could try saying, “Do you have a few minutes to chat after this meeting?”
  • Avoid email and chat for more sensitive feedback and use video if possible. Start your feedback by saying “I noticed that… and I assume that.. Is that true?”
  • You can deliver positive feedback through a quick message anytime (a quick in-the-moment text, email or chat works well) don’t wait for the next official meeting. 

Challenge #2: Ensuring others are included in decision-making.

How do you ensure all voices are heard?

  • Pre-meeting preparation is especially important in a virtual environment. Try asking for input before a meeting. Tools like ChimeIn, Jamboard, or the Zoom polling feature can help you solicit opinions ahead of time. Then you can plan a discussion around these themes in a thoughtful manner.
  • In a virtual environment, be intentional about pausing to allow time for others to participate and learn to become comfortable with silence. 
  • Be direct in asking others for input. Trying saying, “I’ve noticed you’ve been quiet today. What do you think?” Don’t mistake silence for agreement.
  • If your decision requires certain expertise, highlight the type of expertise others bring before soliciting their opinion.
  • Set time limits for discussions and stick to them.

Challenge #3: Addressing conflict to ensure collaboration among coworkers.

Do you facilitate discussions about disagreements even when you would prefer to avoid the situation?

  • Use phone or video conferencing when in conflict situations. Email and written communication can often be unclear and misinterpreted.
  • Ask questions to determine the source of conflict and allow all parties to share their perspective. Try asking, “What do you see as the real issue?“ “What is the goal here? “ “What do you think is getting in the way of solving this problem?”

Take some time to identify which of these challenges are most difficult for you. Then reflect on how technology could be useful in overcoming them, as well as the types of experiences that could help you build the knowledge and skills to effectively use the technology. Be open and intentional about continuous learning. This will help you build digital competence to ensure that your supervisory skills are equally effective in-person, virtually, and in a hybrid environment.