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. This 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.
This 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.
Digital Era Competencies
When I developed this social media and online communities curriculum in early 2011, I created a core set of competencies to organize specific study topics. Many of these competencies are relevant even for folks who don’t have a professional focus on social media and community management. By their very nature, 2.0 technologies promote a DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to a variety of tasks that used to be delegated to people with specific technical skills. With more sophisticated and user-friendly tools at our disposal, we’re more autonomous and able to get work done more quickly and accurately – but only if we know what we’re doing!
It’s not the case that everyone has to embody all the competencies or master them to the same degree, but the stronger people’s working knowledge is in each of these areas, the more effectively they will be able to leverage new technologies to achieve their goals and objectives. This is as true for an organizational leader, who has to set strategic direction and allocate resources, as it is for a middle manager who wants to communicate with staff via an internal blog, a marketing or sales person who wants to identify new revenue-generating opportunities, a human resources professional who wants to interact with employees efficiently and effectively, and a new hire who needs to acclimate to a new operating and cultural environment.
Here are the main competency areas I have identified, along with brief descriptions and examples (all listed in alphabetical order) that are relevant for a wide range of professionals:
Concepts: Ideas unique to the Digital Era, or that take on new meaning in the Digital Era.
- Calls to action
- Cloud computing
- Communities of practice
- Digital integration
- Levels of engagement (i.e., consumer, contributor, curator, creator)
- Location-based services
- Multi-channel communication
- Online/digital community
- Social bookmarking
- Social commerce
- Social learning
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- User ratings and reviews
- User-generated content
- Virtual reality
- Web 2.0 and applications like Enterprise 2.0, Government 2.0, Health Care 2.0
Platforms: Environments in which 2.0 technologies are leveraged for specific purposes.
- Public information networks like Twitter
- Public social media sites like Flickr, Quora, Wikipedia, YouTube
- Public social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+
- Private social and digital networks, including social intranets, private digital communities, social business applications (see Ross School presentation slides 16-19 for specific examples)
Tools: Specific enabling technologies or applications of technology.
- Content management systems
- Discussion forums
- Mobile apps and location based services
- RSS feeds and subscriptions
- Tag clouds and word clouds
- Videocasts and vlogs
- Web analytics and social media metrics
The Social Media Sophistication (SMQ) Quiz
tests people’s knowledge of 2.0 platforms and tools.
Click here to learn more and take the quiz
Skills: Capabilities unique to the Digital Era, or that take on new meaning in the Digital Era, including specific means of leveraging 2.0 technologies to achieve goals and objectives.
- Blogging: design, writing, promotion, commenting, management
- Calendar and event management
- Community management
- Content sourcing and validation
- Digital collaboration
- Digital design and publishing (e.g., Adobe’s Flash and InDesign)
- Digital etiquette and communication effectiveness
- File sharing and document co-creation
- Group creation and management
- Information management
- Microblogging and status updates
- Online research
- Photo editing and sharing
- Project management
- Social sharing
- Tagging and searching
- Time management
- User profile creation and management
- Video production, editing, sharing
- Web page design and coding (content, layout, keywords, links)
- Web page navigation basics
- Writing for multiple media
In addition to the above general competencies, there’s also a core set of management competencies that people in leadership positions need to effectively leverage and manage new digital technologies. These include:
- Championship and change management
- Community management, including engagement guidelines, moderation, and discipline
- Governance principles, rules, and guidelines related to digital technologies
- Human capital management applications and implications of new technologies
- Knowledge of investment concepts like COI (cost of inaction), ROE (return on engagement) and ROI (return on investment)
- Measurement and monitoring of digital activity
- Risk management, including legal and policy considerations
- Strategy and planning, including resource allocation and organizational design
And of course our definition of effective leadership itself may be changing, as articulated in another recent post: What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Digital Era?
What other competencies would you add? How about specific examples you think are worth highlighting? Any questions and concerns? As always, your thoughts are welcome.
- Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD
In addition to the related resources in the Digital Divide post, check out: