Refresh Your Digital Skills and Step Up Your Leadership

What does it take to maintain digital skills and literacy in the C-suite today? Discover the ways leaders can refresh and restore their skills whilst maintaining credibility.

The technology and marketing C-suite have had to lead their organisations when it comes to technology, innovation and digital strategies; their roles are at the forefront of capitalising on new solutions to better their businesses. This requires a constant refreshing of their technical literacy–but how can that be done whilst balancing the responsibilities of the role, expectations from the Board and the challenges of the 2023 macro-environment?

The C-suite, for example, leads digital transformation projects across the organisation to ensure its continued success. For marketing executives, this could mean reassessing the value of the current marketing tools and channels. This requires a whole host of digital skills, including (but certainly not limited to): data and marketing analytics, software development, cloud computing, SaaS platform management, intelligent automation and IT.

Many industry professionals have stressed the importance of being digitally literate as well as understanding and leading on projects from a professional and technical perspective. Technology and marketing leaders across the HotTopics community have shared their thoughts and insights on digital literacy.


Key takeaways

  • C-suite leaders need to improve digital skills to understand new business processes and how they fit with accepted ways of working within each team or business.
  • In order to reskill, technology and marketing executives need to enact a plan using a coaching mindset.
  • C-suite executives should allow younger generations to provide new ideas and insight into digital experiences, in a reverse mentorship structure. 


How to reskill the C-suite

The why is a given when it comes to maintaining digital skills and literacy within the C-suite. Now it's time to go over how exactly this can be achieved, outlining different ways to refresh those skills and even acquire some new ones.


Acknowledge the skills gap

Being able to acknowledge that you, as an executive leader, are held back by a digital skills gap is a step in the right direction towards reskilling yourself and the rest of the C-suite. In a global survey on 4,394 business leaders conducted by the MIT Sloan Management Review, less than 10% of respondents strongly believed that their leaders had the right skills to succeed in the digital economy.


Recognise talent

It’s important to consider employee retention and recognition when thinking about closing the skills gap within the C-suite. Existing team members, particularly those from the younger generations, may have the digital skills in which executives are lacking. Pairing up technology and marketing leaders with digitally savvy talent within the organisation can bridge this skills gap and help leaders stay competitive and connect with the younger generations.


Take that honest and transparent feedback

How are you navigating the organisation through your continuous digital transformation, or other digital initiatives? Being candid about your plans and strategies can go a long way when it comes to building on your digital skills and literacy. This also means putting yourself in a position where you can be constructively criticised; putting yourself in this position allows members of the team to give that honest feedback needed to communicate their concerns.


Adopt a coaching mindset

Steering clear of micromanaging is a good way to start getting more involved with teams. In order to get to grips with the right ways to lead teams within the C-suite function – this means becoming more of a listener and getting a better understanding of the team dynamics. At the same time, this is a good opportunity to start conversations with other members of the C-suite who are lacking in technology leadership skills. Improving these particular skills can take some time and practice; it may be a good idea to invest in a coach in order to instil this mindset.


Future-proof your skills

It’s well-known that C-suite leaders have got to where they are now using sheer determination, hard work and skills. In a constantly changing technology landscape, there’s always room for improvement. Building and supporting an organisation that embraces this change and innovation requires executives to lead by example. One example of technology and marketing leaders adapting to change includes upskilling for the metaverse. This requires understanding the cybersecurity risks posed by VR environments, being able to use blockchain technology and becoming well versed in data privacy.


Maintaining digital literacy

With technology ingrained as a core aspect of the modern workplace, an increasing number of technology and marketing executives are placing their trust in cutting-edge tools and solutions such as machine learning, collaboration software, and cloud-based applications. It’s crucial that both the C-suite and the workforce can appropriately adopt and utilise their digital skills to improve their business operations.

In the Marketing Studio, HotTopic’s flagship event for global CMOs, roundtable ‘Charting the Ever Evolving Role of the CMO’, Tractable’s VP Marketing - Sakina Najmi - argued that CMOs need to be data and tech-savvy. In her view, “marketers have become the backbone for growth of the business”. This means that they need to use the data they have at hand to predict and make decisions on the different kinds of opportunities that will help direct the organisation.

Louise de Beer, Director of Software Engineering at JVR Solutions, also focused on digital literacy in a Studio roundtable debate on ‘What Tomorrow’s Leaders Should Prioritise’. Her biggest focus in the present, and for the future, is digital literacy within the organisation. One of her main concerns included the challenges of remote collaboration and keeping people on board as well as the challenges of transforming a legacy organisation for tomorrow’s leaders.

Marketers and technologists alike recognise the need for digital literacy within the C-suite. One particular trend becoming more popular when it comes to re-skilling the C-suite is reverse mentoring. This is where the younger colleagues, particularly generation Z, are tasked with mentoring experienced leaders to provide new perspectives and enhance their digital skills. 


Digital skills and literacy – let’s review

As technology continues to advance, C-suite leaders are increasingly relying on new and innovative forms of technologies. In order to understand business processes and how they fit within the framework of each team or business, leaders must continually improve their digital skills to maintain relevancy and competitive advantage. 

Executives must adopt a coaching mindset and recognise the necessity of digital skills within their company. In addition to refreshing their current skills, C-suite executives should also prepare for the future by creating opportunities for younger generations to provide new ideas and insights through a reverse mentorship structure. Overall, digital skills and literacy within the C-suite is now needed more than ever.

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