This article is part of a continuing examination of the concepts that are changing the way we think about training and skills development, as well as the ways in which we are integrating those activities through technology across the breadth and depth of organizations. That is the critical part of change management for training from an event-oriented focus on individual skillsets to a continuous journey for an entire workforce. That journey involves two important kinds of activity.

Technology enablement is the older, more traditional face of training: showing workers how to use a tool to produce an outcome. In the case of standard productivity tools (for example, Outlook, Salesforce), adoption is often "by unit" with little or no integration across departments. Over time, a tool that is successfully adopted by one department may be adopted by another, but this may not be the result of a conscious strategy at an organizational level.

Digital enablement is less about the application of a particular tool within a given group than it is about the choice of the right technology to sustainably elevate and enhance an entire workforce. Sometimes this happens as publishers add plug-ins that provide integrations between tools. Sometimes it happens as the result of a deliberate decision on the part of management. Josh Bersin in a recent article gave many examples of how this happens. This is the kind of approach that leads to the development of management platforms, with top-down goal alignment, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and other models for goal setting.

Digital enablement encompasses technology enablement

Elle Brayton, director of marketing communications at Spekit, points out that it isn't enough to teach somebody how to use a tool or complete a process. In order to drive true adoption, you need to help them understand the "why" behind it. Elle says, "We offer the more traditional technology enablement features such as step-by-step walkthroughs, but then take it a step further by reinforcing that training with in-app answers that provide deeper context. You could use a walkthrough the first time you're creating an opportunity in Salesforce. Then, when you go back to create that opportunity a second time, if you've forgotten what your criteria stages should be, a simple hover over the icon beside the opportunity stage will reveal a quick explanation allowing you to get the answer you need to move along, instantly."

But the enablement is not mainly for sales teams, it is for other groups enterprise-wide. Elle continues, "We see companies come to us with immediate needs for enabling their sales team but then expanding their usage company-wide after rolling out Spekit. It started out as a solution for the sales team, then everyone is asking how they can get content inside of Spekit for their teams. The company may be hiring rapidly so that they need to streamline onboarding, or they're transitioning a team to remote work and need to be able to train and empower employees from anywhere. This works because Spekit is a SaaS, digital enablement platform that surfaces real-time training and resources directly within the applications that workers use every day. It combines a knowledge base and a digital adoption and enablement solution and can reinforce learning at the point of need."

The priority integrations for scaling an application such as Spekit are web-based tools that employees use and that the application can layer on top of to reinforce training. The critical step is to begin with the basics that will drive immediate value: the questions you get most often; the most essential sales playbooks, tool introductions, or guides that would immediately benefit the team. As you identify these, you add them to the knowledge base.

Why is digital enablement important?

There are two levels at which digital enablement matters. The first is at the level of the individual employee. In a typical organization today, employees must use dozens of digital applications (if not more) in order to do their work. The applications do not necessarily talk to each other. By integrating the applications, the burden on employees created by this confusing suite of software is made less, meaning that the functionality increases as the amount of confusion decreases. This also means that onboarding takes less time, productivity increases, and dealing with change management occupies less employee attention.

The other level at which digital enablement makes a difference is for the organization as a whole. By integrating the technology, communication across the organization increases and becomes more effective, with improved productivity and performance. This is essential to development and execution of organizational goals and mission.

As Elle Brayton said in an earlier interview, digital enablement is still in its infancy. She emphasizes that, "Digital enablement is not just one solution, but a way to think about work and training in the modern world." It makes it possible for employees and workers to be readily able to access the answers and resources needed to do their jobs effectively and successfully.