Perceived need for digital technology competencies, appreciation of the technology learning challenge, and tolerance for ambiguity
A managers perceived need for digital technology competencies refers to a managers belief or lack of belief that digital technology competencies materially impact their managerial job performance and career prospects.3 People who don’t believe that digital technology competencies materially impact their job performance and career prospects have been shown to lack sufficient motivation to make or sustain the necessary investments in time and effort required to learn and keep up with digital technologies. On the contrary, people who see digital technology competencies as being a significant driver of job performance and career success have been shown to have far greater motivation and persistence in pursuing these competencies. Fortunately for managers in the latter category, the research on expert leadership has reinforced the importance of technical expertise to managerial effectiveness.4-5 For hospitality and leisure managers, this technical expertise used to mainly be expert knowledge of the industry and of hospitality and leisure operations. But with the digital transformation of' products/services and operational/ management processes, technical expertise now also includes technical and strategic digital technology competencies/expertise.
Managers’ appreciation of the true challenge of keeping up with digital technologies refers to how accurately they understand and take seriously the rate of change in digital technologies and the resultant disruption threats.6 The more fully managers appreciate and take seriously the rate of change, the more serious will be their approach and effort to keep up with digital technologies. Managers underestimating the nature of the challenge in front of them are anticipated make insufficient efforts to keep up with digital technologies.7 Tolerance for ambiguity refers to a managers tendency to perceive ambiguous situations as tolerable or even desirable.8 For example, managers with higher tolerance for ambiguity are more willing to cope with change, modify their opinions in the face of new information, embrace new experiences, and renew their knowledge.9 Tolerance for ambiguity has been shown to have a positive impact on the ability to learn new technology10 and thus to keep up with digital technologies.
Hospitality and leisure managers can leverage these three research findings to enhance their motivation and that of their direct reports to keep up with digital technologies and to be resilient in the face of setbacks or overwhelm. For example, they can ensure that they and their direct reports fully understand and are continuously reminded of the value of digital technology competencies to their organizations and careers; they can ensure that they and their direct reports understand the true challenge of keeping up with digital technologies and how this challenge is evolving; and they can ensure that they continuously work on improving their tolerance for ambiguity (e.g. through work assignments and other learning activities that expand tolerance to ambiguity). For example, they can influence employees to see technological change and dynamism as an opportunity rather than a burden, and they can cultivate a culture that encourages and incentivizes employees to take on and overcome challenges, embrace change, and deal with uncertainty. Through recruiting processes, managers can ensure that they hire for ambiguity tolerance and motivation to learn and keep up with digital technologies.
Learning from external experts and learning from internal experts
Learning from external experts refers to acquiring new knowledge and skills from professional entities outside the organization. The learning activities can be in the form of reading professional literature (e.g. consulting firm research reports on a topic, professional/academic journals on a topic), attending conferences (e.g. a vendor loT conference), attending networking events (e.g. an information ethics professionals dinner), participating in online forums and discussion boards, signing up for electronic newsletters, or some other form. The amount of time spent on such learning activities, and the choice of learning activities, are strongly associated with effectiveness in learning new digital technologies," and thus with keeping up with digital technologies. In the research, learning from external experts is also referred to as "professional delegation," since the learner “delegates” the identification/curation of what to learn and how to learn it to an expert (typically a professional entity or thought leader). For example, someone wanting to learn more about artificial intelligence may seek out leading associations and vendors or research organizations in that area, and make a point of reading as much of their content (e.g. blogs, videos, reports) and attending as many of their conferences and networking events as possible. Learning from internal experts refers to acquiring new knowledge and skills from units or departments or individuals within the organization with that expertise.12 Typically, this might be the IT/IS/technology function. So, for example, a manager may learn through informal conversations with employees from the IT/IS/technology function. Or they may learn through seeking out the support of or collaborating on projects with employees in the IT/IS/Technology function. Hospitality and leisure managers can leverage both external and internal experts in both professional and social contexts to improve what they learn and how efficiently and effectively they learn it.