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Digital upskilling: A big business problem

Digital upskilling: A big business problem

Did you know that 60% of the workforce requires reskilling or upskilling? This shift in demand for new skills is likely due to the introduction of new technology in the workplace. It’s true, organizations are evolving; transformation will not be as simple as replacing workers with robots or machinery. Instead organizations will need employees to work alongside this newly implemented tech; requiring new skills that the workforce does not currently have. Businesses have a skills problem, and it’s growing by the day.

In fact, a survey by EY uncovered that a whopping 89% of organizations believe having too few workers with the right skills will be a blocker to their digital transformation. This imbalance, coupled with the digital revolution, has birthed a global skills gap crisis – with organizations worldwide scrambling to upskill and reskill their people, to truly benefit from the new tech that has come our way. But why the urgency? Why are businesses choosing a post-pandemic workplace to focus on digital upskilling? And most importantly, why should you be doing the same?

There’s no time like the present: Overcoming the skills gap crisis

Before the pandemic hit, experts predicted that the skills gap crisis would come to a head by 2030. Estimating that by the end of this decade more than 85 million jobs would be unfilled because there would not be enough skilled people to take them. But the pandemic has fast-tracked the digital revolution. Those that were adverse to new tech had no choice but to embrace it, as lockdowns and working from home became our ‘new normal’. And this has created a ‘double-disruption’ scenario in the workplace, accelerating the digital revolution. It’s now predicted that by 2025, organizations worldwide will embrace technology to transform tasks, jobs and skills. We just lost five years. Just like that.

Despite this clear need to embrace the digital revolution many organizations are sticking their heads in the sand, deeming their workforce future-fit and capable of embracing modern technology. And they’d be forgiven for doing so. Millennials and Gen Z now dominate the workforce, and are renowned for being the most tech-savvy in society. But their tech-savvy lifestyles may not be translating into digitally-equipped employees.

Research from the Learning and Work Institute found that less than half of UK employers believe that new entrants to the workforce were arriving with the necessary digital skillset to complete their role. Further research indicates how challenging businesses are finding both identifying and closing the skills gap. According to EY:

  • 30% of executives cannot measure the gap between skills they have and skills they need
  • 66% claim they have difficulty retaining those with in-demand skills, and
  • The cost of training per reskilled employee is $6295

These worrying statistics prove that no matter the demographic makeup of your workforce, you must prioritize digital upskilling of your people if you want your organization to stay ahead of the game.

Upskilling the modern workforce

The modern workforce is complicated. We now have four generations – all with exceptionally different lived experiences of technology – working in the same organizations and towards the same goals. But these generations will have a varying level of technology acceptance and understanding – adding an extra layer of complexity to digital upskilling.

Upskilling our people will require more than a one-day training course or a standalone e-learning module. Instead, organizations need to create learning opportunities that instigate real behavioral change. Of course, due to the ongoing repercussions of the pandemic, it’s likely that much of this upskilling will be completed online. In fact,  according to the World Economic Forum, this change is already in place, as they report there has been a:

  • Four-fold increase in individuals seeking out opportunities for learning online through their own initiative
  • Five-fold increase in employer provision of online learning
  • Nine-fold increase in learners enrolment on Government online learning programmes

These statistics reflect a new era of corporate training. Online learning is no longer ‘nice to have’ or ‘boring’. Nor is it the sole responsibility of your HR or L&D team. Instead, it’s a tool that will truly impact the future success of your business, which each and every department needs to embrace. Digital upskilling is a big business problem, which is going to need real investment in online learning to overcome.

Learning to become truly digital

The ‘double-disruption’ of the digital revolution and Covid-19 has caused a real shift in businesses. It’s no longer good enough to just ‘do’ digital, now is the time to be digital. This means not jumping on the bandwagon of all new tech. Instead, any newly adopted technology needs to fit with your business’s strategic vision over the coming months and years – and contribute to your competitive position in the market. New technology must fuel your future, but having the people to work with this tech is equally important. In fact, EY summed this up nicely:

“Buying a fast car is important for a race, but so is knowing how to drive it.”

So, how can we teach our people to drive the fast car?

Transform your learning culture

The first step in upskilling your people is changing their perceptions about learning. Chances are, you’re already offering digital learning to your people. What do they think of it? Over the years, organizational training has become synonymous with boring experiences, which do not create any real, tangible benefits for our people. If your workforce walks into your upskilling programme with the mindset that this is simply another ‘box ticking’ exercise – it will not result in new skills mastery or behavioral change needed.

So, with such a huge upskilling task ahead of you, now’s the time to shift perceptions about learning and create programs which engage and inspire. To do this, consider:

  • Giving your employees independence over their learning interventions
  • Developing a blended learning program, which spans months, not minutes
  • Enabling learners to share their thoughts and opinions on the learning at hand
  • Encouraging your leadership team to support, champion and prioritize learning
  • Focusing on developing more engaging, encouraging and thought-provoking compliance content

Develop an upskilling roadmap

Upskilling your entire workforce is not going to be a quick process. Instead of churning out digital learning content, setting deadlines and expecting skills mastery instantly; develop a roadmap with clear goals and objectives. With this, you’ll need to accept that time will be spent on:

  • Explaining your goals and the ‘why’ of the learning
  • Encouraging your team to embrace the digital transformation of your organization
  • Shifting perceptions on learning and persuading learners to prioritise upskilling

And all of this will happen before any real ‘learning’ takes place. The technological revolution of organizations is a big task; and it’s important you have buy-in from employees across the organization.

Unite your organization

Digital upskilling isn’t a one-department problem. Instead, this reimagining of how business works requires everyone to be involved and make it a priority. Bring key figure heads from each department together to create a united front about the importance of digital transformation in your organization – which in turn emphasizes the importance of upskilling your workforce. For effective digital upskilling, your management team must lead by example (and this will also play a key role in the aforementioned challenge of shifting perceptions).

And, while many of us continue to experience remote working and borderless workforces, considering how to break down those barriers will be critical. Be it technology, communication or a mixture of both, you must adjust your organization to this new digital landscape.

Digital upskilling: It’s time to take action

The global skills gap crisis, technological revolution and the pandemic have created the perfect opportunity to transform how your business operates. But no matter how advanced technology becomes, our people will always be key to business success. And this means bringing them on the transformation journey with you, and prioritizing upskilling or reskilling them when needed.

Just because digital upskilling is a big business problem, it doesn’t need to be a big business headache. Many modern technologies and tools can enable and streamline an organization’s ability to close the skills gap and ensure the skills of the future are being fostered in the present.

Discover more about them with this free ebook.

Hertzel Kuriel

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