By Ananth Balasubramanian
The frenetic pace of digital transformation is impacting businesses of every size, in every industry. Part of the problem is the lack of digital skills, a significant and growing hurdle for organisations as they attempt to keep abreast of this change.
A recent survey found that a startling 64% of organisations believe the digital talent gap is widening in India. This statistic is made even more troubling by the fact that 49% of employees here are concerned that their current skill set will be redundant in the next 4-5 years, with 34% believing it will happen in the next year or two.
There is some good news. India, the same study found, has the world’s biggest talent pool with digital skills, and it is a trend the Indian government is keen to maintain. To that end, it developed and launched some initiatives, including the Skill India program. Skill India is billed as the world’s largest training initiative, which aims to equip over 400 million women and men in various industrial and trade skills.
While knowledge of topics such as advanced analytics, machine learning concepts and frameworks, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain are always in high demand, it is becoming ever more necessary to complement these digital skills with business acumen. Remember, the potential of technology is only realized when it is combined with a robust understanding of business; the value of data analytics stems from the organisation’s ability to operationalise insights generated, and for this you must have both data prowess and strategic business skills.
The outcome of this is a growing demand for individuals who possess both technical skills and business strategy and leadership abilities. Employees will need to combine excellent digital functional skills with deep business knowledge and must be equally comfortable whether they are dealing with AI or leading a cross-functional team.
What is your Digital Transformation talent strategy?
Ideally, you start by giving careful consideration to the digital products and business models of your organisation. I can guarantee you that it will become obvious that to meet these demands, you will need to invest in your employees. But what areas should you educate your employees in?
The key is to define a digital transformation strategy for your company. This will serve as the North Star for your organization’s skill development progression. Then plan how best to actualize it.
Remember to give some consideration to:
- Use training strategically to fill skills gaps: As technologies rapidly evolve and corporate initiatives change, talent development is proving to be a faster and more cost-effective solution than talent acquisition.
- Prevent skills decay with applied learning: Compounding the problem of fast-changing skills requirements is existing skills fade from lack of use. Applied learning projects give employees the opportunity to put the skills they’re learning to use by solving practice problems relevant to their industry and work. Examples include case studies, application development, simulations, debugging, peer reviews, and solution scenarios.
Building a culture of learning is key
Technical skills can be learned, but I must stress the importance of adopting real cultural change which requires a far more wide-scale approach and must be driven by leadership and those in executive positions. Simply importing people with technical skills will not enable digital transformation. On the contrary, it is likely to impede it further as such an import is highly unlikely to engender the level of cultural change required within most organizations.
The focus must be on building your own. Only 55% of Indian employees feel leadership is committed to closing the digital skill gap, so it is important that you take action, that you proactively engage in ensuring your employees remain current and of value in the changing workplace.
Skillsoft can help with this. Our new Digital Transformation Fundamentals for the Business collection is designed to help employees, managers and leaders understand and leverage new technologies, processes and ways of thinking for the benefit of the business. The collection contains over 40 in all and covers topics across seven domains: Agility for Digital Transformation, Data Science, Designing Digital Experiences, Digital Marketing & Communications, Emerging Digital Competencies, Essentials of Transformation Technologies and Virtual Collaboration.
Ananth Balasubramanian is a Solutions Principal, Digital & IT, at Skillsoft APAC and India