Skillsoft Blog

Why Providing Continuous Development for Your Workforce is the Key to Future Competitive Advantage

Organizations often publicly state their goals to both optimize and transform their business models using digital technologies and approaches. However, more often than not, progress toward realizing these ambitions is paltry.  Few organizations have successfully scaled their digital initiatives beyond experimentation and piloting. Technology cycles accelerate, business models change, and the nature of work quickly evolves, yet there is little effort to help the workforce navigate and exploit these changes.

Despite the reality that human capital is at the center of digital business transformation, most organizations lack a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the skills and competencies of their human talent and digital business strategies align. Although exploiting new and existing technologies is essential to sustaining a competitive advantage, many organizations have not thought carefully enough about ensuring the digital dexterity of their workforces.

For organizations to succeed in their efforts to optimize and transform their business digitally, they must develop new capabilities and skill sets in their workforces, not just on the IT side, but also on the business side. Innovative organizations are redefining individuals’ roles and developing the new skills and competencies needed to support digital transformation.  They are training entire workforces in new technologies, capabilities and methodologies such as design thinking and agile.

It may well be that the only sustainable source of competitive advantage for companies in the future is the ability to train, “un-train,” and then re-train the organization’s human capital more effectively than the competition. This requires creating a culture of continuous learning and providing the kinds of incentives and support for ongoing skill growth and development that organizations in the US historically have not provided.

Most employees have little time during the work week available for learning. According to research by Deloitte, the average employee only has 24 minutes a week to learn.  Most employees view time spent on learning and professional development as “taking away” from executing on behalf of the organization. This thinking needs to change.

Time spent learning and developing skills today is what will enable the organization to compete successfully tomorrow. It is not a zero-sum game. Organizations need to significantly increase their investment in the area of learning and development, ensuring that every single employee invests in ongoing education and skill development on a daily basis. Limited annual training hours and small travel budgets for sending employees to conferences are not going to cut it.

A continuous learning advantage requires cultivating an expectation for constant improvement within every employee, so employee compensation must link to ongoing skill acquisition and development. Managers and leaders must become more invested in growing and developing people than they are today. We need to build a national workforce of passionate learners who all possess and exhibit a growth mindset. In a nutshell, learning must be part of the reward system and the day-to-day priorities of individual employees.

It’s people who innovate, who build great solutions, and who make organizations competitive. Technologies and processes by themselves are not enough. It’s the human capital that can provide a sustained competitive advantage, but only when that human capital is primed for continuous learning and when a digital workplace human enablement program is put into play. When thoughtfully implemented, a digital workplace enablement program makes employees more technology-embracing, analytical, creative, collaborative and innovative through the use of tools, training and competency-building.

Is your workforce prepared for digital transformation? Do your employees have the necessary capabilities and skill sets to give your company a competitive advantage? Learn about Skillsoft’s Digital Transformation course series to understand how we can help you accelerate digital dexterity at scale, and trial our training content free for 14 days.


Heide Abelli is the SVP of Content Product Management at Skillsoft.

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