“Going digital” used to be something of an ambitious goal for many organizations, but now it’s become a necessity in order to keep pace with our ever-growing digital society. During this once-in-a-lifetime moment, where technology’s landscape has dramatically accelerated due to necessity, many businesses are realizing that there is no longer time to waste when making this shift. However, there is more to consider in a transformation journey than just improvements in technology.
Digital transformation not only relates to technological advancements, but it’s also about the workforce acquiring new skillsets to be ready for the future. This makes a move to digital a critical turning point in shifting mindsets, learning models and the company culture.
The skill dilemma is a bigger problem than ever
When it comes to digital transformation, one of the most significant barriers is the skills gap. This is especially critical as we move further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is changing our world with its increased focus on AI, automation, cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT).
As COVID-19 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution collide, enterprises will continue experiencing one of the most challenging times for recruitment, as they compete to attract talent in the open market from a finite pool of digital skills, all while limited by their own budgets. In India specifically, the International Labor Organization reports that there will be a predicted skill deficit of 29 million by 2030. Moreover, a recent Gartner survey claimed that 80% of the workforce, 92% of managers and 77% of senior leaders already felt poorly prepared for the future.
Even before the pandemic hit, expertise in areas like data science, agile ways of working, automation and hyper-scale technology were already in short supply. But there is good news; the workforce is ready to evolve. For example, according to a recent survey from Microsoft, the overall number of Indian employees interested in reskilling in AI (85 percent) is more than double that of employees across all surveyed markets (38 percent).
Your biggest asset is your existing workforce
To fill the skills gap, organizations need to start now by investing in their existing loyal workforce. This can be done through reskilling and motivating employees to establish a clear vision for their own career path. But it takes time and needs to be performed in an iterative manner. Nurturing a continuous self-learning culture to keep pace with the proliferation of technology in the market is an excellent place to start. It’s also important for this culture to occur at a grassroots level.
For this to happen at the grassroots, companies must leverage and mobilize a robust framework of middle-level leadership like unit heads, directors, senior managers and managers. Here, the best approach is to encourage these stakeholders to divide time into “doing” and “thinking.”
“Thinking” is about self-reflection. This can be encouraged by asking stakeholders to allocate specific time to developing skills to underpin innovative ideas that can disrupt business models. Meanwhile, “doing” is about harnessing different learning and mentoring techniques, like leveraging digital learning platforms, on-demand learning, activities (hackathons, innovation labs) coaching and rotational assignments.
Beyond this, we must also encourage the adoption of new mindsets that make room for innovation. Consider the “fail fast” and “elevate success” approaches. Your workforce's ability to experiment rapidly and fail fast to solve business problems is no less critical to change.
Choosing the right technology
At many enterprises, COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of new technologies. Examples include those that enable better management of the complex operations associated with cloud-based platforms, leveraging data pools to effectively monitor network traffic for problems in high-risk areas (like medical centers), and rapidly creating new offerings based on recent customer research.
Take note too of the methodologies and technologies that amidst the challenges of the pandemic, have made critical business areas easier to manage. These include DevOps and microservices, as well as journeys like cloud migration. Such areas will ensure business agility, while preparing the workforce for any new, significant interruptions. To lead in the digital world, a forward-looking approach and considering what might happen down the line are critical..
Staying one step ahead
As COVID-19 accelerates our digital future, the “old way” of doing things simply won't cut it. As any business transformation involves taking on a significant element of risk, the best path to ensure success lies in acquiring the right skillsets as you move forward.
To stay one step ahead during the accelerated move to digital, organizations have no choice but to implement practices that will improve their existing workforce. In the absence of a strategy, they risk being left behind by technology, and letting their business become a relic in the digital age. But by preparing now, they’ll have an even better chance to thrive in our ever-changing world.