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Upskilling Your Workforce in the Age of Digital Transformation

06 Sep 2018

Upskilling Your Workforce in the Age of Digital Transformation

By 2030, as many as 375 million workers—roughly 14% of the global workforce—need to change their skills and occupational categories to be able to adapt to digital transformation.

To survive being displaced by automation, workers of the future need to be trained in skills that remain largely unmatched by machines—managing people and social interactions, applying expertise, and communicating with others. They also need to have more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning and creativity.

Indeed, digital transformation is disrupting the world of work—and company executives are increasingly seeing the value in upskilling their current workforce to prepare for the looming age of digitalization and automation.

The results of a McKinsey survey revealed that 62% of executives believe they need to retrain, if not replace, more than a quarter of their current workforce between now and 2023 to address skills gaps related to digitalization and automation.

The scale of the task at hand prompts senior executives in large companies to rethink their roles in upskilling their current workforce. Given the resources and infrastructure they have at their disposal, corporations are in a strategic position to take the lead in closing this skills gap.

Companies worldwide have been harnessing digital technologies to upskill their current workforce. In a joint report, the World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting Group have observed that “managing skills in the digital age requires organizations to harness technology that enables them to leverage data-driven approach to life-long learning and smart upskilling.”

 

The Benefits of Upskilling

From a business standpoint, it is more economical and efficient to train your current workforce for the new skills that are required in digital transformation. Not only does finding new hires take more time and money, but around 60% of companies are already having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill vacant positions.

To bridge the skills gap, companies are better off focusing on training and upskilling their current workforce as this also improves employee retention and loyalty. However, part of this upskilling is ensuring that the company and its employees are on the same page about their goals and objectives when it comes to digital transformation. This alignment in goals and objectives can, in turn, lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce, thereby enhancing overall company productivity.

In a report titled The Value of Training, IBM revealed that, in the best performing companies, 84% of their employees, on average, are getting the necessary training. IBM, itself a world leader in technology and innovations, believes in improving human capital by providing “the right skills, at the right time, for the right people.”

 

How Companies can Take the Lead

The key to taking digital transformation in stride is making digital technologies work for you and your current workforce.

Since 2013, AT&T, a company that was at the forefront of technology and innovation for the past century, has invested US$250 million on upskilling around 140,000 of its employees. A significant part of this initial investment went into the development and deployment of digital education programs and technologies. By May 2016, AT&T’s first batch of upskilled employees have filled half of all the technology management jobs within the company.

However, AT&T’s upskilling initiative is not yet done. In March 2018, AT&T launched Future Ready, a US$1 billion web-based platform which features online courses; collaborations with Coursera, Udacity, and top universities in the United States; and a Career Center for its employees. Its goal? To upskill 100,000 AT&T employees for digital transformation by 2020.  

Cognizant, a leading digital technology consultancy and one of AT&T’s partners in its upskilling initiative, has identified artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, big data, and other digital technologies as the “new tools of the trade,” and as such, designs their digital education and skills initiatives around these core areas. In February 2018, Cognizant also formed a non-profit foundation focused on funding digital education and skills programs across the United States.

Taking cues from AT&T and Cognizant, local companies can also harness the power of digital technologies to develop specialized training modules that come with online and on-site learning functionalities. Digitalizing training modules not only saves time and money for both the company and its employees, but it also paves the way for personalized learning programs built for the individual needs and goals of employees.

However, to be retained in memory, this training must be reinforced in daily work through practice and pattern building. Digital technologies such as intelligent applications and artificial intelligence (AI) can aid in memory retention by helping employees establish patterns in their daily work. The human brain tends to be selective and may only remember information that has a recognizable pattern. As such, digital technologies that organize information into easily familiar patterns can help facilitate memory retention and purposeful learning.

Companies are now using big data analytics not only to monitor activities and their progress, but also to measure their employees’ learning success. Big data enables companies to notice patterns and variances, which provides valuable insights on how to implement and improve their upskilling programs moving forward. Ultimately, these big data insights will reveal the success or failure of the company’s upskilling initiatives.

Additionally, big data also provides insights on how companies can tailor-fit their learning and development programs to suit the needs and goals of their individual employees. To encourage a culture of continuous learning, businesses are now providing a wide range of learning opportunities both online and offline (as seen in AT&T’s and Cognizant’s sample initiatives); in-house training, monthly seminars, collaborative workshops, and micro-sites with educational content such as articles and videos, among others. This range of learning opportunities helps employees develop the skills needed for digital transformation, which will help them remain competitive in a fast-changing business environment.

The great thing about learning is that it is a continuous process, especially when fostered by the organization and its culture. Digital technologies only serve to aid companies and their workforce to pursue learning in an efficient, productive, and cost-effective manner. However, the desire to learn and adapt to changes must be embraced by the individual and cultivated within the company culture. In the end, it is the people, not the digital technologies, that bring about true and lasting transformation.

Do you think your company will be able to upskill your workforce? Are you ready to lead your people to move forward to success in the age of digital transformation? You don’t have to start from scratch nor make big changes all at once. Take small steps, like investing in workforce tools and training your people to have the right mindset. Driving change can seem overwhelming, but it’s necessary—more than that, it’s worth it.

 

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