Jul 14, 2022

3 Effective Ways to Transform the Digital Skills of Your Workforce

The people part of digital transformation is just as important as the technologies, processes and infrastructure involved. 

A huge aspect of digital transformation is the culture of a business and what it offers in terms of learning and development, not only to drive digital maturity but to demonstrate investment in the future of its employees.

As the pressure to improve learning and development opportunities continues to intensify across industries, those charged with skills progression need to develop new ways to empower employees while offering opportunities to grow within the business.

According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 94% of working professionals confirm they would remain loyal to their current business if it invests in their continual learning and development.  

So, how do businesses drive the 'people' part of digital transformation? To answer that we need to explore the three essential elements of the process: mindset, skillset and toolset.

1) Mindset

When it comes to digital, the mindset stage of the transformation process is about leadership, strategy and culture. Here, the end goal of the business is adopting a culture with digital threaded into its DNA.

While the lack of buy-in from senior executives was once cited as the reason for the slow progression of digital transformation, it now seems to be the involvement of frontline staff that is causing obstacles.

While CEOs are heavily involved in (and committed to) transformational change, many frontline employees find the process more challenging. Yet, while this is the case, studies from McKinsey & Company show that many leading organizations find it harder to attract and upskill tech-savvy executives than talented technical frontline staff.

Upskilling talent
Upskilling talent

To reap the rewards of a seamless digital transformation process and ensure everyone is engaged in the process, the solution is two-fold; communication and empowerment. 

Communication – Companies with senior executives that communicate with employees across all levels of the organization are far more likely to achieve transformation success compared to those who don’t employ it. 

In fact, businesses with effective communication programs and support are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their rivals. What is seen to work in terms of communication is:

  • Clear communication on transformation objectives
  • CEO’s visible engagement with transformation
  • Regular access to information and relevant data
  • Senior leader visible engagement
  • Ability of frontline employees to see visible changes in day-to-day work
  • Continual commitment to staff training, learning and development across the organization

Digital technologies can be very helpful in aiding communication and these channels should be leveraged to engage staff such as social media channels, change management apps or games and live feedback tools.

Empowerment – While senior members of an organization may know their role in the transformation process, many frontline staff can find it difficult to see where they fit in. Empowering employees to see how their involvement can help progress the transformation not only engages them in the process but also enables them to see how it impacts on the success of the business.

Involving Human Resources (HR) can help lead this process as they are best placed to understand the capabilities of individuals within the organization and understand where the skill gaps are. Employees can benefit from the perspective of the HR department through talent development while recruitment can be used when people in-house do not have the necessary skills required.

Investing in employees is empowerment, as those who feel valued and recognized by their employer are more likely to be satisfied with their job. Deloitte found that employee engagement, productivity and performance are 14 percent higher than in organizations without recognition and a 15 percent improvement in engagement can result in a 2 percent increase in margins. 

2) Skillset

The fact is there aren’t enough people in the workforce with the right digital skills across industries. In the UK alone, the widening digital skills gap is costing the economy £63 million a year. . And this bleak picture is familiar the globe over.

A widening digital skills gap

Despite digital natives and millennials entering the workforce, there is still a substantial gap to be filled in the skillsets of organizations. Right now, 70 percent of the current workforce (including young digital natives) feel they lack the skills to do their job. That’s alarming, especially when you consider that today’s businesses rely on millennials and Gen Zers to fill job vacancies.

As digital technologies continue to evolve, the skills required to harness these evolutions need to be boosted on a continuous basis to filter the platforms or initiatives that may not work with those that will.

According to PwC’s U.S Remote Work 2021 survey. 72% of executives are looking to invest in tools that improve virtual collaboration to help catalyze their digital transformation efforts and support hybrid working models.

Modern businesses must invest in their internal talent

For corporations, this shortage presents a huge problem as those with the skills have the freedom to choose where they work and are in huge demand across industries and sectors. 

As a result, many highly skilled professionals are in control and will go for those companies that can provide them with the best salary package but also the benefits the company provides including learning and development opportunities.

In fact, a Quantum Workplace report found that 79 percent of employees feel more engaged with and attracted to companies that provide continuous learning and development opportunities.

Forward-thinking organizations tackling the skills shortage issue are looking at other ways, over and above hiring, to address the lack of digital capabilities in-house - namely developing talent internally.

“Upskilling the staff you have makes the most sense. The key to digital transformation is agility and the ability to constantly renew yourself.” L’Oreal’s HR director Isabelle Minneci

While some corporations have learning and development initiatives in place, scale and standardization are often an issue, particularly for those with large and global workforces. In addition, digital skills are no longer confined to particular departments such as marketing, as digital is embedded across a business.

The key to achieving this is to provide a certification or accreditation that employees are held to. In other words, their skills need to reach a certain level to attain accreditation through a certification program. This ensures the entire workforce gains certification to ensure the same standard of capabilities, and by applying these skills, they can drive the digital transformation of your business.

Such is the value of accreditation that many HR department heads feel that having professionally certified employees have a positive impact on the profitability of their organization. 

With certification also offering benefits to employees both in their day-to-day roles and future careers, future hires look for this as part of a learning and development package to demonstrate that a company is investing in them and their future.

3) Toolset

People learn in different ways. Some still hold value in classroom settings or workshops while others learn better at their own pace in their own environment through online learning. For some, a combination of the two works well as a classroom or workshop setting incorporates online learning in a blended model.

In recent years and with the development of digital technologies, professionals keen to upskill have turned to online learning. As lives get busier and time is precious, individuals want to be able to learn at their own pace and have access to content as and when they need it. 

Online learning increases skills and knowledge retention rates rise by 25 to 60 percent. A testament to the value of flexible online learning models. 

Online learning also improves retention compared to face-to-face training. This is due to individuals learning at their own pace but also being able to revert back to materials again and again when required. Using videos and also offering webinars with a live Q&A at the end can bring huge value to the program along with support networks that allow learners to engage with one another.

Vodafone Case Study

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Leading UK telecoms brand Vodafone, for example, discovered the necessity of upskilling their geographically dispersed digital workforce. This was a particularly pressing matter as the cost and logistics of running face-to-face workshops were becoming unmanageable.

By collaborating with the DMI, Vodafone upgraded its existing learning and development program—rolling out an initiative that gave the brand’s internal talent access to specialist on-demand educational content.

Now, this global solution is accessible to every Vodafone employee and not only drives staff engagement but helping to catalyze Vodafone’s digital transformation strategy.

Read our digital transformation corporate case studies to discover how some of the world’s most forward-thinking brands are adapting to the modern world of business. 

Monitor and re-engage employees

For many organizations, the added benefit of using digital tools is that they can track what and how people are learning. The popularity of resources can be gauged to see what is most effective. 

It’s also possible to track individual progress and for any lagging behind or struggling, interventions can occur through something as simple as an email to motivate them to re-engage. For those progressing well, a similar method can be used to congratulate them on their progress and urge them to continue to learn.

Employees are essential to the digital transformation process and are key to its success. By creating and cultivating a culture that encourages a digital mindset, a workforce will be better placed to drive an organization's digital maturity and elevate it to the ranks of a digital leader.

Updated 2022

Use L&D to accelerate your digital transformation

Give your workforce the skills, knowledge and tools they need to thrive in their roles and make your digital transformation goals a living, breathing reality. DMI’s industry-leading learning and development programs will transform the digital capabilities of your staff and leadership. Find out how we can help your business succeed today.

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