Digital transformation is a trend that has proliferated across the globe at a frenetic pace and has left nearly every business, whether large or small, across industries to undergo significant shifts. One of the key elements of these shifts and transformations witnessed in various industries is a lack of digital skills. The demand for them, however, is only rising as companies look to harness the transformative capabilities of technology and leverage the insights derived from digital technologies. What organizations need, then, is a talent pool that possesses both the digital prowess as well as the strategic business skills to realize their growth objectives in a highly competitive, digital business landscape.
According to a recent survey conducted among businesses in India, 64 percent of organizations stated that the widening digital skill gap in the country would pose significant challenges in their digital journeys. What makes the situation doubly challenging is the fact that 49 percent of employees fear that their current skill sets will be redundant in the next 4-5 years, while 34 percent believe that it may happen within the next two to three years.
The situation, though, is not all grim. On the contrary, the same study also found that India has the world’s biggest talent pool with digital skills. In a bid to maintain this trend, the Indian government developed and launched some initiatives, including the Skill India program, to harness the existing talent pool. 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.
The raw talent pool thus presents itself as a latent solution to the growing demand for individuals who possess both technical skills and business strategy and leadership abilities. However, to seamlessly fuse into the operational workforce, the individuals also need to evolve in tandem to the digital transformation taking place. This can only be done by combining excellent digital functional skills with deep business knowledge. The employees must also learn to be equally comfortable whether they are dealing with new technologies like AI or leading a cross-functional team.
On the other hand, employees have high expectations about how and where they can grow within an organization. That is, if employees do not see opportunities for career development, they will leave. Therefore, the onus also falls upon organizations to provide their employees with enough and suitable resources to enable themselves to keep up with the rapid transformations. Career development then also serves a strategic function, a purpose that we sometimes overlook because we assume it only pertains to employee ambitions.
Career development, therefore, is instrumental in supporting an organization’s business objectives and can assist with the alignment of the needs of the industry.
Are organizations taking a proactive stance?
Yes and no. As illuminated by the survey, while it is true that most respondents indicated that they are pursuing a proactive alignment with employee development to combat shrinking numbers of qualified workers, none have defined metrics that align career development with their operational strategy. The cost factor was found to be the primary issue explaining why almost half of the organizations fall short of providing career development resources to their employees.
As the issue of talent continues to reverberate around HR and executive circles, it is only natural to conclude that it will be those companies who recognize and execute strategies around career development which will survive and thrive in the competitive, digitally-evolving business ecosphere.
In today’s rapidly transforming business landscape, an agile organization is a continuous learning organization.
How can an organization adopt a lifecycle approach to employee learning and development?
1. Empower employees, not just managers
One of the primary reasons for employee turnover is the lack of access to career development programs and coaching from managers. By putting employee development tools in the hands of employees, everyone can get on-demand access to developmental suggestions for their current and future jobs. Therefore, enabling the workforce across all verticals, not just the highest tier, will benefit both the organization and the HR workforce employed in it.
2. Integrate disparate processes for holistic development
A unified approach to employee development rather than focusing on solo learning plans, development plans, and career plans can aid in creating a culture of continuous learning and development within organizations.
3. Leverage modern intelligent technology for employee development
New tools can uncover non-obvious career development opportunities and recommend developmental activities and career paths based on crowd-sourced and data-mined intelligence. Leveraging a combination of cutting-edge technologies like AI, Big Data and Deep Learning, and algorithms, more meaningful and insightful data can be collected to analyse the employee development journey. Based on these insights, companies can provide their employees with highly personalized developmental recommendations that are also more engaging for them.
4. Create an engaging environment to facilitate the development
One way to improve the usage and effectiveness of developmental tools is by tying your employee development programs to social communities and reinforcing positive actions via tools like gamification. These peer-supported communities, combined with an opportunity to earn points and badges, increase usage by making the process immersive and fun. Finally, one of the easiest ways to improve engagement in the employee development process is by providing access to development tools, resources and content via easy-to-use mobile apps that can support quick, targeted micro-learning for the respective user.
The digital revolution in the business landscape has brought along several opportunities for organizations to successfully transform themselves. Employee development, however, remains one of the most important tools to achieve this. Building a workforce possessing the right business expertise and digital skills through a comprehensive learning and development culture is, then, the first step organizations must take towards long-term business.