Gartner warns skills shortage could hamper digital transformation efforts

Statistics and figures; CTOs and business leaders ponder over them on a daily basis. They use them to make the most informed strategic decisions they possibly can. With that in mind, for fun, let’s begin this article with two seemingly contradictory points. According to IDC, digital transformation spending by businesses worldwide is expected to hit 1.7 trillion dollars in 2019. While according to Gartner, a whopping 70% of employees have not yet mastered the digital skills they need for their jobs today.

Few would disagree that digital transformation is vital to stay ahead. However, while embarking on a transformation process, it appears that organisations are ignoring the need to change the mindset of their staff.

Research by Gartner found that, as many organisations attempt to digitalise their operations, many HR leaders have noticed a problematic skills gap. In fact, 64%of managers don’t think their employees can keep pace with future skill needs.

>See also: Digital business requires a change in mindset and not just technology

“This prediction should deeply worry all major organisations,” argued Senthil Ravindran, Global Head of xLabs at Virtusa. He continued: “For all the money being ploughed into digital transformation projects, these investments will stand or fall on the skills and abilities of the staff. If nearly two-thirds of a company’s staff aren’t able to keep pace with new technologies, we’re going to see a huge amount of investment being wasted. Within a few years, technologies like cloud and AI will be as integral to how we work as word processing or email were in the last decade and firms need to make sure every employee has a basic level of competence when using them.”

“For example, we’re already seeing the impact in the legal profession with AI helping everything from due diligence to contract review, but if solicitors don’t know how to use these tools, some exceptionally costly errors could occur! Firms can’t sit back, hope for the best and risk such fallout – they need to be providing proper funding for training programmes on new systems to make sure that things run as they should.”

>See also: Digital transformation – What’s next for business’ biggest buzzword?

Gartner analysts are suggesting that the best way for businesses to help employees keep pace with shifting skill needs is by building ‘connected learners’. According to Gartner, this requires organisations to shift their approach to employee development in three critical areas:

  • Skills identification. Instead of prioritising business leaders’ urgent requests, leading companies are identifying broader skills shifts in the market to determine the most pressing skill needs for employees across the organisation.
  • Employee motivation. Rather than just communicating skills requirements, employees need to understand how they can personally grow by developing the skills the organisation needs.
  • Learning solutions. Providing self-service development options can overwhelm employees; leading organisations are brokering quality development experiences to accelerate new skill development.

>See also: What’s the role of the chief technology officer in digital transformation?

Building ‘connected learners’, as opposed to ‘continuous learners’ increases employee skills preparedness by 28% to 39% across the three main areas of employee development, says Gartner. Additionally, employees who are connected learners are eight times more likely to be high performers.

“In order to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world, companies must transform the skills of their workforce, both on a macro level by determining the skills their market and clients are calling for, and on a micro level, by showing employees the personal benefit to upskilling and offering experiences for them to do so,” concluded Sari Wilde, vice president of Gartner’s HR practice.

>See also: ‘Digital deadlock’ holding digital transformation back, says IDC

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future