Closing the skills gap for digital transformation

How can CHROs drive digital initiatives and contribute towards business performance?

Closing the skills gap for digital transformation

By Tom Brown, Chairman at Gooroo

Digital transformation is something both corporates and government are grappling with in Australia with mixed results. Last year NAB and ANZ announced high volume redundancies as part of their drive towards greater agility and adaptability to meet changing customer needs. More recently, Telstra laid out its ‘2022 initiative’ to simplify product offerings and reduce complexity for customers – even the government had to find a new CEO for its digital transformation agency as former NAB executive Gavin Slater stood down.

On a global basis, the recent 2017 Skills for Digital Transformation Report showed 64 per cent of the companies surveyed indicated they didn’t have the personnel with the skills necessary to drive digital transformation in their organisations. This is up from 53 per cent in the 2015 study. Only 15 per cent of respondents said they had the skills available which is down from 17 per cent previously. A digital skills gap is still among the top barriers for successful digital transformation. Learning for the digital economy should be one of the first steps taken, not an afterthought.

CHROs are expected to drive this digital transformation, yet fewer than half (47 per cent) of HR leaders in Australia and New Zealand said that the HR function is a driver of digital transformation at their company, which is significantly lower than regional competitors such as Singapore (64 per cent) and Japan (65 per cent).

So how can CHROs drive digital initiatives and contribute towards business performance? This should start with assessing your employees’ skills to support digital transformation.

Define a digital strategy
The same 2017 report identified that only 50 per cent of the companies surveyed had established a vision of their digital future. Thirty-seven per cent had a clearly defined strategy and only 26 per cent had a defined plan how to get there.

A digital strategy is essential. It serves as a roadmap throughout the digital transformation process and will define the skills and organisation design required for success. At each step of the strategy the necessary skills can be identified, and the strategy can provide a means of measuring progress towards the organisation’s goals. It will help identify whether new roles need to be created, outsourcing is an option, or the structure of the organisation should change.

Ensure the enablers are in place
It is not just about strategy. CHROs will need to ensure other key enablers are fit for purpose to help drive digital transformation. The organisation structure needs to encourage and embrace cross-functional working and greater autonomy. The organisation’s culture will need to support and encourage a mindset shift towards greater collaboration. And a new approach to learning will be required, one which drives continuous and self-directed learning.

Assess current capabilities
CHROs need to evaluate the organisation’s current skillset against those required for any digital initiatives. Once skills gaps are identified, the organisation can move to close potential deficiencies with ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ programs to help attract and retain a more effective workforce.

Although it has announced shedding 8,000 jobs over the next four years, Telstra has developed a skills mapping system that can track an individual's abilities and knowledge, and map these against skills that will be needed as automation and artificial intelligence change many occupations.

The system, called MyCareer, allows Telstra to cross-skill and develop its technical and non-technical staff for existing roles and jobs that don't exist yet.

Upskill the workforce
One of the biggest fears employees have about the future is that their current skills will become obsolete in the workplace. To address this skills gap, employers need to provide ongoing training to help workers keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date. Training must be interactive and continuous. Millennials have grown up in a technology-dependent age, expecting to receive the information they seek quickly and on-the- go, rather than preparing ahead of time.

And preparing the workforce for the digital world does not apply only to the general workforce. Senior leaders and executives will need new leadership skills to lead in this era of disruption. Hierarchies are becoming obsolete in this new world, replaced by the agile, networked organisation.

Embrace technology to drive further change
Technology of course is key to driving digital transformation. At Gooroo, we have built a scalable, unique platform that combines Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the science of human thinking (Neuroscience) to empower individuals and unlock their capability and capacity. By understanding how people think, Gooroo gains insights that help individuals, teams and organisations make better and more confident decisions from hiring to managing major transformations such as mergers and acquisitions, and, importantly, designing the workforce of the future.

The digital transformation requires organisations to plan to succeed. They must ensure they have the enablers in place, the right skills identified and a strategy in place on how to source them, whether that is upskilling current employees, recruiting or outsourcing.


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