Strategy & Operations » Firms must address digital skills gap to truly benefit from digitilisation strategy

Firms that accelerated their digital transformation plans are now experiencing a growing skills gap between employees who are proficient in new software and technical language and those that are not.

Addressing these challenges will allow employers to receive the maximum return on their investment to streamline processes, says Philippe Gangneux, CFO at Sidetrade.

“It is essential in this day and age that organisations focus on improving digital competency across all areas of the finance team to fully benefit from the digital transformation taking place.”

However, the upskilling of staff should not be limited to junior employees.

“This is a particularly important factor when we consider the hiring challenges taking place across all sectors currently,” adds Gangneux. “More than ever, organisations need to nurture their pre-existing talent by ensuring training and development opportunities. This is just as important as developing and training new hires.”

In fact, 87 percent of companies say they are either experiencing gaps now or expect them within a few years, according to a survey by McKinsey.

Claire Adams, director of learning and development at Hootsuite, says addressing the challenges internally will enable organisations to stay competitive.

“The ability to develop talent internally and give those employees opportunities to grow into new roles is critical and will set organisations apart.”

Alongside improving digital competency, Virginie Gupta, director of Outsourced Collections at Sidetrade, says employers “must not lose sight” of developing soft skills.

“There should be just as much focus on soft, interpersonal skills as there are on hard skills,” she says. “Emotional intelligence, negotiation, persuasion skills and so on are all incredibly valuable for an employee’s professional development in their role and beyond, and the overall success of the business.

“I don’t think enough focus is given to these currently across organisations,” Gupta adds.

Rene Ho, CFO at Taulia, says learning and development (L&D) programmes have traditionally been “functionally orientated” and “job specific”. But, has since moved towards more interpersonal skills such as leadership and communication that will support employees as they move around within the business.

A diverse offering of learning and development opportunities is key to talent growth and retention, he says.

“We want the people that have been with us for several years to grow and learn. That means a big reinvestment in [L&D] or else they will go. We are seeing turnover like many other companies, and we want to find better ways to keep longer tenured people engaged and excited at Taulia.

“It’s good for them and it’s good for the company.”

Finding success in L&D strategies post-pandemic

Some organisations have seen significant savings having moved learning to a virtual environment, and this reduction in cost can go a long way towards reinvestment in other learning opportunities and systems, says Adams.

Companies should look to ensure their learning and development strategies post-pandemic are agile and provide space to learn and iterate, she adds.

“An L&D strategy that understands what future performance is needed and that focuses on building critical skills and supports the transfer of learning into behaviour change is key.

“Using data to help understand both skills gaps and the effectiveness of learning interventions will allow employers to maximise the value and impact of their investment.”

Similarly, Gupta says a successful L&D strategy should incorporate more learning-the-job opportunities.

“It should never just be entirely theory based and doesn’t just end with one class,” she says. “Employees need to be given the opportunity to practice regularly to step back and reflect on their learnings and practice again.”

Additionally, companies should look to incorporate peer-to-peer training sessions in their plans.

“This is a win-win situation for those being trained and for those running the sessions who can develop skills beyond their day-to-day skillset, as well as ensuring their own understanding is relevant and up to date,” says Gupta.

Ho highlights, however, the best returns on learning and development strategies are when the employee wants to learn and helps drive the agenda.

“The company has the framework and creates the opportunity, but the employees need to take control and make it happen.”