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Successful Companies of the Future Will Ensure Top-to-Bottom Upskilling

Written by Ghaith Ghazi, Regional Vice President, MMEA at Tableau, a Salesforce company

As technological innovations accelerate the transformation of all aspects of our society, our transition to an all-digital world makes having digital skills essential for today’s jobs. While the demand for digital skills is high, however, the supply of people with these skills is lagging behind. Increasingly, attracting and retaining workers with digital skills is businesses’ biggest ever challenge to succeed.

The gap is widening not only between those who have and don’t have essential digital skills but also between the types of digital skills the workforce needs. Despite common perception, advanced level in everyday digital skills such as social media and web navigation, for instance, do not necessarily translate to workplace collaboration and wider skills needed to drive economic recovery and positive societal impact.

As the digital demands of the workplace continue to rise, confidence among the workforce to meet these demands is falling. This is according to a new Global Digital Readiness Index from Salesforce. The survey of more than 23,000 workers across 19 countries revealed that only 27% of respondents feel ‘very equipped’ with the resources needed to learn the digital skills required to succeed now. This drops to 24% when considering resources needed in the next five years.

Our findings suggest there is a disconnect between senior leadership and their workforces in terms of participation in digital education, and expectations of digital readiness for the near future. Globally, 57% of senior leadership respondents believe they, as individuals, will be ready with the workplace digital skills needs over the next five years. This contrasts with just 37% of managers and only 34% of those self-employed.

As core digital skills become as important as reading and writing, companies have an opportunity and responsibility to help close the digital divide that is holding back parts of our society and economy. By better understanding the challenge and shaping their response, and support, accordingly throughout every level of their organization, they can embed the resilience and competitiveness needed to succeed in the digital economy.

Cultivating a New Mindset to Learning
The first step to ensuring top-to-bottom reskilling is challenging stereotypes that one generation is more prepared for digital-first jobs than another. Take, for example, the urgent need to upskill ‘Gen Z’. While younger generations believe they have higher everyday digital skill levels than other generations they are quick to rate themselves as ‘beginners’ for several important workplace digital skills. These include, for instance, collaborative technology (33%), digital Administration (25%), Cybersecurity (18%), Ecommerce (22%) and Project Management Technology (19%).]

Whereas young people have experienced difficulties in accessing the skills training that might allow them to add value to new digital roles and advance in their organization, the situation has been starker for their mid-career colleagues. According to our findings, whereas 83% of all ‘Gen Z’ respondents are actively learning and training for skills needed over the next five years, only 12% of ‘Baby Boomers ’ are doing so.

In addition to the pandemic’s impact on workplace dynamics, resulting technological developments have further amplified the need for upskilling at every level. Deployment of emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI and the cloud are just some examples – expected to rise by up to 50% in Europe and the US over the next decade, according to McKinsey.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we work, yet this is not without its challenges. Companies which use this moment to cultivate a cultural mindset of continual learning, champion diversity in their workforce and implement deliberate inclusion initiatives will be in a better position to drive better outcomes.

Rethinking How We Learn
Businesses with a digital readiness strategy at the heart of their agenda will be best placed to survive and thrive, by auditing the current skills of their workforce, and those needed for the future; identifying how skills can and will be developed within an increasingly hybrid working environment; taking action to ensure learnings are implemented effectively; and making themselves more attractive and relevant to job candidates.

It’s critical to encourage and invest in active participation in training programs – not only for their own workforce but the eligible workforce across their region. This is all the more important given the gulf in those actively participating in digital learning and training among senior leadership (60%) and managers (34%) and self-employed contractors (23%).

This is one of the reasons why Tableau, a Salesforce company, announced a commitment last year to enable 10 million data learners over the next five years. Data literacy is increasingly vital to modern organizations. While 83 percent of CEOs expect their organizations to be more data-driven, people often lack essential data skills with only 33 percent of employees comfortable using data analytics to support their decisions.

By building tailored training programs based not on what they think workers should know but on what workers actually want, and need to know, companies can create a working culture that empowers all employees, across all generations, to connect, learn and progress from anywhere. To break down barriers to reskilling, resetting recruitment to focus less on traditional education and more on skills will open up digital roles to a wider, more diverse talent pool and deliver a more positive socio-economic impact.

As part of their re-evaluation, businesses should also consider the significant benefits of peer-to-peer learning. Collaboration platforms are just one way that company leaders can make themselves available to employees. With the quick creation of channels, for instance, they can create open-door policies and mentorship initiatives which just might not have been possible before.

Reaching all Aspects of Society
Addressing the digital skills gap isn’t just vital to increasing business competitiveness, employee performance and satisfaction, and customer experience. Our new digital-first world revolves around everyone having the skills to participate. Now more than ever, businesses must work closely with governments and community stakeholders, to ensure that training and recruitment scale up to match digital demand, to reach all aspects of society from top to bottom.

With a long-term commitment to reskilling, we can unlock new growth and opportunity whilst addressing upcoming challenges – whether they are new pandemics, economic shocks or sustainability-related.

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