The Digital Talent Gap – Are Companies Doing Enough?
The business environment has been changing rapidly. There has been an advancement in technology and every employer is seeking to employ the most tech-savvy candidate.
This is due to the need to change the way business is conducted.
The digital revolution which brought about the internet has now moved to the next phase.
There are new challenges that businesses have to grapple with. And to overcome them, they need the right people working for them.
For some time, companies have had difficulty finding the right candidates. There are many unemployed people but the ones needed are nowhere to be found.
It however happens that they are not non-existent. They do exist, but in a very small number.
These candidates are tech-savvy and also conversant with the business world. They are therefore the right people to help businesses implement a digital transformation.
The digital transformation is a change which every business in operation today must embrace if at all it is to remain competitive.
The Digital Transformation
Not long ago, documents used to be stored in paper form.
These would then be kept in files which would be stored in shelves.
The sensitive files would be stored by your manager with the most sensitive ones going into vaults.
This mode of operation still exists today but the implementation changed.
Documents are first stored in a computer then transferred to a central server.
Sensitive documents are secured using passwords while the most sensitive ones are encrypted.
For more security and offline access, documents are stored in a remote computer.
This is what is called cloud storage. But the cloud is not just for storage.
Companies are now working purely from this virtual location.
For example, Amazon provides scalable server infrastructure with everything from processors and RAM to storage. You can get this through the Amazon AWS services.
This shows the shift that has taken place. The traditional way of conducting business is no longer a viable one.
And with all these changes, come new possibilities, opportunities as well as challenges. The opportunities are clear. And so are the challenges.
The challenges seem to be glaring at companies and they have been the most talked about.
The Need for Digital Talent
The first challenge is the need for digital talent.
Digital talent is simply the prowess to handle or implement a successful digital transformation program.
With the kind of changes brought about by digital transformation, the skills required to implement it are also different.
This brings two problems: the need for naturally-talented employees and the need for new training.
1. The need for natural talent – this is mainly a generational difference issue. The younger generation is well versed with much of the new technology.
Growing in a fast-changing environment with all sorts of technology, this has become their way of life.
Just consider the population which is most attached to digital devices and social media. The older generation feels that face-to-face conversations are the only true interactions.
The younger one are however okay with virtual environments where they step into a totally different world.
This makes it naturally easier for millennials to adopt and suggest digital solutions. Though others can learn, the learning curve might prove to be steep.
2. The need for new training – those unaware of the hundreds or thousands of potential digital solutions out there become candidates of training.
This may sound like an easy way out but there are many factors which will determine just how effective this is.
First is the employee being trained. Is he willing to learn and change? How fast will he learn? How well will he learn?
The second challenge is even bigger. Is the training being given the right one? Do the employees understand the need for it? Do they see it as worthwhile or as an unnecessary inconvenience?
Connecting the People with Technology
Since this transformation is not only dependent on technology, the people around it matter too.
No business can fire all its “analog” employees and hire “digital” ones. Therefore, a combination of new hires and training current employees has to be used.
The digital transformation has also introduced new careers. New careers mean new skills are required.
And as it happens where technology is concerned, things are moving pretty fast.
The conveniences of digital marketing and factory automation are spoken of everywhere.
Any business not embracing new technology is said to be losing fast.
Numbers are provided to prove this and companies get into a race for the elusive digital talent.
Despite this hunt being good for job seekers, the problem is that the qualified ones are in short supply.
There are many who are training for the skills required.
But going by studies and predictions about this situation, things will only get worse.
THE DIGITAL TALENT GAP
There demand for digital talent is high but the supply is extremely low. More people are needed to fill this gap.
Businesses are getting anxious as their competitors report success from utilizing the various digital platforms.
With all the talk about digital talent, it is important to know just what this talent is.
Lately, this term has become a buzzword. As such, it gets mentioned a lot and many do not really understand its meaning.
To many, digital talent is someone who knows how to interact with a given digital environment.
This mostly comes in the form of social media platforms and other software solutions relevant to your business.
But this is the wrong definition of digital talent. When you talk of digital talent, there is one thing you must include, at least in your thoughts.
That things is “business acumen.” You may be familiar with technology and be able to use it in different ways.
But if you can’t use it to bring profit to your organization, than you are not digital talent.
For you to be considered digital talent, you must have the business sense in you. Your skills must make business sense.
There are two groups of digital talents. These are hard and soft talents.
The hard talents are those related to the hands-on skills needed to work with a certain technology.
The soft skills are those needed to facilitate business.
They are not necessarily technology-based but operate in the context of the digital transformation.
MOST DEMANDED DIGITAL TALENTS
With the rapid changes, businesses are keen to incorporate and utilize these talents for growth.
This has driven the demand for skills to an all-time high.
Certain skills are seen as the most necessary while others rank lower than these.
The most demanded digital talents also vary with industry. Some industries are looking for specific skills while others seem to value a different set of talents.
Below is a look at some of the most sought after digital skills.
These are the kind that are necessary for running machines and operating technologies.
As such, these are seriously needed if any technology-based implementation is to be done. As much as the digital transformation is not all about technology, this cannot be removed from the overall strategy.
For example, there is no way you will expect your marketing team to succeed if they are not using social media.
There is no way you will become better than your competitors if you don’t implement automation in your manufacturing.
Hard talents are quite scarce because of the nature of the training required to develop them.
The level of interest in them may also not be very high in the workforce.
Here are the hard talents businesses are looking for:
1. Cybersecurity – this is a critical skill which every business needs to have. If you can have this skill working in-house, the better. Otherwise, you will have to outsource the services from a qualified consultant or freelancer.
The need for cybersecurity skills is a result of the ever-present danger of hacking. Business networks have become valuable playgrounds for hackers who seek ways of infiltrating the systems to wreck havoc.
Since most businesses operate in a form of network, security becomes top priority.
To be safe, you will need to have staff who are well equipped and updated on this subject. They also need to be sharp, analytical and decisive.
Despite the seemingly technical work that needs to be done, the business sense of the skills is still necessary.
The skills must be practiced from the perspective of the need to add value to the business. This way, the talent will be an investment, just as it is supposed to be.
2. Cloud computing – this is another technical skill. Cloud computing solutions have recently become very user friendly. This does not in any way do away with hard talent. There are levels of implementation and operations which need a technical person.
An example would include the installation of virtual servers.
Whereas the installed user application may be easy to work with, determining the server requirements may not be easy.
Choosing the right options during installation may also pose a challenge.
Cloud computing also requires some changes in the applications used by the non-IT employees.
For them to be well trained, the person or people conducting the training need to have the understanding of background operations.
This is important especially when it comes to troubleshooting end-user problems.
Soft talents are the ones which drive the business at the non-technical level.
They will mostly be about good communication and teamwork.
There are two soft skills in particular which Capgemini and LinkedIn noted in their study.
These are customer centricity and passion for learning. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Customer centricity – this is where you think like the customer. The customer becomes central to your business.
This may sound easy and normal but it is not. It becomes clearer when you distinguish the difference between being customer-focused and being customer-centric.
If your business is customer-focused, you will tend to want to satisfy your customers’ wants. This means engaging with them in an effort to develop products and services which they will like.
Being customer-centric is different. You have to switch your focus completely from what the customer wants to the world the customer lives in.
When you start living in the customer’s world, you understand exactly what he needs.
The difference therefore comes down to focusing on needs instead of wants.
2. Passion for learning – there can be no digital transformation if there is no learning. As already seen, there are two ways of gaining digital talent: acquiring new talent or training current staff for new skills.
From a business point of view, it is more sustainable to train current staff for new positions.
These are the roles created as a result of the changes being implemented in the company.
This obviously does not do away with the need for new talent.
If you are going to be successful in training your staff to acquire digital talent, they need to have the passion for learning.
They should have a personal drive towards growing with the company. With passion, learning takes place faster and the utilization of the knowledge is guaranteed.
Not everyone is passionate about learning. And when what is being learned is something completely new, there may be natural resistance. This may range from apathy to challenges brought about by age.
Older employees will find it more difficult to learn about new technologies unless they are really interested.
For some however, the possibility of a job loss can push them to learn.
The Most Affected Countries
The digital talent gap is a global problem.
Employers everywhere are experiencing a challenge in filling roles arising from the needed change.
With employers taking steps to mitigate the problem, some are bound to have it tougher than others.
As we have already seen, technology is only half the story.
This becomes evident when you realize that a technologically-advanced country like Japan is very high in the digital talent gap list.
According to a study by Manpower Group, businesses in Japan are experiencing 89% difficulty in hiring the skills they need.
Taiwan and Hong Kong are also in this list with 78% and 76% difficulty respectively. For Japan, the problem was noted to be due to the aging demographics, a general lack of labor and immigration restrictions.
The US averages in difficulty hiring talent at 46%. India, a country well known to have a good supply of digital talent rates at 56%.
The study did not detail the reasons Indian companies experienced a difficulty of this percentage.
It might however be that the Indian talent opts to work outside the country.
NARROWING THE DIGITAL TALENT GAP
Companies have recognized the urgency of the situation and some are taking the appropriate measures. This is mainly to avoid loss of the already-acquired talent.
One danger that non-adapting companies face is the possibility of their skilled workforce to jump ship.
With the demand for talent, poaching can be quite common.
Still, that is not the most sustainable solution to implement.
There are ways to narrow this gap while creating real value and strengthening your company.
Here is how.
Assess Your Digital Talent Needs
You definitely know that you cannot solve a problem which you do not understand. If you seek to do so, you will only waste your resources. You might end up dealing with mere symptoms rather than the real cause. To avoid this, you need to first of all understand what digital skills you need.
This may be a very tasking undertaking but proper planning will help. With a clear understanding of your business goals, get every department to do an internal audit of their operations. Let them come up with a departmental list of their needs.
To make it easy, department heads should focus on their challenges. Looking at challenges helps focus on how productivity can be increased. With a listing of their challenges, they should then come up with suggestions.
Each department is to do their own research on suggested or proposed solutions. This will be more effective as opposed to the IT team coming up with suggestions.
If the IT team is to be tasked with such a job, they will indeed do it well. The only problem is that they may not capture the full interests of the individual departments.
Furthermore, when departments come up with suggested solutions by themselves, they are more likely to embrace it once approved and implemented.
Assess Your Digital Talent Capabilities
With your needs for digital talent known, next you need to check what you are currently capable of providing. Here, you have to look beyond the normal areas of expertise.
For example, do you know that some of your employees could be running technology-driven businesses while off duty?
This is pure talent and it has the business acumen which is a must-have. Work towards getting such employees to use their skills at work.
This way, you will have made a big stride towards narrowing the talent gap in your company.
Prepare an open platform for discussions about the digital skills any of your staff may have.
You can do this in different ways. You can communicate about the direction the company is taking then later issue a questionnaire with relevant questions.
This will help you know who can do what and to what extent.
This information will also come in handy when choosing who to train for specific skills.
For example, you may have a staff who runs a blog and sells hand-made beauty accessories.
This is a good candidate for digital marketing training.
She can easily learn new ways of branding and developing customer-centricity for both your business and hers.
Such an employee will reduce your need for hiring new talent. In most cases, developing in-house talent is cheaper than recruiting new staff.
There is one big mistake which you can make during your journey towards digital transformation.
This is thinking and acting as though technology and everything about it is all you need.
Just as you never ignored strategy when drafting your business plan, you shouldn’t do so now.
Strategizing for the digital transformation will save you a lot of time and money. You may find out that you actually don’t need to make certain changes.
Or you probably should go with a specific solution because it solves two problems at the same time over another which only solves one.
Your goals should be at the center of your strategy.
For example, strategy will help you know which training will work for you.
This is because the clear road map created by strategy dictates that you provide your workers with specific training.
The clarity in the specifics of what you want will ensure you get the exact results you were looking for. This translates into the overall solution being in line with your preferred way of operation.
The saying that change is constant can never be disputed. If by any chance nothing else changes, technology will.
And when technology changes, the way work is done changes. The mode of communication also changes.
Basically, life changes.
“A true champion can adapt to anything.” Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Keep in mind that you will face a constant need for change and set your mind accordingly. The need to adapt should also inform your strategizing process.
Take some time and study your industry and those related to yours.
Find out what predictions are being made of the future and see how you can meet those needs now.
If you can’t, at least develop mechanisms of minimizing the impact when that time comes.
Check the trends in your industry and the economy at large and try to stay ahead of the game.
The world has changed and will keep changing, especially due to technological advancements. The business environment will always be affected by these changes.
After understanding the situation as outlined in this article, follow the advice given and safeguard your business for sustained growth.
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