Reskilling and upskilling key to plugging the critical digital skills shortage

Reskilling and upskilling key to plugging the critical digital skills shortage

The world is in the middle of a severe digital skills shortage. The KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook survey identified “talent risk” has risen to the number one threat key to future success. The talent risk was behind 11 other risks to long-term growth just a year before, evidence of the impact COVID-91 has had on the global digital landscape. Simply put, accelerated digital transformation has translated into an even bigger squeeze on the already stretched ICT talent marketplace. The skills gap is expected to widen as more organizations embrace digital transformation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates at least 133 million new roles will be generated due to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms that may emerge globally by 2022. There will also be strong demand for technical skills like programming and app development, along with skills that computers can’t readily master, such as creative thinking, problem-solving and negotiating, it adds.

Soaring demand for tech talent  

There are no easy answers to solving the talent crunch. Some organizations may opt to pay a premium to acquire talent with skills in demand, but whatever advantage they gain is most likely short-lived given the rapid shift in technology. LinkedIn analyzed job openings for the most sought-out skills in the summer of 2021. The top 10 list was dominated by tech-heavy domains such as data science, data storage technologies, tech support and digital literacy.

The more worthwhile long-term objective is to invest in the upskilling and reskilling existing workforce. The WEF estimates that more than half (54%) of all employees will require significant reskilling by 2022 as traditional roles change into something different or disappear altogether as digital transformation takes shape. Upskilling is the process of preparing the workforce to fill these new positions. Global companies realize the value of training the workforce. Amazon announced a $700 million initiative to boost the digital skills of its workforce in 2020 while PwC rolled out its own $3 billion program.

Rachel Dougherty, CEO of San Francisco-based edtech platform Promise, says reskilling and upskilling employees is no longer the preserve of large corporations but should interest any organization that wants to build resilience and prepare for the future. “We have seen a massive shift in how organizations approach training, particularly post-pandemic. It is no longer a niche but a must-have.”

But conventional in-person training methods will not work, particularly for busy professionals. Additionally, face to face interaction is increasingly impractical in a post-pandemic environment. Online learning is the more practical solution allowing learners to access lessons anywhere and on any device.  

But training is complex with no guarantee of success. That is why many organizations would instead outsource skilling their employees to third parties. The result is the rise of platforms such as Udemy, Coursera and Udacity, which offer online courses in advanced areas such as AI, machine learning and cybersecurity.

Positive return on investment

Empowering employees for the digital world has positive bottom-line outcomes. According to PwC’s Global Digital IQ survey, 86% of top-performing companies reported that digital training programs boosted employee engagement and performance.

“Showing measurable ROI really changes the conversation in boardrooms, and we expect to see renewed interest in the idea moving forward,” Dougherty said  

Online learning offers great room for innovation. Gamification is one trend that has emerged recently. Gamification turns e-learning into an exciting and interactive experience to draw employees into the learning environment and keep them there.

Gamification popularity arises as it delivers clear goals and tracking of progress, with usually attractive displays. The method offers attractive badges, achievements and rewards for progress against goals. Like computer games, gamification of training supports socialization for communication and interaction with other users wherever they are.

Another emerging trend in training employees is microlearning. Here lessons are divided into bite-size sessions that can be consumed at a learner’s pace and easily integrated into the daily workflow, for example, learning during lunch or the daily commute. Microlearning is typically accessible on mobile or desktop devices, making learning easier. Microlearning courses are faster to develop and deploy than long and unwieldy training modules. Since the training content is in smaller bites, they can be easily tweaked and updated as needs arise.

There’s value in making sure employees are empowered and adapt to changing times. If employees are indeed the backbone of any organization, upskilling and reskilling shows corporate intent in building resilient businesses in a changing world. 


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