5 talent gaps to address when building a digital-ready workforce

Michael Nizich identifies the missing factors you need to tackle when preparing your workforce to be digitally ready

What is the cost for an organisation to invest heavily in new technology only to have it sit unused due to a lack of understanding of its operation and purpose?

There was a time before computers existed when companies were quite successful and very profitable. Even when computers became readily available, some companies took a long time to begin their transition into the digital world. Those companies eventually realised that their competitors, who were adopting and embracing new technologies as they became available, were steadily gaining advantages and market share over them. For many of these late bloomers, it was just too late by the time they decided to incorporate technology into their operations, and all too often they simply ceased to exist.

Today, nearly every aspect of business operates at an efficiency and pace that only a digitally advanced organisation can keep up with. With this digital embodiment also comes a digital-ready workforce to manage and direct the implementation of new technologies as they become available. Many companies experience digital talent gaps in their current workforce and need to address these gaps to retain the valuable knowledge base of the current workforce while also helping them to become digital-ready in a highly competitive environment.

So, what can companies do to build and maintain a digital-ready workforce and address the talent gaps that may exist in their current workforce? Let’s look at five specific talent gaps to focus on.

1. Foster a diverse and inclusive work environment

There is a gap between those employees that fear technology and change and those that embrace technology and welcome it into the workplace. It is now widely accepted that a diverse and inclusive workforce provides a wide array of creative and innovative approaches to problem solving that is simply not possible in a group-think environment that can sometimes occur in more homogenous workforces. Fostering a diverse work environment opens a flood of potential untapped talent and a more inclusive environment makes employees feel safe to voice opinions and share ideas and knowledge without fear of harassment or rejection. These environments are a breeding ground for new ideas and technology driven initiatives and help to foster and solidify a digital-ready workforce.

2. Promote and invest in technology training and education

There exists a knowledge gap in employee’s understanding of various digital technologies like database management systems and wireless networking for example. This gap can be costly to an organisation if employees do not understand how to best utilise these technologies to improve their operational areas. Training and education can be expensive, but what is the cost for an organisation to invest heavily in new technology only to have it sit unused due to a lack of understanding of its operation and purpose? Investing in training and education in the technology that you invested in is simply a requirement. Fostering an environment where workers receive regular training and are encouraged to share that knowledge is how you maximize your training investment to its fullest.

3. Embrace a flexible work culture

The gap between an employee’s work life and personal life leads a person to think about the organisation only when they are physically at the office which in turn leads to lost opportunities and lower overall performance. Embracing a flexible work environment and the digital tools that make it possible, enable an organisation to engage cooperatively with their employees to make the organisation successful while also being attentive to their personal needs. This leads to a very healthy work-life balance and is very beneficial to both the organisation and the employee.  

4. Reinforce competitive compensation

All too often employers see their most valued employees leaving for better offers. It’s difficult for leaders to equate increases in compensation and benefits to increases in revenue and profits since the direct experience of wage increases is an outflow of money. However, consider the costs of training an individual in a new technology, fostering that individual to share that knowledge with others and then having that individual leave your organisation to work for a direct competitor. The loss of one key employee is so damaging to an organisation’s profit that it could never compare to the 3, 5 or even 10% wage increase that would have kept them right where they are needed most.

5. Create relationships and organisational networks

Many jobs are filled with just one or two interviews from a handful of previously unknown candidates and many of those candidates don’t always work out as well as we would like. Short of extended term internships and co-ops, which can be quite expensive to run for many organisations, the best way to meet and recruit quality candidates for upcoming job openings is to collaborate with other organisations, industry associations, charities, and other business leaders. Using this approach, companies can establish and maintain a talent pipeline to help mitigate the digital talent shortage and help to solidify a digital-ready workforce for their organisation.

It’s safe to say that there is no silver bullet for establishing and maintaining a digital-ready workforce. Hopefully, these five tips can help you to consider your organisation’s approach towards establishing and maintaining a diverse and digital-ready workforce that will allow you to handle any digital transformation your industry may throw at you.

Dr Michael Nizich is an adjunct associate professor of Computer Science and Cybersecurity at New York Institute of Technology and is the author of The Cybersecurity Workforce of Tomorrow  

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