The skills gap is an issue well-versed by now, and the war for the best talent shows no sign of abating. However, the biggest asset to any organisation is its staff, so while time should be spent seeking new skilled employees, as much effort should go into upskilling the current workforce. It was therefore disappointing that a recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that UK employers are spending less on training than other major economies. The report shows a deterioration in training since 2007, with the UK sitting fourth from the bottom in the EU league table on participation in job-related adult training.
Almost every business, across all sectors, will have to adopt new technologies to remain competitive and achieve growth – but it is within this area that we are seeing a growing chasm in the skill set, and training of UK workers.
A, B, C, Digital
Proficiency with technology is now considered to be imperative in terms of the value it delivers to the modern organisation. Digital skills have not only been ranked as a top priority in the government’s industrial strategy, but a recent House of Lords study even called for a radical rethink of the education system, and placed digital literacy on a par with numeracy and literacy in terms of utility. As new applications and tools continue to impact the everyday running of a business, having the knowledge and mindset to adapt has never been more of a crucial skill for employers and employees alike.
Our research also supports this view; having the right technical skills in place and receiving the right training were listed as the two of the biggest challenges hindering digital transformation for employees. Equally, 36 per cent of workers stated that their organisations didn’t provide them with enough training, while over a fifth said the training they had received was inadequate.
Simply throwing money and resources at the problem in a one-off exercise is not the answer here either. The pace of change is too fast, and it’s creating problems for employees; nearly a third of employees in our research stated that new technology has in fact made their job more stressful. What’s clear then is an ongoing training strategy needs to be put into place to avoid an unhappy workforce, and a potential staff retention issue.
Whose responsibility is it?
While few organisations will deny the importance of having this regular training, many will struggle to pinpoint who this responsibility lies with.
One of the main challenges for organisations is implementing training for a topic as technically complex and ever-changing as technology. Naturally, workplace training sits within the HR department, but given the digital landscape’s complexity, they may increasingly struggle to provide all the answers.
This is where organisations should consider hiring or creating a role for a Digital Training Officer (DTO), to future-proof the workforce’s digital skills and fortify the organisation’s digital roadmap to guarantee a successful transition into the digital age.
What qualities do you need in a Digital Training Officer?
So, what qualities are needed for someone in such a diverse, yet vital role?
Wide-ranging technical knowledge: A DTO will need to possess both wide-ranging digital skills and technical knowledge. From accounting software for the finance department, to social enterprise platforms for the whole organisation, uptake of new technologies will be happening across every division, so comprehensive technical capabilities will be a must.
A thorough understanding of training processes: Anyone assuming this role will have to work closely with both HR and IT to ensure synergy across both departments.
A patient communicator and enthusiastic knowledge sharer: A DTO will need to upskill a range of employees of different ages and job levels. The desire for adequate training transcends the generations, throwing into doubt the notion that the tech-savvy, millennial generation adapt to the arrival of new technology with ease. For example, less than half of 16 – 34 year olds surveyed felt they could make the most of the digital tools available to them, and the majority called for more training to improve their skills.
Driving cross-company cultural change
Driving a cultural change within an organisation to ensure digital adoption, and proficiency is key here. Training is no longer something that should only be happening every quarter, or year-end. A DTO will be instrumental in driving this change; as well as being a forward-thinking advocate for technology, they will need to prepare employees for changes in internal processes, and ensure new tools are welcomed. That said, while someone in a DTO role is needed to drive this change, deployment should become a company-wide effort.
There’s no escaping the impact that technology will have on a business, but successful adoption will depend entirely on the quality of training provided to your employees. With Brexit on the near horizon, UK businesses face a testing time over the next few years, and can’t afford to slip when it comes to their greatest asset – staff. Only those who understand the value of upskilling their employees will be the ones ultimately storming ahead to competitive advantage.
Keith Tilley is EVP and vice chair at Sungard Availability Services