Reskilling in the age of digital transformation

Reskilling for Digital Transformation

Digital transformation, and the results of it, are nothing new — yet with the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 it can feel like the latest business buzzword appearing in every corporate monthly magazine and hot on the lips of every senior executive. In fact, one could wager that Apple’s introduction of the iPod represents, among a certain age demographic, their first time witnessing digitalisation really disrupting an industry — it changed the way the ‘man on the street’ consumed entertainment.

A total game changer, the transformation of the music industry was a precursor for a lot of what we witness on the high street and wider society today — for better and for worse, one could argue. Indeed, while many reap the benefits of industry digitalisation when it comes to easier banking processes, or ordering a taxi from their phones — many blue collar workers are facing uncertainty with the automation revolution closer than many think

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An era of unprecedented transformation

Even before this year’s Covid crisis, new or changing technologies and ways of working were disrupting industries and jobs, plus the skills that employees need to possess in order to do them. As far back as 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers — or 14% of the global workforce — would have to change occupations or acquire new skills by the end of the current decade because of automation and AI.

Reskill Automation

Covid-19 has accelerated what was already a fast-moving trend. In order to remain competitive, businesses across industries have been digitising their offerings, and digitalising their internal processes for staff and external buying options for customers. Whether that’s all-digital HR functions so employees can request leave, inform about sickness, and have an overview on team absence — or Original Equipment Manufacturers such as automakers allowing prospective buyers to choose, customise (and even virtually test drive), and purchase vehicles entirely online. 

Both of these examples are net wins for the both employee and the consumer, but things aren’t as rosy for workers in jobs that can be done either by machines directly, or automated processes — streamline operations so businesses can become more cost effective.  

Many US coastal journalists felt the ire of heartland America when they suggested coal miners should “learn to code” in the face of widespread job losses, perhaps pointing to a disconnect between those who live in larger metropolitan areas and those in rural communities with less digital industry. However, in reality it isn’t only blue collar workers who should be concerned with the rise of the robots. In industries such as logistics, artificial intelligence may feasibly replace many human positions in the not-too-distant future. Which begs the question… How important is reskilling for digital transformation as we head into this uncharted territory? 

Reskill Skill gaps

Reskilling for digital transformation: plugging the skills gap

If we look back to McKinsey again, their February 2020 survey revealed that 87% of the executives and managers asked said their organisations either have skill gaps already — or expect them to develop between now and the middle of the decade. 

With an April Gartner study showing that 75% of CFOs intend to keep at least 5% of their workforce permanently remote, and companies such as facebook and Slack declaring their intention to allow permanent remote working for nearly all their staff — a seismic shift that was perhaps inevitable in time has been pushed to the forefront with immediacy and some may say necessity. 

Shifting gears

One possible answer to the automation question is building educational solutions to reskill a workforce who don’t fit into common assumptions and requirements of the average tech worker, such as truck drivers. They make up 2% of the US workforce, and it’s the most common job in 29 of the 50 states. In Europe they’re predicted to be among the most impacted professions as we globally migrate to a more automated economy, according to research conducted by The Guardian.

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“Don’t wait until self-driving trucks are a common sight on the highways to start building skills for your next job. Start doing it this year, so you will be ready when the time comes.”
Stephane Kasriel,
Stephane Kasriel,
CEO, Upwork

While it might seem fanciful to expect middle-aged drivers to reskill to a totally different area, it’s certainly likely that autonomous trucks will require human assistance for the foreseeable future so there will definitely be transferable skills — though of course, large scale disruption is inevitable. 

Reskill mismatch

Covid as a driver of change

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed this issue even further to the forefront. Workers across industries need to figure out how they can adapt to ever-changing conditions, and businesses need to learn how to match those staff members to new roles and activities. That said, reskilling for digital transformation (and upskilling) is not a new idea. Digital transformation and artificial intelligence have been a growing part of business for years — though it is without question that the pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of technology.

As well as accelerating the transformation of industries and business, the pandemic has also pushed virtual hiring, onboarding, and learning to the forefront. These platforms enable organisations to broaden the abilities of their existing workforce and as such, reskill large numbers of employees relatively easily to plug gaps that currently exist or will do shortly. Attitudes and practices around remote working have also been transformed, with many large organisations proclaiming they’ll be shifting to an almost totally ‘work from home’ model for the foreseeable future. 

With the uptick in use of online collaboration platforms and so on, some passive digital reskilling is inevitable — with an increase in familiarity though use and a mainstreaming of an online-first workplace. 

Program reskill

The road ahead

Most organisations are taking action to address their requirement for talent, with 56% stating that the aforementioned reskilling programmes should take precedence over new hires and is indeed their preferred method to plug existing gaps and address ones they predict to occur in the future.

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"As the world faces the transformative economic, social, and environmental challenges of Globalisation 4.0, it has never been more important to invest in people." 
Børge Brende
Borge Brende
President, World Economic Forum

It’s vitally important that people in all industries at all levels look toward upskilling and reskilling for digital transformation — and that business leaders empower their teams by facilitating this. Investing in existing staff is preferable to an endless influx of new hires as the values and culture of the organisation are already instilled, and from a fiscal perspective it’s also a more cost-effective strategy. 

With the exponential nature of technology rendering predictive models less accurate than in other circumstances, it’s tricky to set a definitive timeline, however it’s certainly something for businesses to begin to prioritise as we head into an era of unprecedented transformation.

If you’re struggling to find the skills you need to scale your development team and deliver exciting new products to your customers — and don’t have the time to reskill existing employees, then you might benefit from an extended team in a talent-rich location. 

In July we released an in-depth report on how the Covid crisis has led to a shift in attitudes toward remote work and how IT Decision Makers will build their development teams in the years ahead — and what we uncovered is applicable to a business looking to address talent and skills shortages right now, also.

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What will you learn?

  • How new operating models are making businesses more resilient, and able to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
  • How to innovate without disrupting core processes — technology as a key driver of value, not merely a support.
  • How establishing remote-ready technology infrastructure is key to becoming more ‘pandemic proof’.
  • How to harness talent in worldwide talent pools, scaling beyond borders in a ‘new normal’ of recruitment and delivery.

To beat the European IT talent shortage, find out more about what we have coined ‘Offshore 2.0’, and to discover how CTOs, CIOs, and VPs of Engineering will be building their tech teams beyond 2020, download our latest report: Scaling Beyond Borders.

If you want to leverage Bangalore’s IT ecosystem, and transform your business, feel free to reach out to us by filling out the contact form. As experts in building the best engineering teams in India, we can help you build your A-team.