Last year, the Wall Street Journal ran an article that indicated most companies are failing at upskilling programs. The Journal wasn’t the only one concerned. According to a report from PwC, Talent Trends 2019: Upskilling for a Digital World, nearly 80 percent of CEOs worldwide are worried that a lack of skills in their workforce is threatening their growth. At the same time, turning to bots hasn’t seemed to help the “unskilled people” problem. Nearly 60 percent of companies say automation is not meeting their goals for productivity. There seems to be a missing link in the digital transformation chain.
What many are finding is that digital transformation is far more complex than simply investing in technology or training employees how to use it. It requires a whole new perspective—a whole new way of understanding their role in the business, and a whole new commitment to working in a new digital world. PwC, unlike many companies, seems to be getting it right. The following are some lessons for companies in the midst of an upskilling crisis.
Remember: Digital Transformation is About More Than Technology
It also involves people. While PwC is investing $3 billion in new technology and tools, much of that budget will also be dedicated to training and upskilling their employees to use it well. And when I say “use it well,” I mean understanding its full capabilities and being proactive in using it to improve the company. This is far different than a simple user training manual. This is learning to use technology for purpose rather than function.
Make It a Win-Win
It’s natural that you will meet some resistance from employees during digital transformation. That’s because many are worried that new technology will lead to a lost job. In fact, reports show nearly 40 percent of workers think their skills will be redundant in the next 5 years. That number jumps to nearly 50 percent for Generation Y and Z. Your employees need to be assured that there is an upside to digital transformation. Not only will they most likely not lose their job, but they will be able to offload some of their most boring activities to grow the skillsets they value most. For instance, at PwC, the company was able to decrease the amount of time spend on audits down to one minute each by using RPA to scan invoices. This freed up time for employees to focus less on data entry and more on meaningful analysis.
Align Learning with Business Strategy
For technological upskilling programs to work—i.e. for it to create value and meaning for both the company and employee—it needs to align with business strategy. If I own a restaurant and invest in fintech that eliminates some of the more mundane accounting from my finance team’s shoulders, what should I be upskilling them to learn? More of the same accounting? Of course not. I need to be teaching them how to use the new technology to grow and improve the business—to discover where we might save money or where we might invest in a new restaurant next. Upskilling programs aren’t about doing the same thing faster. It’s about empowering employees to do more meaningful and valuable things.
Widen Your Net
Ultimately, upskilling programs are about securing a pipeline of future workers, not just current workers. For instance, the manufacturing industry is spending $26.2 billion in 2020 to try to lessen the skills back in their industry to combat a lack of workers and the potential work stoppages that could come from it. For any company in the manufacturing industry to limit their training to employees within their own organization would be shortsighted. It would be wiser to consider open training sessions to prepare a pipeline of skilled employees for the future.
Digital transformation is a complicated process. The mistake most companies make is investing in technology, rather than a holistic program of training, technology, and support as employees deal with the emotional shift that comes with a changing workplace. The more we remember to incorporate humans into the digital transformation equation, the more successful our companies will be.