The faster technology moves, the wider the digital skill gap becomes. As technical and talent acquisition leaders, the first step is to understand the factors that led to our current digital skills gap. Only then can businesses bridge this gap before it becomes too wide to overcome.
The Current Digital Skills Gap
The World Economic Forum warns that if nothing is done, the global digital skills shortage could leave 85 million jobs unfilled by 2030. While all employees need to be digitally literate, what must come first is access to technical resources to enable (and innovate) the digital age of business.
To drive home this point, let’s take a look at a recent example – the move to remote work.
The pandemic forced employees to leave their offices and, for those who were able, set up shop at home. Managing this business environment required technical resources who could keep systems up and running around the clock.
McKinsey found that as a result of the pandemic, companies sped up their digital transformation timelines by 3-4 years. While impressive, that tech acceleration during COVID is nothing compared to what we’re experiencing in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) innovation.
We’ve now entered the point of no return as it relates to technological possibilities – and the speed of ongoing innovation. Every single operational area of the business will be forever changed over the next few years.
The race is on! Companies are ready to find their competitive advantage through technology, but here’s yet another example of the importance of IT talent.
Harnessing the potential of AI will require a strong digital team, with specialized expertise in emerging fields like AI, cybersecurity, and data science. The very short shelf life of tech skills will make this a challenge for companies for years to come, if not indefinitely.
Just as during the pandemic, businesses need technology talent to shepherd them through these new waves of innovation – and digitally savvy employees who can operate within the workplace, however it evolves.
Strategies for Bridging the Digital Skills Gap
There are a few ways that leaders can increase their chances of sourcing individuals equipped with the right skills to drive innovation and competitiveness in today’s digital business age. All of these strategies put skills at the center.
1. Skills-based hiring
It starts with the way a company approaches who they bring into their organization. Companies must prioritize skills when it comes to new hires by taking a skills-based approach. This requires a real-time view into the digital skills of employees across the entire organization, as well as a clear view into what skills are needed at future intervals.
With that data, companies can then devise a hiring strategy that fills those specific gaps. This approach ensures a more targeted recruitment strategy, aligned with the roadmap of digital skills an organization needs to deliver on its technical projects.
2. Collaborative training programs
Next, companies must adopt a continuous learning mindset. In 2024, organizations must increasingly invest in upskilling and reskilling programs to ensure their workforce remains adaptable and well-equipped to meet evolving challenges. However, it takes budget and bandwidth.
A more cost-effective way to introduce these programs is in collaboration with educational institutions or online learning platforms. The benefits are twofold. First, having a partner share the administrative and executional burden of training requires far less heavy lifting than going at it alone. Second, it allows businesses to create tailored training programs that address specific skill gaps within their organization.
3. Eliminate barriers to talent
This third approach combines both of the above, recognizing that there simply aren’t enough skilled IT resources in today’s job market. Smart businesses, however, realize that one way to overcome this is to widen the pool itself. How? By using a Hire-Train-Deploy approach. Partnering with an HTD company allows companies to access high-potential talent, co-design a training program, and then deploy those resources to work at their organizations.
The advantages? First, it offers seamless access to talent. Because resources aren’t qualified for roles prior to the custom training, there’s no competition for them. This strategy also tends to bring in more diverse, untraditional candidates. This is a massive benefit to any organization’s IT team, as Boston Consulting Group reports that diverse companies have 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT margins.
Organizations will need to get serious about their digital skills gap in order to capitalize on their potential in our AI-enamored business environment. While all employees will need to increase (and sustain) their levels of digital literacy, it takes a strong, skilled IT team to create an environment where everyone can thrive.