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The New Digital Skills Playbook

Jun 2022 by MARIA FORSBERG

5 Secrets to make Your Digital Skills work (before it’s too late)

The New Digital Skills Playbook

5 Secrets to make Your Digital Skills work (before it’s too late)

It's practically impossible for any business to operate without a strong foundation of sophisticated technology. Technology is no longer simply a tool to support, it is at the core of most businesses today.

New technologies emerge at a blistering pace, with old versions of products quickly rendered obsolete by new updates and entirely new companies and products emerging on a daily basis. This rapid emergence of new development and opportunities means, that we get access to reap the benefits of digital transformation.

Unfortunately, it also means that our Digital skills and knowledge become outdated faster and more predictably and that will impact your business in a very direct way.

If your company isn’t in control of a new Digital Skills playbook, the gap between strategy and skills will quickly leave you behind your competitors that are winning the Skills race and making their digital skills work.

But not to worry. We are here to share the 5 proven secrets to make skills work in the Skills-First Economy.

But first let’s establish the context of change.

The question is: Why do so many Digital efforts fail?

The reasons behind the failure are complex, but there are 3 major impacting trends that businesses are reporting.

According to research from Forbes[1], the vast majority of companies are failing to achieve full value from their investments technology and there are 3 major impacting factors:

  1. No Plan
  2. Skills and Strategy are not aligned
  3. Cannot Hire the Skills you need

With these facts in mind, many businesses are learning that Digital transformation is about skills. Not technology.

This is why successful businesses have changed their approach.

Now, your Skills strategy and the path you choose will determine, more decisively than ever, your company´s financial success.

Creating Your Digital Skills Playbook: 5 Keys

The Digital Skills Playbook is the plan that will match your business requirements with your Skills development, so that you´ll not be slowed down at any time by the lack of Skills or resources.

Some businesses try to get organized with several LXP’s and excel sheets, landing them in a very messy and unmanageable situation, whereas the successful businesses rely on the 5 Secrets to make Your Digital Skills work.

When the recommendations from the 5 secrets happen, the chance of success with Digital Skills transformation is nearly guaranteed.

 

1              A role-based plan, to support Digital skill building

These days, much of your success as a business (and as an employee) will depend on how quickly and how well you realize the value of not only new technologies that you acquire, but also the technologies that have already been implemented.

To put it bluntly - For all the money and time being ploughed into digital transformation projects, it’s mind baffling that the technologies, and not the skills, so often take centre stage of attention.

The fact is, that the investments will fail or succeed on the skills of the workforce.

So what’s the difference between the successful and the failing businesses?

The most successful businesses today have plans to get their digital skills aligned with strategy and they make their plans scalable and operational programmatically with targeted tools.

A great example is demonstrated in the McKinsey[2] study of top-decile economic performers. What sets these businesses part is 2 primary differentiators:

  1. They are twice as likely as others to say that they fill key technology roles with high-quality Skills and Talent before technology is even implemented!

  2. They say that they make well informed decisions about technology based on a common source of data.

To replicate what these top performers are doing, you need to move away from legacy, more individually initiated, skills planning practices that are detached from strategy, and look into the modern role-based skill planning strategies.

The role-based approach is in contrast to the skills-based approach, that is often reactive because it´s initiated by individuals on a grassroots levels with limited overview of the business needs.

When you move on to a role-based approach you’re able to make your digital upskilling outcome oriented and easier to plan and map to the business requirements

The skills mapping for each role should be based on a combination of knowledge from your internal specialists close to the business, and learning specialists who are experts in the specific ways to build the Skills needed to deliver against the goals of a role.

As technologies change and your business requirements develop, the plan and role-based skills map can be continuously adjusted to adapt to these ongoing changes.

The goal is to ensure that you have the Skills and Talent available in time to make the most of your investments in technology and stay ahead of your competitors.

The time is now for you to get a plan in place to connect Skills with strategy and to consider one data source to enable well-informed decision making.

 

2              Partnerships with Skills Experts who understand learning

You know your business and where you´re going, you´ve mapped out your roles and the goals to achieve, now you want to define and acquire the Skills you need.

So, the question is. Do you really understand exactly which training courses that will provide the skills you need, and which courses are a waste of time and effort?

Chances are the answer is probably no (unless you´re a training solutions provider of course.)

Skill-building for digital transformations like Microsoft Azure projects is much more complex than training for a new version ofr Windows Server.

It requires expert knowledge and new approach, and you will make leaps ahead when you work with specialists who understand the technology, the roles and the Skills needed.

According to a study by McKinsey[3], the most successful companies are now developing close partnerships to improve training opportunities.

We´re referring to real partnerships here, not the standard transactional relation.

A lot of research on economic competitiveness, from Spekman for instance, suggests that high performing interactions with suppliers are based on trust, commitment and information sharing.

The old ways of focusing on minimizing prices by playing several suppliers against each other, will not provide the gains, that you could have gotten from a trusted partner relationship.

We simply need new ways to cross-fertilize the insights from different stakeholders into coherent and broad approaches. Staying in the old customer – supplier silos will only lead to ignorance of relevant opportunities.

The Swedish IT consultancy firm INVID has overcome that barrier by partnering with an expert learning solutions provider. They have been working with Readynez using their proven SKILL model and expert instructors to train and certify a whole team in Microsoft 365.

“We are seeing a massive shift in demand now, where customers need us to help them benefit from technology and they don´t need us as much to assist with the operational side of the technology. Take Cloud for instance…It is still new for many, and concerns about security, architecture and ROI come up and it takes a different set of skills and services to address those concerns”, says Richard Wahlstedt,  Business Area Manager at INVID.

Richard explains, that the corporate training strategy is undergoing its own transformation. The employee driven course-by-course purchasing strategy is in the past.

Now, training budgets are closely connected to the organization’s strategy and INVID is looking into learner analytics and role-based learning solutions to offer more transparency and control of the corporate competencies in general.

Whether or not you can execute on this partnership approach to make Digital Skills work depends on the attitude and strength of your partners.

 

3              We need to bring training decisions close to the business

Forbes.com[4] has found that 95% of executives say that their strategies and their skills are not aligned. Just consider for a moment how unlikely it is, that you will create change when you don´t have the people or the skills to do it?

The digital change initiatives that impact the entire organization do start from the top, but in order to drive change, it´s crucial to bring specific training decisions close to the business.

Digital skills transformation is only successful when it´s Continuous, Connected and Cohesive across the organization.

Your priorities are the 3 C’s:

  • Technology upgrades happen daily, and the only ones who know which skills they need, are the employees with hands-on experience. Make sure their skills are continuously updated.

  • Understand that the digital skills training needs to be connected to strategy, or you´re just wasting time and money.

  • You can only create real change when the whole business is on board. You want cohesive training decisions to ensure that the new Skills work across sectors and departments

In fact, some of the most successful businesses have re organized their approach to skills and introduced new roles for that purpose.

At SimCorp for instance: Kenn is the Enterprise Learning Architect, and his role is a similar but also vastly different version of the well-known Head of L&D.

The Enterprise Learning Architect is the head cheerleader, as Ken calls it, of a team of 25 Learning Owners, that are responsible for Digital Skills in each of their niche areas.

That makes the learning organization very scalable, and it put the Skills and Training decisions in a very central position for the business. As Digital Transformation is accelerated, budgets are allocated to wherever they do the most good, and decision making is fast.

The Learning Owners are specialists in their fields, they understand the technologies and the Skills required in the business. They days of picking a random course off a list are long gone!

They are a central part of all projects. Digital Skills come first, not later and that is the way it has to be.

Transformation is just the new normal, it is more agile and faster and ongoing. It is never done, but it happens every day. 

Listen to the whole Podcast here to learn more about SimCorps approach to Digital Skill: https://www.readynez.com/en/podcast/simcorp-organizing-learning-development-for-digital-skills/

 

5              We need access to new Talent

Your ability to be stay ready for digital disruption depends as much on the acquisition of new Talent as it does on the development of your existing Talent.

The fact is, that it is now harder to find, develop and manage talent than technology.

Time to re-think potential

In the past, businesses recruited and hired employees based on relevant experience. The logic made sense at the time: If you wanted a job done right, you hired a person who knew how to do it.

This approach was successful then, because the likelihood of some new technology coming along to disrupt the essence of the position was quite low and resources were not that scarce.

Back then, a significant disruption would only occur once or twice in a person’s career, and you could pretty much hire the people that you needed.

But now, in today’s world of constant digital transformation, your demand for specific experience will continually and rapidly change.

So why would you want to compete for those rare profiles, with today’s experience, with out-of-this world salaries and benefits?

It is no longer a functional way to close the gap.

New ways for the Skills-First economy

The sheer scale and complexity of bridging the current technical skills gaps can be overwhelming for businesses, who have not yet moved on from hiring for experience.

Afterall, in response to the skills crisis, the most successful business leaders are thinking of skills before they even start to think about technology.

They are investing in talent rather than experience.

To futureproof your organization now, you will need to hire talent that can be trained for the NEXT wave of technology.

You need talent with hungry minds, who can be matched to the skill requirements in your business. Technological competence is temporary, but intellectual curiosity is a permanent asset.

You´ll soon learn that talent can be trained to do anything.

 

  1. Governance made scalable programmatically,

According to our experience working with hundreds or different organizations, most companies have difficulty managing and developing their digital skills, exams, certifications and compliance.

That’s not due to a lack of effort, it’s almost the contrary.

Many companies have implemented Learning Experience Platforms (LXP’s), and some even have several in place, and in addition to that, vast Excel sheets live with line managers in order to keep track of exams, certifications and compliance.

But none of those efforts are connected to each other (or to strategy) and it´s impossible to keep track of emerging and expiring skills.

In fact, research from Gartner[5] states that a mind blowing 65% of managers don´t think that their employees are able to keep pace with future skills needs. Furthermore, 70% of employees say that they haven’t even masted the skills they need for their jobs today[6].

Those are the numbers behind a full-on Digital Skills Gap. But it doesn´t have to be that way.

The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that. Within 6 months of the pandemic the most digitally savvy companies saw their valuations rise by 23%, whereas the less savvy rose by just 7%.

So how do you manage your turnaround to be among the most digitally savvy?

The are are 2 important considerations:

  • Programmatic governance of emerging and expiring skills
  • Quantifying the impact of training

Governance

In order to deliver skill transformation according to your plan and at scale across your organization, you will need to understand which skills are expiring, which are emerging and to have a common data source to base your initiatives on. Don´t depend on several LXP´s or excel spreadsheets. Your best option is a programmatic approach, such as a specialized LXP for digital skills

Quantification
Not all training is equal, the benefits you´ll gain from peer to peer training, online self studies and instructor-led training will vary and some of your role-based training paths may even need adjustments, but how will you know? The fact is that you can´t unless you make a point of measuring the effect of your training efforts again quantifiable goals. Also, don´t loose sight of the hard facts, how many pass their exams? How many billable hours are spent on training. What is the ROI?

Despite the efforts, the implementation and follow up on skill transformation is difficult to get right and you will need a programmatic approach to increase the likelihood of success.

Conclusion
With the facts of this playbook in mind, you are probably realizing that Digital transformation is about skills. Not technology.

Now, your Skills strategy and the path you choose will determine, more decisively than ever, your company´s financial success.

When you do get your skills and strategies aligned for profitable tech transformations, the benefits are hard to miss.

In fact, businesses that do get skills right are seeing average increases in profitability of 23% according to Forbes.com.

To realize increases like that, you will need to apply the 5 secrets to successful skill transformation:

  1. A plan to connect Skills with strategy and to consider one data source to enable well-informed decision making.
  2. High performing partnerships with suppliers, based on trust, commitment and information sharing.
  3. Bring specific training decisions close to the business. Digital skills transformation is only successful when it´s Continuous, Connected and Cohesive across the organization.
  4. Invest in talent rather than experience. To futureproof your organization now, you will need to hire talent that can be trained for the NEXT wave of technology.
  5. You will need a programmatic approach to increase the likelihood of success.

When done correctly, the 5 secrets can lead to amazing future proof results. And don´t forget, that by no means is initial failure the end of the road, a successful turnaround is always possible.

Ready to Get your Skills in order?
We've generated savings and efficiencies worth millions for our customers, using our range of Skills solutions. Speak with us to assess if we´re a good fit for each other.  

 

 

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2016/05/12/people-not-technology-are-the-most-important-business-upgrades/?sh=15539d7a5cdc

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/the-new-digital-edge-rethinking-strategy-for-the-postpandemic-era

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/the-new-digital-edge-rethinking-strategy-for-the-postpandemic-era

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2016/05/12/people-not-technology-are-the-most-important-business-upgrades/?sh=15539d7a5cdc

[5] https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/skills-gap

[6] https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/skills-gap

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