Today’s workplace is undergoing massive disruption, demographic shifts in workforce composition, employees with new and greater expectations, and emerging technologies that are changing the way work is done. In fact, every business is a tech business today, and companies can't expect to succeed without embracing and leveraging those latest technologies.
Such changes bring risk as well as opportunities, says Michael Gretczko, a principal at Deloitte Consulting and general manager of ConnectMe, a digital workplace service for human resource departments. Disruption requires a digitally skilled workforce that can use technology to open the door to new opportunities and help an organization achieve and maintain maximum competitiveness.
"Digital skills span from technical skills, like cloud development, software engineering and cognitive technology development, to functional skills, such as digital marketing, and then to 'ways of working' skills, such as agile methods and design thinking," he explains.
Beyond pure technology jobs, business functions such as HR, marketing and finance can benefit from the contributions made by digitally skilled team members, Gretczko says. "This includes bringing more software engineering skills into the [business] function combined with the application of new ways of working, such as rapid prototyping and advanced analytics," he says.
Being "digital" changes companies in a number of positive ways, Gretczko says. "Technologies go from being a part of the business, with a designated 'digital team' focused on process improvement, to being embedded within an organization with digital talent throughout, fostering a new way of working," he explains.
Gretczko notes that there should always be a clear focus on creating compelling experiences for workers, leading to what he describes as a “Simply Irresistible Organization," one that focuses on key strategies that work together to drive engagement: meaningful work, supportive management, a positive work environment, growth opportunities and trust in leadership. "Such organizations are typically more agile, fostering a culture of teamwork and innovation, which can drive efficiencies and improve the bottom line," he says.
Gretczko offers six categories that drive the need for employees with digital skills:
- Cloud. Most organizations are now using remote, Internet-based servers to store information.
- Mobile. The vast majority of enterprises should have a mobile-enabled website, but other applications should also be mobile-enabled so that employees can access them at any time.
- Automation. By reducing the likelihood of errors and streamlining processes, automation can help organizations collect data that can be used to spur future improvements.
- On-demand. An approach that offers employees freedom of choice, on-demand allows access to information and other services whatever, whenever and wherever needed.
- Self-service. As a method that can be used to save time and enhance productivity, self-service technology is now firmly embedded in the enterprise mainstream. In a traditional HR model, employees might spend hours on the phone trying to find the right point-of-contact to help them resolve an issue, but in a digital world, employees can easily access the information they need through an online portal.
- Cognitive technologies. Leading organizations are already tapping into artificial intelligence, chatbots and even wearable technologies to optimize performance and enhance employee experiences.
Ultimately, it’s important for organizations to give employees the opportunity to succeed in a digital environment, Gretczko says. "To do so, leadership must be open and clear about planned changes within the organization, commit to helping employees adapt and be successful and to offer plenty of opportunities for learning," he explains.
Gretczko believes that organizations must foster a commitment to continuous learning. "First, help employees understand the basics: what being digital means and how it impacts their role," Gretczko recommends. "Remove potential barriers to adoption and arm employees with the best devices, such as new software, hardware and collaboration and communication tools."
Developing digital skills across the entire workforce is critical for survival in today’s digital age, Gretczko says. He points to a Deloitte/MIT study that shows 72% of today’s organizations lack sufficient talent, and that less than 20% are actually developing digital skills. "This becomes an issue for executive talent, as they are 15-times more likely to leave an organization for not adequately developing their digital capabilities," Gretczko says.
Gretczko believes that companies need to seek out leaders with a record of driving change and pioneering new products and services for new openings. Firms should not just simply promote the best "executor," as they have in the past. "The challenge most companies will have is the fact that they are competing for skills in high demand from high-tech and consumer product companies that have more 'cache' in today’s talent market," Gretczko says. "Thus, the most digitally mature companies are investing heavily in workforce and leadership development in partnership with creating a digital-first HR organization."
Even as company leaders begin recognizing the value of fostering the development of cutting-edge skills, many employees may resist being pulled into the digital mainstream. "There will likely be some employees who are somewhat reluctant, but it may not be because they don’t want to acquire new digital skills," Gretczko says. "Instead, they may be concerned that they may not be successful."
To help all employees succeed digitally, Gretczko suggestsconveying useful information in ways that are both simple and easy to use, such as through videos and jargon-light web content. He also advises installing a dedicated support team that 's prepared to answer employees’ questions at any time. Peer support can also be helpful, Gretczko says. "Initiate a mentoring program whereby tech-savvy employees partner with less-skilled employees," he says.
Gretczko believes that the need for rank-and-file employees with digital skills will become even more important in the years ahead as increasing levels of automation create disruption by impacting existing processes and work procedures. "Companies need to identify where automation will bring the most value and then determine how humans and machines operate together, thus developing the advanced analytics and data management capabilities of their workforce," he says. "Organizations will need to commit to helping employees appreciate the changes underway and arming them with the tools and training they need to be successful in a new digital world."