The events of the past year have shown that if organisations and industries are to keep up with the fast-paced change and uncertainty of the current market, they need to accelerate their digital transformation strategy. Having a skilled and talented workforce to use these technologies effectively and adopt new approaches quickly will provide businesses with an innovative, competitive edge in the new digital economy.
The majority of workforces have already had to adapt, in some cases radically, to meet the demands of remote working and e-commerce in response to COVID-19. Dependent on technology, many employees have had to learn new skills on the go. Now with these new digital models likely to stay, more comprehensive and continuous training is needed to sustain the digital, technological and respective data agendas of a business. CEOs agree, with 60 per cent of leaders prioritising upskilling and reskilling, according to a recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning report.
There is more to upskilling and reskilling than simply training a workforce on how to use technology with technical proficiency. Upskilling and reskilling can lead to a more well-rounded, resilient workforce while increasing team effectiveness and improving overall performance. This enables a business to be more agile under pressure and stay ahead of competitors. Research by Deloitte shows that high performing learning organisations are more likely to innovate and meet future demand.
Through upskilling and reskilling, employees are able to leverage the technology an organisation has invested in to do their jobs more competently. With the right training and tools, they can work faster and more accurately. By using enterprise resource planning (ERP), for example, processes are more streamlined, excessive workloads or menial tasks are decreased, and resources can be deployed to more meaningful activities that drive productivity and innovation. As a business becomes more efficient, revenues and profits tend to follow.
In customer service, upskilling equips employees with the most up-to-date knowledge and ability to tackle a variety of customer needs and complaints in a professional and timely manner. Sales and marketing teams who are trained in using technology, such as an ERP system, can track customer interaction and gain insight to build better customer relationships. The result is enhanced customer satisfaction and brand reputation, and in turn, more business.
Investing in human capital
Finding, hiring, and onboarding the right talent to thrive in a digital world can be a costly and lengthy challenge for employers, who at the same time are trying to keep up with the changes within their own industry.
In a McKinsey Global Survey on future workforce needs, nearly nine in ten executives say their organisations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. Building on talent internally by elevating the skills of an existing workforce can help organisations to address these concerns and capitalise on emerging opportunities both now and in the future.
Workforce training provides an opportunity for the company to maximise employee potential and allows workers to expand their expertise in different areas. This can increase employee confidence, engagement, and happiness, which can have a positive impact on productivity. A deeper understanding of the job provides an opportunity for employees to contribute creative ideas and suggestions that can solve problems and benefit the business as a whole.
In addition, providing existing employees with career development opportunities can foster an employee’s sense of value and relevance to an organisation. This affirms their loyalty, and, ultimately, reduces staff turnover and recruitment expenses. Providing the skills needed to work with new technologies, assures employees that a business is committed to remaining ahead of the curve and succeeding in the long term.
Training from the top
As technology is increasingly integrated in work processes, managers and leaders will also need to re-evaluate their own role in overseeing and supporting a digitised business. Many may have to upskill and retrain to deepen their understanding of how technologies work, and how to use data insights from systems like ERP to develop holistic strategies above day-to-day operations.
They will also need to be able to assist employees with their upskilling journey, identify training opportunities and know what appropriate tools to provide for learning and development.
ERP can provide departments with real-time information and a 360-degree view of an organisation. This visibility can enable managers and leaders to assess current skills and operational strengths and weaknesses across departments at any time.
From this data and analytics, managers can perform scenario modelling, and strategically plan learning and development programmes to address inefficiencies or knowledge gaps. Organisations can use the system to measure ROI – not just return on investment but return on intelligence from employee skills training.
With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), technological integration and disruptions are set to continue at speed and scale. Closing the gap between this digital transformation and the skills needed to implement it means an ongoing, long-term investment in employee development and training. If businesses are to thrive and not just survive in the future, they need to prepare their current workforce to master the constant rapid pace of change and the technology that goes with it.
Mark Wilson is the CEO, SYSPRO EMEA&I