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Digital Skill Gaps Could Threaten Post-pandemic Digital Acceleration: How Should Companies Act

Digital Skill Gaps Could Threaten Post-pandemic Digital Acceleration: How Should Companies Act
January 04, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the speed and scale of digital transformation, but companies with misaligned talent strategies face the fear of being left behind. According to Gartner, the pandemic has fast-forwarded digital transformation by five years, resulting in large-scale digitalization and massive skill-shift.

While this unprecedented scale of digital acceleration is bound to define the fate of organizations as future leaders or laggards, more than 35% of them face a shortage of in-house expertise to drive organization-wide transformation. Companies must, therefore, solve the puzzle of deploying, aligning, and hiring the right talent to address the skill gaps, drive post-pandemic recovery and accelerate their digital transformation journey. This requires strategic planning and execution across 5 solution levers that are critical for plugging this digital skills gap.

Investing

1. Investing in reskilling and upskilling initiatives

A recent McKinsey survey revealed that 87% of executives are experiencing skill gaps in their workforce. The pandemic and the resultant rapid digitalization have further increased the urgency among companies to adapt to the changing conditions and align their workforce to their new roles and responsibilities. In such circumstances, investing in reskilling and upskilling initiatives could hold the key for companies looking to succeed in the post-pandemic era. For instance, we at HCL invested 6.6 million hours in upskilling and trained 47,000+ Ideapreneurs in digital skills in the last year.  

The pandemic has fast-forwarded digital transformation by five years, resulting in large-scale digitalization and massive skill-shift.

Without a digitally competent workforce, companies will find it challenging to navigate this digital transformation tide to innovate, differentiate, and compete. Companies upskilling and reskilling their resources can benefit from a workforce that will have the ability to speed up the adoption of new technology trends within the company and capitalize on the differentiating product and service strategies during the current and future disruptions.

For instance, in the , most companies have either partially or fully embraced digitization and are striving to deliver virtual banking experiences. Given this situation, they need to enhance the skillsets of their employees to leverage technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and blockchain. This can help them develop customized products, make better financial decisions, and deliver personalized customer experiences across different touchpoints.

Furthermore, hiring externally may cost companies up to six times more than reskilling an existing employee. Apart from the obvious business benefits, reskilling employees leads to improved engagement, retention, and morale that allows companies to attract new talents and further strengthen their workforce.

2. Transforming the workforce through remote working

While organizations were contemplating transforming their workforce to become more agile, hybrid, and fluid, the pandemic provided the push to reimagine and reshape the way of working. COVID-19 caused a fundamental transformation in the way organizations work. It helped trigger a widespread remote working environment and challenged the traditional ways of how work was executed. Within HCL, we, too, faced logistical challenges when we were hit with a sudden mandate for remote working, which required different kinds of resources when compared to the traditional office desktop setup. Given our global scale and robust supply chains, we were able to move 98% of our 150,000 strong workforce across all accounts to a remote working model within just 12 weeks. Simultaneously, we proactively engaged with our customers to help them with the rapid upscaling of their infrastructure to cope up with the pressure of remote working requirements.

While companies were not entirely sure how this enforced remote working experience would pan out, a recent study indicated that 85% of businesses experienced an overall increase in productivity after switching to the remote working model, while 65% of employees self-reported improved productivity.

3. Leveraging a large distributed pool of unconstrained talent

The distributed workforce model allows organizations to take advantage of a vast pool of talent from across the globe and, in the process, acquire the right talent from the right place. The widespread growing skill shortages have further compelled organizations to adopt a global recruitment model.

In the UK, for instance, a new research conducted by Microsoft revealed that 78% of UK leaders believe that a large pool of digitally talented resources is essential to drive competitiveness following the pandemic, but 69% are of the opinion that their organizations are facing a digital skills gap. In such a scenario, identifying and hiring the right talent remotely in this digital age successfully redresses the skill shortages and recruitment challenges and allows organizations to build strong and diverse teams.

Recruiting ‘open talents’ helps organizations move beyond the realms of traditional hiring and explore non-conventional recruitment strategies leveraging digital channels to fill the skill gap effectively. Migrating to a skill-based hiring practice offers a wider and diverse talent pool and enables companies to hire based on their skills and not background or titles. For example, approaches like hackathons help organizations evaluate the ability of the individual to effectively work in a team. Additionally, organizations must also look at recruiting open talents, such as freelancers and gig workers, through digital channels and beyond geographical constraints.

Embracing the remote working model and recognizing it as a core philosophy of their talent-hiring strategy helps organizations to remove a significant barrier to success by enabling them to acquire the right talent from anywhere.

4. Exploring outsourcing possibilities ‘closer to home’

As companies in Europe look to expand and ride the post-pandemic digital acceleration wave, they are diversifying their location strategy by exploring nearshore operations in Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. Nearshoring operations to Eastern European countries such as Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and others that offer cost-effective IT services, without some of the added complexities of offshore operations, are bringing a host of benefits to the organizations.

Geographical proximity and similar time zones ensure communication is maintained with nearshore services vendors without any inconvenience. The Eastern European countries also offer strong technical and language skills at a significantly lower cost than their Central European counterparts. Countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and a few more are under the purview of robust EU regulations, assuring improved information security in today’s digital age.

Nearshoring is opening up new horizons for businesses based out of Europe, helping them access a rich pool of dedicated, skilled but affordable tech talents while helping them establish a reliable and trustworthy relationship with the remote yet ‘near’ development teams.

5. Evaluating workforce competencies to drive digital at scale

In order to drive digital at scale, organizations need to focus on the ‘people dimension’ to successfully evaluate, identify and train their employees while considering an individual’s competencies rather than years of experience. This helps build a workforce of T-shaped and Pie- shaped engineers who understand the nuances of delivering successful digital programs.

The Dreyfus model helps organizations to objectively define their workforce competencies in order to map them according to different competency levels, such as Novice, Advanced Beginner, Competent, Proficient, and Expert. This serves as an important step in evaluating the skillsets of the employees and upskilling them accordingly.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the digital skill gap will impact every country, industry, and community uniquely as the democratization of technology will vary accordingly. Until employees from underrepresented sections of society have equal access to technology and education for reskilling, the skill gap will continue to widen. It is here that businesses also play a crucial role in providing equal digital opportunities to all existing and prospective employees through the promotion of tech careers and the execution of impactful recruitment campaigns that break the barriers of racial, educational, and gender inequality.

HCL has been helping organizations develop the workforce of the future and address talent and skills shortages that threaten to disrupt their digital transformation journeys.