When you (or your board members) think about thriving in a digital world, you probably think first about technology. It’s evolving so fast that your business constantly has to adapt. But the greatest challenge is not the tech itself: It’s developing a knowledgeable, strategically adept, cognitively flexible, and proficient workforce. You want people who can command artificial intelligence, analyze data, invent and apply solutions on the fly, and slide effortlessly into new roles as needed. All the while, they should keep their skills sharp with mobile apps and online self-taught courses. Ideas should flow from all corners of the company, whether from full-time managers or a pool of gig workers who jump in when work heats up.
The demand for a more talented workforce goes beyond adapting to the new digital world. CEOs of fast-moving organizations – enterprises with bold strategies, innovative cultures, inclusive workforces, and great expectations – need highly skilled people. As a recent PwC report to the T20 (pdf) summit meeting in May 2019 noted, workforce transformation is also closely linked to the productivity gains needed in both business and the public sector.
Unfortunately, in nearly every industry, the best talent is in perilously short supply. In PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, 79 percent of chief executives around the world said that a lack of key skills threatens their business growth. Retailers need interface designers who understand customer experience. Banks and insurance companies need data visualization experts. Energy, automotive, and industrial companies need team leaders who can manage interoperable platforms. Just about everyone is looking for employees adept in robotic process automation, materials science, or simulations with machine learning that can predict outcomes and streamline processes. They also need people who can master softer skills, such as managing teams effectively, gaining trust, working across boundaries, or applying neuroscience findings to increase their own stature and influence.
Many business leaders realize that they can’t just hire the workforce they need. There aren’t enough prospective recruits, and the expense would be enormous. Instead, companies must upskill their existing employees or members of their communities. This means expanding people’s capabilities and employability, often using adult learning and training tools, to fulfill the talent needs of a rapidly changing economy.
Upskilling is part of the answer. But you also need to rethink your jobs: redesign the workflow, combine some positions, add others, and probably eliminate some. You need to be more creative in finding and onboarding people, including through acquisitions, partnerships, gig economy–style freelancing arrangements, and talent pools oriented to flex work. Finally, you must fill your enterprise with opportunities for continual self-renewal via modern learning strategies and digital technologies, so that becoming adept in new technologies is just part of everyday life.
A workforce transformation brings all these elements together, oriented specifically to your organization. Your initiative must be led directly by the CEO and the other top executives of the enterprise, because your company’s success depends on the ability and commitment of all your employees. In a successful initiative, you’ll do more than approve a budget and hold the leaders accountable; you’ll take part in the learning efforts yourself, engage in teaching others, and use this transformation as a genuine opportunity to improve your own skills and those of your direct reports.
Because no two organizations have the same circumstances, there is no single recipe to follow. But together, the 10 principles below can help you ready your company’s workforce for the future.
Article originally published by Strategy+Business
Cubility are the trusted advisor to some of Australia’s largest oil and gas, mining, utilities and public companies. We help ensure your company is operational ready and business effective through modern technology strategies, program management and IT support.