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IT skills gap a 'roadblock' to digital transformation – 4 steps to overcome it

By Ashton Young, Sat 3 Feb 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

There’s no doubt that digital transformation is front of mind for most Australian organisations.

However, the perennial skills shortage in the industry is one of the key aspects that could be holding them back.

A multitude of studies have proven what everyone already knows to be a significant skills shortage in Australia, particularly in areas such as cybersecurity and emerging technologies such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Thus, according to Y Soft, businesses that are aiming to achieve digital transformation should begin by have a look at the employee skills that will be needed to support the digital initiatives.

“Without effective planning for the resources needed to achieve the digital transformation, organisations can find themselves with a skills gap that delays or undermines the transformation’s objectives,” says Y Soft managing director Adam O’Neill.

“It’s important for decision-makers to evaluate the organisation’s current skillset against those required by the digital initiative. This will reveal the key gaps that need to be filled, at which point the company can decide whether current employees are capable of learning new skills, or if new talent needs to be sourced.” 

In light of this, Y Soft has provided four key steps that organisations can follow when evaluating their human resources:

1. Assess current capabilities 

Business leaders should work with IT and HR to evaluate the current workforce by job role and identify skills gaps. Some employees will be ripe for retraining, providing new opportunities for skills growth. 

2. Plan a roadmap 

Business leaders should create future state scenarios to help plan a roadmap for skills and the shape of the workforce. This requires the business to answer questions such as what skills are needed now and in the long term, whether new roles need to be created, whether outsourcing is an option, and whether the structure of the organisation should change. 

3. Re-tool the workforce 

Hiring managers need to understand the technical and soft skills required, then plan to retrain existing staff and hire new talent as required. For example, digital transformation-related jobs may require cognitive thinking and non-routine tasks. This means workers need to be comfortable working with online/real-time collaboration tools and mobile tools. They may also need to be at ease with working with unstructured data, data analysis, and augmented/virtual reality or smart machines.  Where training is required, there are many options and resources available. Businesses can opt for traditional courses and certifications, and they can also choose shorter-term, more intensive bootcamp-style approaches. Microlearning is also becoming popular because it offers short-duration instruction through podcasts, quizzes, and games, making it ideal for training that needs to take place parallel to existing work.

4. Prepare for change

Regardless of skills and resources requirements, digital transformation requires organisations to be ready for change. It’s natural for employees to feel some anxiety so, to avoid resistance, businesses should manage change carefully through education and engagement. Empowerment tends to work more effectively than threats and, by introducing consumer-like experiences at work, businesses can avoid workers becoming intimidated by new systems.

When it comes to digital advancements, O’Neill says ultimately businesses still rely on their people for success.

“Bringing people on the journey to transformation is therefore essential. And, by actively identifying and acting on opportunities to upskill and retrain existing staff, businesses can begin to chip away at the skills shortage, resulting in a better-prepared workforce,” O’Neill says,

“This will also result in a more successful transformation initiative that can, ideally, be replicated across subsequent projects.”

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