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In this series, we break down Digital Transformation in 100 Questions. This week, we share some tips to empower HR and L&D leaders, helping you get the people and skills you need to implement Digital Transformation in your organisation. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rapid development of new technologies are having an unprecedented impact on the world of work. On the one hand, tasks are increasingly being automated or augmented by machines. On the other hand, new technology is giving rise to numerous new jobs, and redefining many more.

This creates a challenge for many companies, who will need to find ways to address the digital skills gap – either by upskilling their workforce, or by hiring new permanent staff already possessing digital skills.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of all employees around the globe will need reskilling by 2022. Now more than ever, human resources functions have a key role to play: finding the right talent, and making sure everyone has the digital capability needed to succeed.

Digital Transformation in 100 Questions

If you’re new to Digital Transformation, you probably have hundreds of questions about how to get started. From finding top-tier tech talent to implementing digital training that actually makes a difference, it can seem like an impossible maze to navigate.

We’ve spoken to many HR and L&D leaders who are worried about the pace of change. But once you break Digital Transformation down into a series of straightforward questions, it becomes much easier to understand how to adopt it.

To help answer some of these questions, we’ve launched a new series: Digital Transformation in 100 Questions. Each week, we’ll be tackling Digital Transformation from a new angle – introducing some of the challenges, opportunities, and questions you should be asking, in order to help you respond effectively to change.

This week, we’ve put together some questions to help HR and L&D leaders implement digital transformation in your training and talent search. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Getting the right talent

 1. Do your employees have the future-facing skills they need to succeed in a modern business?

 2. Can you hire employees that do?

 3. What qualifications are you asking for? Have you considered how to vet the knowledge of an applicant in a subject that no-one in the business understands yet?

 4. If people within your organisation acquire future-facing skills, are they offered opportunities to learn the management skills they need to advance their career? 

 5. What if you give them the training they need, and they leave?

 6. More importantly: What if you don’t, and they stay?

 7. How many of your senior managers were promoted from inside the business, as opposed to hired from outside?

 8. Is your HR function empowered to offer employees vital digital training, rather than constantly chasing new talent?

 9. Regardless, is it remotely plausible to replace your entire workforce every three months whenever things change again?

10. Is it possible that you can upgrade your existing staff into productive future-facing workers?

Step 2: Empowering everyone with the right skills

    1. Can you identify a cohort of technically adept, motivated, self-starters within your business on whom you can test and demonstrate the effectiveness of the training?
    2. Are you willing to accept that they will probably be fine, and your real focus should be on Steve and Karen who have spent the last three years complaining about that one time the font changed in your timesheet tracker?
    3. When comparing training costs have you factored in the cost of the time consumed by your staff as a result of your chosen training option?
    4. Are you currently using teaching material that the average employee would gnaw a limb off to escape if the option didn’t exist to quickly skip through as fast as possible?
    5. Can you provide material that is relevant, up to date, engaging, appropriate, and created by an active practitioner of that discipline?
    6. Can you support that training investment properly, and ensure that employees have opportunities to test and reinforce their learning?
    7. Can you get a solid well considered, team appropriate, structured to your training program in place?
    8. Have you considered how best to demonstrate outcomes and value from your training program?
    9. Can your management team set an example by completing the same training material they are asking other employees too?
    10. Without cheating, and getting a PA to do it?

Pros and cons of hiring for digital transformation

Of course, it can seem tempting to revitalise your workforce by hiring fresh new talent – ideally people who are already experts in digital transformation. 

Unfortunately, hiring new employees often goes hand in hand with firing old ones. According to the World Economic Forum, large-scale redundancy programmes are “typically accompanied by significant financial, reputational and company/industry knowledge losses”, and “often cause irreparable damage to the social fabric of local communities.”

Most HR leaders will be familiar with the problems of redundancies, and will be eager to avoid them. The challenge, however, is convincing the C-suite that upskilling is more cost-effective than hiring. 

The business case for upskilling

In “Towards a Reskilling Revolution”, a report from January 2019, the World Economic Forum collaborated with the Boston Consulting Group to present a quantitative cost-benefit analysis for companies considering whether to reskill current employees or hire new talent. The result is a business case for digital upskilling:

“If a company chooses to reskill, the costs incurred include the costs of reskilling, wages and lost productivity while the worker retrains; benefits include post-training gains in productivity. If a company chooses to fire current workers and hire new ones, costs include severance, hiring and wages and benefits include gains in productivity. The report shows that, in the US alone, with an overall investment of US$4.7 billion, the private sector could reskill 25% of all workers in disrupted jobs with a positive cost- benefit balance. (WEF &BCG)

Furthermore, “if industry-led collaboration could reduce reskilling costs and times by 30%, nearly half of the disrupted workforce could be reskilled by employers with a positive cost-benefit balance.” Ultimately, this means that “it would be in the financial interest of a company to take on their reskilling.” 

People want to upskill

According to the World Economic Forum, nearly a quarter of companies are “undecided or unlikely” to pursue the retraining of existing employees. Two-thirds of companies expect workers to adapt and pick up skills in the course of their changing jobs. And between one-half and two-thirds will need to turn to external contractors and freelancers to address their skills gaps.

From the research we’ve presented, it’s clear that these companies are missing a trick, and will lose out on the financial benefits of upskilling. More importantly, however, today’s workforce wants to upskill. And people gravitate towards the organisations that give them the chance to do so.

In their Decoding Global Talent 2018 survey, Boston Consulting Group questioned more than 360,000 employees and jobseekers around the world, and found that employees value learning and training opportunities and career development options higher than their job security, financial compensation and the interest they find in their day-to-day job.

Furthermore, sixty-eight percent of respondents said they were willing to retrain today, even without any immediate job risk. Another 29% say they’ll retrain if they have serious problems finding a job.

A whopping 63% of companies have already taken advantage of this motivation to learn, and are now providing formal or on-the-job training in-house. However, others are still lagging behind.

Partner with Circus Street

At Circus Street, we believe in modern learning methods that ensure responsiveness becomes ingrained in individuals. We’re enabling the development of people to become a part of our clients’ business growth strategies, giving them and their employees a competitive advantage.

Gone are the days when you can roll out one-size-fits-all training programs and expect results. To be effective, the upskilling experience needs to be personalised for each worker and as dynamic as the evolving market. That’s why we partner with global organisations to develop tailored learning programs that help them build their marketing capabilities.

The whole thing functions on a few different levels:

    1. Developing tools and training: Our aim is to improve digital knowledge at pace and scale, and build capability in a structured way. This approach creates a common digital language, raises the floor of knowledge and delivers learning outcomes that achieve strategic business objectives.

    2. Building high performing teams: We help you build and retain high performing, happy teams, and achieve tangible outcomes quickly and across your entire organisation. From the delivery of better briefs to higher conversion rates and more confident conversations internally and with external partners.

    3. Customised learning and delivery: We work with you to design a programme that aligns with your business goals and delivers tangible benefits. We take the lead in launching, embedding and measuring the success of your programme freeing up your internal resources.

    4. Dedicated account management: We combine this with an account management function that drives adoption, encourages behavioural change and the implementation of new concepts, skills and ideas and then captures the results.

    5. Marketing syllabus written by experts: Our broad syllabus covers the entire scope of digital marketing capabilities and lessons are updated regularly. We combine award-winning animations, interactivity and professional presenters to deliver highly engaging and effective content. 


Overall, the result is an education solution that results in your teams having the confidence, understanding and ability to succeed in a technology-driven world. 

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As a global online learning business, we help organisations navigate the uncertainties of technology-driven future by building their digital capabilities. And we're encouraging global organisations to break down silos, and work together in addressing the digital skills gap.

To find out how Circus Street has empowered organisations by building their digital capability, see our testimonials page. Or sign up for a free trial of our lessons to see how we can help unlock the benefits of upskilling, and drive digital transformation in your business.

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