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Using education to close the skills gap created by digital transformation

Digital transformation is often defined as the incorporation of modern technology into the daily operations of an organization, which gives rise to fundamental changes in how organizations function. These changes include how organizations manage their processes and organizational functions, how the production or manufacturing lines are designed, how services are provided, or even changes in their business models.

In addition to changes of work “tools,” digital transformation implies a need to change the overall attitude towards modern technology. For instance, many people may fear that technology will take over their jobs. While that fear should not be invalidated – in fact, employers who want to showcase good leadership should empower and reassure their employees – it is also something that should be addressed.

One potential cause of that fear may be the fact digital transformation widens the skills gap, according to several publications.

Since the skills gap is a major problem, listed as one of the top hurdles in the way to successful digital transformation, with 64% of respondents in one study saying that they lacked the necessary human resources to support DT, there is a need that the education sector can satisfy.

How can organizations use education and focus their learning and development (L&D) efforts to bring about a change in employees’ skills and thus close the skills gap?

Digital Transformation Through Education

Education and training should be one of the first avenues to explore when you need to close skills gaps in your organization. The benefits of investing in the workplace training are many, and that could be why the budget for training per employee has seen a steady increase over the last decade, according to a report by Statista.

For educational institutions or organizations willing to invest in employee training, there are some factors to consider. Let’s focus on them individually.

1. Identify the skill deficiencies and plan ahead with an end-goal in mind

When designing training programs, it is best to know the context of your organization, and list all the areas in which there are knowledge or skills deficiencies. Using needs assessment models or gap analyses to see the current state clearly and the desired level is one way to start.

Planning is necessary because the most effective workplace training programs should be treated as projects with an end goal in mind. It is customary, therefore, to think about important milestones, review stages, update stages, and the like.

2. List resources already available to you

While you are conducting a gap analysis, it would be useful to identify all the resources that are already at your disposal. This would include existing onboarding programs, training schemas, cooperation with local training providers, and so on. Identification of deficiencies, that was the first step, and the existing resources will let you know what training sources to keep and what to let go, if they are not fulfilling your organization’s needs.

3. Create new training programs or upgrade existing ones

In line with what I wrote above, upgrading existing training programs as necessary is a must for a successful workplace training program. At this point, it is worth paying attention to what is known as “blended learning.” This approach to training and education, as the name suggests, is a blend between formal and explicit instructions, and the so-called learning by doing, where the learners are given agency to determine the course of their own learning.

Blended learning benefits greatly from technological improvements, with eLearning courses being available to an unprecedented number of people. And that leads us to the next step.

4. Consider the growing potential of eLearning

I have written several articles explaining the growing need for online educational content, especially in highly specialized areas, in which it would be difficult to find training in many countries.

Two of the greatest benefits of remote-learning platforms are that, first, learning is continuous, meaning that as technology develops, so do online training courses, thus learners are given updated information in the majority of cases. Second, online training courses allow for the so-called “self-paced” learning. Knowing the pressure many employees may be under, adding training onto that would backfire. Instead, allowing them to take their time and set their own training schedule seems like a much more productive approach.

5. Seek personalized solutions

If you need training in how to implement management systems in line with ISO standards, for instance, look for training providers that meet your needs and requirements. While learning about a certain topic, business continuity for instance, in a general sense is useful, it is still not the same as taking a course on business continuity specifically tailored according to ISO 22301.

6. Structure your internship programs

Learning by doing is proven to be one of the most effective ways of acquiring new skills. Therefore, your hiring strategy of new interns need to be a well thought out process. In other words, do try to focus the potential of your interns in those departments that are lacking in human resources.

Additionally, hiring from overlooked talent pools, such as formerly incarcerated people, immigrants, people with no university degrees, and so on, can bring great benefits to those people, the organization itself, and the society as a whole.

Key Takeaways

Lack of talent or competent personnel is one of the most cited high-probability, high-cost risks in organizations around the globe, according to a report by Gartner. The inevitable trend of digital transformation is only making this issue more pressing. Therefore, closing skills gaps through training and education should become part of every organization’s long-term strategy.

There are some aspects to consider, however, such as: planning, identifying available resources, creating new training programs, considering new training methods, seeking personalized solutions, and re-thinking your organization’s internship and/or employment strategy.


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