Adopting the Industrial Revolution 4.0 or known as the rise of digital industrial technology has brought about many variations not only to the workforce in global organisations but has seriously implicated the Learning and Development (L&D) roles, too. They now require to adapt their current conventional methods and practices in order to meet the needs of a more agile and digital business environment. An increasingly competitive business landscape, rising complexity and the digital revolution are reshaping the mix of employees in companies.
All of these up-surging trends have elevated the importance of L&D functions. In order to get the best Return of Investment (ROI) in training programs and curriculum development, L&D leaders must now embrace a broader role within the organisation and formulate an ambitious vision for this function to stay relevant. In Fujitsu’s 2017 Technology and Service Vision book, 70% of global organisations claimed they currently lack the necessary digital skills to compete. This presents a significant opportunity for L&D teams whereby if the digital talent gap is bridged by nurturing, engaging and retaining digitally-skilled employees, the organisation’s future in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world in better secured. Furthermore, this chimes with Capgemini’s and LinkedIn 2017 global report: The Digital Talent Gap—Are Companies Doing Enough? The report found that 47% of global employees will willingly change jobs to organisations that offered better digital skills development. It also highlighted that nearly 50% of employees are investing their resources and additional time beyond office hours in developing their digital skills to remain competitive.
Fundamentally, organisations need to alter the current mindsets and employees’ skills to enable their staff to engage confidently in deploying digital technologies and completing daily work tasks. The L&D’s role is crucial as this transformation involves the entire workforce of an organisation. Digital working includes being proficient with technology and having the ability to realign priorities and alter current work practices quickly. The new digital transformation requires employee empowerment, breaking down communication barriers and collaborating in self-organising teams. Therefore, this involves both hard and soft digital skills or a hybrid of both. The hard skills include technical skills essential in new and leading-edge roles such as big data scientists, artificial intelligence experts, cloud programmers and digital transformation specialist. And the required complementary soft skills, capabilities and behaviours include the ability to manage information, share knowledge, interact with others and solve problems in a modern, digital environment. The key competencies that underpin these particular skills include learning willingness, openness to change; agility, flexibility, curiosity and resilience.
The conventional L&D function was always apprehensive on the significant investment of money and time: Return on Investment (ROI). This ROI quest arises because training and learning programme results are difficult to equate to results and often are not directly linked. Besides ROI, the obsolete measures of L&D usually concern participants attendance, programme completion, assessment, and satisfaction. These parameters are easy to measure, but none of these logically equate to learning or performance improvement.
However, in this new age, assessing and measuring improvements in performance and increased capability required are steps towards efficacy, in turn, to achieve desired results. So, a data-driven L&D function requires the opportunity to measure improvements on:
- Employee Engagement survey responses
- The identified gaps in knowledge and skills audits
- Higher number of pragmatic, capable individuals and better performing teams
- Milestones achievement towards the organisational growth in achieving its longer-term goals
In reality, many companies face this crisis, ready to operate within a modern L&D function and to have the setup governed by old-fashioned expectations. The ‘Are You in the Training Ghetto’ model was developed by Donald Taylor in 2013, which corresponds as a useful guide to determine the willingness of the company and L&D, embracing the need for change. The best quadrant for this model is the Learning Leadership, where the organisation’s pace requires a progressive and highly impactful approach of the L&D function to be integrally supported in its progressiveness. If L&D does not change parallelly with the company, then it lands in the Unacknowledged Prophets, with a lack of leadership recognising the aim of leading. The Comfortable Extinction zone is when the organisation no longer requires development due to closure or merging. And the Training Ghetto sector happens when the organisation allocates resources by evading L&D and serving its own needs.
In order to achieve an overall successful digital transformation, the organisation’s mission must emphasise that digital skills are critical at all levels, including the L&D’s role. When clear and definitive goals have been established, agile work processes and practices can be developed. A digitally transformed L&D can be integral rather than peripheral, which requires the department to refocus its goals to be realigned with the company’s growth, have bold leadership, and collaborative approach. And it absolutely requires a new digital skillset.
By Dr. Dayana N. H. Chaskar