Key priorities for businesses tackling digital transformation in 2018

Work will never be the same again - here's why

Britain is currently facing a chronic tech skills deficit. With technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, AI and robotics disrupting the way businesses work, demand for digitally skilled professionals continues to grow faster than the talent pool is developing. In fact, technology is evolving at such a pace, that the skills needed to manage them are becoming outdated more quickly than ever before. And this lack of skilled workers is costing UK companies around £2.2 billion per year in higher salaries and temporary resourcing, according to research from the Open University.

As we are now well into 2018 – which is proving to be another testing year for businesses – here are four areas that employers need to make sure they address, alongside tackling digital transformation:

1. Ensure GDPR compliance

It’s clear that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is currently a top priority for UK businesses. With just under 100 days to go before the deadline, organisations now not only need to ensure they get their data practices in order, but must also have the right talent in place to implement the necessary changes, in order to comply and avoid any hefty fines.

However, GDPR shouldn’t be perceived as just another regulatory quick-fix but more of a long-term investment as it can be used as a competitive advantage. If done right, the way that a company’s data is handled and the insights that can be derived from it can add value to the way organisations operate and could also significantly increase customer trust.

But to get to this position quickly, with the deadline fast approaching, businesses must identify any gaps within their organisation and engage the wider workforce to ensure that the business has a long-term solution.

2. Plugging the digital skills gap

According to research by Cybersecurity Ventures, by 2021 there will be 3.5 million unfilled cyber security jobs worldwide. In addition to this, our latest Tech Cities report also reveals how the cyber security landscape is becoming ever more complex, with the industry facing an increased imbalance in the supply and remuneration of IT Security talent. Businesses are therefore challenged to both keep pace with the wave of new technologies that are emerging continuously and preparing for ever more sophisticated cyber threats.  To tackle this, businesses will need to take a two-pronged approach for the time being:

  • Training the current workforce to deal with the issues now. This could be further supported by bringing in contractors with those much-needed skills where there are gaps within the businesses
  • Championing tech education to lay the foundations for the future.

However, the Government has estimated that in 20 years’ time, 90% of jobs will require digital skills. Yet, as the multitude of different talents required continues to grow, the technical skills that young people are learning at school or university may no longer be relevant by the time they enter the world of work. That’s why there should be an increased focus on STEM subjects in primary and secondary schools – particularly technology – to close the digital skills gap. By also partnering with schools and offering relevant work-experience, organisations can begin to strengthen the talent pipeline, developing the skills they need for the future.

3. Embracing new ways of working

Due to an increasingly global economy and the permeation of technology, flexible working arrangements are no longer an option but an essential practice that should be offered to attract and retain skilled talent.

According to ManpowerGroup Solutions’ recent research: Work, for Me: Understanding Candidate Preferences for Flexibility, over half of the millennial respondents said they’d be open to non-traditional forms of employment in the future. This could include freelancing, gig working or portfolio careers where individuals balance several jobs.

While not all workplaces are able to accommodate all kinds of flexible arrangements, the first step is to take the time to understand the alternative working styles and career expectations of this increasingly transient workforce. By then providing a range of practices, such as flexible hours or more short-term contractor opportunities, leaders are more likely to keep their staff energised and engaged. Additionally, they’ll also be able to reach a wider talent pool and attract more talent.

4. Responding to the needs of a multi-generational workforce

Employers are increasingly grappling with the conflicting requirements of a multi-generational workforce. While millennials and Generation Xers currently make up the majority of the workforce, we’re also seeing Generation Z beginning to enter the workplace, as well as millions of Baby Boomers over the retirement age continuing or returning to employment.

A healthy mix of people of all ages and experiences in the organisation is key to ensure they can transfer valuable knowledge to one another. For example, the younger generation will bring in more digital know-how, whilst their older colleagues can mentor them.

However, different generations also have different working styles as well as career requirements.  Employers therefore will need to find a way to navigate between the generational requirements and find the right balance by reducing any outdated management models and ensuring that there are ongoing feedback mechanisms in place to keep an open dialogue between everyone. They should also capitalise on the inter-generational similarities – offering flexible working is seen as a benefit across the generations.

It’s clear that businesses need to ensure they equip their employees with the necessary training and tools to make sure they are being upskilled, to keep pace with technological and regulatory changes. However, in this process, they shouldn’t forget that that their employees also need the flexibility to experiment with new and emerging technologies and ways of working. By taking the right steps, businesses can future-proof their organisation for the year ahead and beyond.

Martin Ewings

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