Home Digital Emerging technology and skills: why targeted upskilling matters

Emerging technology and skills: why targeted upskilling matters

by jcp

Janice Burns, Chief People Officer at Degreed, discusses why the right skills are vital to business recovery and offers tips to help build them.

As author and professor, Charles Wheelan once said, “Change is inevitable, but progress depends on what we do with that change.” The past year has seen many changes. And we’ve seen businesses rise and fall based on how they responded to those changes. More change is on the horizon with the fourth industrial revolution and all of the emerging technologies that it’ll bring.

Changes accelerated

It is undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated many of the digital changes that were years in the pipeline. Organizations have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain operations by four years. The share of digital products in their portfolios has increased by seven years. Nearly seven in ten (69%) of business leaders are now looking at 5G as a solution to overcome the negative impact of the pandemic. And investment in robotics and automation has reportedly skyrocketed.

Simultaneously, many organizations suddenly had to pivot their operations and products to meet a new reality. From remote working and changing public health measures, to new products and services.

Fintech takes the lead

Nowhere else was this clearer than in fintech. As we got to grips with Covid-19, many advances developed by fintechs helped to keep businesses running and people safe. There was exceptional growth in the use of contactless technology, digital financial services, and e-commerce, for instance. The pandemic has highlighted the need for businesses to have strong insight into their operations and resilience — especially in hard-hit areas like retail and travel. Many fintechs are well-positioned to provide the granularity needed for businesses to understand their financial positions (through Open Banking, for example).

An opportune time

As the world shifts from responding to recovery, it’s an opportune time for fintechs (and all technology companies) to provide timely solutions that help us become more data-driven and agile. And this, ultimately, hinges on making sure the right people, with the right skills, are in place to leverage technology and embrace new business opportunities.

For example, many fintechs (60%) responded quickly to the new demands posed by Covid-19 by launching new products and value-added services (like offering information). These pivots have impacted the skills that fintechs need to build this year. Recent research has found the most in-demand skills are:

  1. Advanced IT and programming
  2. Leadership and managing others
  3. Critical thinking and decision making
  4. Advanced communication and negotiation
  5. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
  6. Project management
  7. Complex information processing and analysis
  8. Advanced data analysis and mathematics
  9. Adaptability and continuous learning
  10. Quantitative and statistical analysis

How to build needed skills

Building relevant skills in today’s environment requires a mixed approach.  Formal learning has its place and works well with technical and functional skills.  However, building social and cognitive skills is far more suited to informal learning approaches like peer-led and community-based learning. Indeed, when needing to learn a new skill, more workers (55%) turn to their peers first before seeking their bosses or learning teams for support.

Offering a personalized learning experience is also vital to success.  In rolling out its learning technology ecosystem, Visa recognized this. Through Visa University, 20,000 global employees can pick and choose their learning opportunities, formats, and when they learn. This personalized approach empowers employees to learn topics that are relevant to their current role (and Visa’s needs) as well as their future career goals. It’s led to higher engagement, greater agility, more data, and lower costs compared to the previous learning strategy. The virtual environment also adapted quickly to the pandemic and global lockdown.

Tailoring your upskilling to each individual by deploying personalization tactics relies on your ability to leverage data. Namely, skill data — Skill data can be obtained from looking at what topics and formats are most popular, individual career goals, current skill supply, future skill demands (and gaps), and the times when people are upskilling. Collecting and consolidating data from learning platforms, HR systems, CVs, and recruitment systems will help you craft the best learning opportunities for your people and personalize the experience for the individual.

Creating great learning solutions doesn’t have to come with high costs or in-person experiences. Organizations should explore the many low or no-cost resources available to learners today. From TED Talks to podcasts, books to blogs, not all learning has to occur in a classroom or day-long session or come at a huge price point. Digital learning solutions provide organizations with an added benefit. Organizations that utilize digital learning platforms, like LXPs can create new learning pathways by curating relevant content quickly. To boost employee wellbeing and productivity during Covid-19, Mastercard curated pathways on resilience, mental health, and remote work.

The final step to building relevant skills is to reinforce learning. The Forgetting Curve shows that people forget 90% of what they’ve just learned within one month if it’s not put into practice. For skills to stick, they need to be applied in the flow and practice of real work.  This can be done by providing employees with special projects, assigning them to squads or cohort teams, offering them stretch assignments, temporary or permanent role shifts, or even providing them with volunteering, mentoring, or teaching opportunities.

Prioritizing who to upskill

Of course, upskilling everyone in a new technology, process, or product line, may not be feasible in some organizations. In an ideal world, every worker will have a baseline level of skills to support digitization. However, if you had to pick and choose, then start with the groups that are most critical to the execution of your business strategy and those that will be interacting the most with new technology, processes, and products. This will provide you with a pragmatic and cost-effective way of upskilling your people in a sequenced manner.

Looking forward

Although I’ve used fintech as an example, all organizations have undergone significant changes during 2020 and 2021. And as I mentioned before, these changes will keep on coming. When looking to the future, always consider the impact of such changes on your workforce skills. Because taking a skills-based approach really is the only way to ensure your organization and your people are ready to navigate uncertain times, deliver on strategic goals, and remain engaged so that they meet today’s needs while remaining relevant for the future.

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