It’s the conundrum of the digital age: almost as soon as your company has fully implemented a new digital initiative, it’s on the verge of becoming obsolete.
Should you just move faster? Hire a more digitally savvy workforce and force them to move at lightning speed? Maybe. But the first step—and the most important—is to look closely at, and invest in, the human capital you already have.
Call it a “leave no one behind” strategy. If it sounds drastic, it is—for the future of your company. Your employees probably don’t have the skill sets they’ll need to successfully take on the digital and technological change ahead—change that is ever evolving.
You could have the best strategy and the latest technologies, but you can’t execute if your people lack the right digital skills. As it stands, 84 percent of CEOs are concerned about the pace of technological change; 76 percent are concerned about the availability of key skills among employees.
Change Your Mindset About Your Workforce
You’ll need to change your organizational capabilities in order to thrive in an environment where change is the only constant. It’s nerve-wracking, frightening, anxiety-inducing. You’re not the only executive feeling that way. That’s why it’s imperative to step up and build the capability to innovate and be agile across the entire enterprise.
To do that, begin to shift your thinking. Don’t focus on hiring people who have cutting-edge skills; instead, develop a “no man or woman left behind” philosophy. Start by preparing your workforce by filling in tangible skills gaps, extending their knowledge of all parts of the organization, changing their mindsets, and creating new ways of working.
Be Purposeful, Not Trendy
Determine what skills your employees need and how you’re going to deliver them. Look beyond technology itself. Yes, employees might need training in data analytics and coding, but they also need to learn design thinking, empathy mapping, and how to turn data into insights. From accountants to retail analysts to supply chain experts, functional specialists will need to know how to prepare and contextualize data.
Assess where your people are now, compared with where they’ll need to be. You’ll probably need to implement behavioral and structural changes, not just fill in skills. Start with yourself and your leadership team. Employees need to see senior leaders make the transition first.
Hire for Gaps, Not Buzzwords
While you’re reskilling your current workforce, you’ll inevitably be hiring new talent. Don’t simply hire people who seem digitally savvy. You’ve determined what workforce skills you need to thrive in the future. You’ll get some of that from your reskilling efforts. But there will still be gaps.
Ask yourself: Am I missing creative, design, and ethnography skills—which will be valuable to making AI human-friendly? Do I have employees who are skilled in blockchain? What about solution architects who can balance creative thinking with practical technology? You need such experts to weave together the fabric of your new way of working.
Fight Through Discomfort for a New Culture
Finally, you need to ensure you’re building a culture that supports the type of digital transformation you want to achieve. That means breaking down silos and not letting hierarchies get in the way of solving problems. Your senior leadership team needs to model a thinking process that is faster and more agile, with decisions made more quickly. To do that, you’ll have to—perhaps uncomfortably so at first—embrace new ways of working.
This isn’t just about creating a better way for the employees you have. Those gap-filling new hires need to be able to operate within an environment and culture that is designed to foster and boost innovation. Otherwise, you’re not able to fully tap their talents—and they might leave.
Thriving in the future means embracing a big truth: Change and adaptation will be the only real constant. If your workforce, processes, and pacing don’t keep the company at the leading edge of that, you’re destined to fall behind.
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