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Home » Future of work » Why improving digital skills is crucial to business growth

Adam Spearing

EMEA Field CTO and SVP Solution Consulting UKI, Salesforce

Technology is transforming businesses, so it is essential employees have the right digital skills for today and for the future.

Businesses risk being held back by a shortage of tech skills and they need to act now to reskill and upskill their workforce.

As organisations plan for a digital future post-pandemic, many of their employees do not have the technical knowledge required to help them achieve their corporate vision.

Adam Spearing, EMEA Field CTO and SVP Solution Consulting UKI at Salesforce, says COVID-19 and the subsequent changes to how we live and work have shone a spotlight on the problem.

“Companies that were already digitally-advanced have survived better in the past year,” he says. “As we emerge from the pandemic it is important that employers and employees realise that technology skills are not just for techies, but for everyone.”

Changing world

He cites research by market intelligence firm IDC which shows that one in three UK organisations will change or adapt their existing business model to digital to ensure future growth and resilience. The researcher also claims that one third of organisations will create new digital products and services.¹

Spearing urges organisations to respond now by assessing which digital skills they will require in the future based on how their workplace will look and their business needs. What type of work are employees likely to do and where will they be based?

“Companies are very good at setting a vision with technology and strategy road maps and business plans, but they need to think about the people and processes that will put these plans into action.”

As we emerge from the pandemic it is important that employers and employees realise that technology skills are not just for techies, but for everyone.

Career path

Individuals must also take personal responsibility and consider where they might need to reskill and upskill to plug gaps in their own digital knowledge to progress their careers. According to the IDC research, by 2030 some 90% of workers will need to learn new skills to perform their role proficiently.

Salesforce’s free learning platform Trailhead, which contains online tutorials and interactive assessments to help people gain the digital and soft skills required to work in the Salesforce ecosystem, has seen a near 40% jump in interest during the global pandemic. Important soft skills include being able to present confidently online and communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Spearing cites the example of chef Stephanie Brown who lost her job in a Detroit hotel when COVID-19 struck. She has reskilled and secured a role as a Salesforce administrator having previously had minimal tech experience.

“In a way we are a microcosm of the global economy and we are helping to boost the digital skills of the millions of people who work for us, our partners or our customers and use our technology.”

He adds: “Just because you are in a job does not mean you shouldn’t be constantly learning and developing your digital skills.”

Taking responsibility

One challenge for companies is deciding who within their organisation should take responsibility for improving employees’ digital skills. Should it be the HR and learning and development departments or the IT team?

Spearing says organisations talk a lot about digital transformation but the improvement of tech skills is more about business transformation.

“This is not an IT project but all about maximising technology to improve how a business serves its customers. Line managers have a responsibility to define what digital skills their department will need.”

Companies and individuals also need to be able to measure the return on investment from reskilling and upskilling. For workers it will be career progression, higher wages and job satisfaction, while for employers a key measure will be improvements in productivity.

“Organisations tell us they have improved the efficiency of their business as a whole and seen operational savings of around 30% by moving to working more digitally. These savings are re-invested into improving the overall business.”

[1] Source: IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Salesforce, Jobs and Skills Creation in the United Kingdom and Ireland: Unlocking the Potential, doc #EUR147594821, May 2021 

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