Businesses are in a bind.
On one hand, every leader knows they need to digitally transform their organisation. The marketplace is changing at rapid speed and the furnace powering it is innovation. As the world becomes more complex and the future more uncertain, technology is filling the gap and presenting paths to success for enterprises of all sizes.
However, to digitally transform, you need digital skills, and as every business leader is painfully aware of, digital skills are a scarce resource these days. Some 72% of leaders believe their technology skills gap has increased over the past 12 months, according to our research. It shows that digital skills really are a resource that’s ever-dwindling.
Several factors are driving our present digital skill shortage – from employees re-evaluating their careers in the wake of the pandemic, to there simply being too much demand for increasingly niche skillsets.
Whatever the cause, the reality is 57% of leaders feel they lack the skills to support their technology vision, which means the skill shortage is putting many businesses’ futures at risk. And if the skills shortage isn’t going anywhere any time soon, how are businesses to achieve their goals?
Why the skills shortage is here to stay
Of the many digital skills in high demand right now, hyperscaler cloud platforms knowledge is right up there on business leaders’ wish lists.
While the shift to cloud has been growing year-on-year, the past few have seen its adoption accelerate exponentially. A big driver of this ramp up has been the large digital platforms – such as Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP – shifting to cloud platforms.
Cloud services are now intricately tied to digital transformation for most businesses, especially with the explosion of distributed work models necessitated by the pandemic.
Every day, people around the world are working on next gen projects within the cloud ecosystem to solve increasingly niche problems. The nature of cloud means these projects can be integrated into larger solutions, continuously presenting new opportunities – and new challenges.
For instance, the emergence of 5G technology means users will soon have broadband level internet speeds on their mobile devices. That not only opens the door to a myriad of next generation applications, but also fundamentally changes the security posture of the enterprises using it. As cloud use and Edge computing adoption grows security boundaries will shift even further out.
New strategies and countermeasures need to be thought up to account for each innovation a business adopts. So, while these solutions have the potential to transform the businesses who are savvy enough to adopt them, they’ll also demand new digital skills to wield them safely.
The pace of innovation also means that the traditional ways of adapting – such as recruiting the necessary skills externally – no longer suffice. To do more than just survive this new world, businesses need to be able to take advantage of high growth opportunities as when they come around.
Thus, a completely new strategy to handle the skills shortage needs to be devised from the ground up and top-down.
Better digital skills require better leadership skills
If you want to successfully conduct a continuous digital transformation campaign within your organisation, you need individuals with a transformational mindset – those that are comfortable in complex and fast-changing landscapes. Leaders of this ilk can absorb a constant stream of information very quickly and use it to make the right decisions.
However, the delicate blend of traits that give an individual a transformational mindset are very rare in my experience. Many leaders tend to have much more of a sequential mindset – myself included. As a result, we inevitably miss out on certain market opportunities.
But whether you naturally have a transformational mindset is beside the point, what matters is that leaders act now. That starts by taking a step back and consciously asking whether the leadership styles within the business today are fit for purpose for what the company wants to do tomorrow.
Think about your values, ethos, and objectives. Once you understand the behaviours and traits your business needs, project those values overtly to the larger business. The most effective way to communicate to a workforce that they need to embrace a transformational mindset is with a clear and structured plan to create a change programme.
Recognise that people are naturally resistant to change – especially if they’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time. So, it may need to be a hard sell at first, and it might not initially be popular with staff. That’s why it’s essential you make it clear that this is a journey all the leadership team plans to go on with them.
Create real metrics that enable you to track progress and link it to other important factors, such as performance, pay plans, and bonuses. Do everything you can to reinforce these behaviours internally by communicating that continuous learning is the expectation of every worker from top to bottom.
So, while the skills shortage might not be going anywhere anytime soon, you don’t have to be overwhelmed by the rapid pace of innovation. Continuously improve and ingrain a habitual change programme into your organisation and you will incrementally and iteratively start to build your knowledge base.
Before you know it, you’ll have a wide field of skills that have been reinforced by real field experience from workers solving customer problems – enabling you to deftly ride the tidal wave of innovation all the way to a brighter future.
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