L&D’s top priority should be to support digital transformation, claims new white paper

Shifting the mindsets and skills of employees so they can engage with and confidently deploy digital technologies and practices in the workplace should be L&D’s top priority, according to a new paper from learning specialist Hemsley Fraser.

Called ‘Bridging the digital talent gap’, the paper highlights that progressive traditional businesses are investing not just in digital technologies but also in digital learning programmes to avoid being outmanoeuvred by digitally-adept competitors. It claims that nurturing, engaging and retaining digitally-skilled employees presents a significant opportunity for L&D teams to secure their organisation’s future.

“As well as being proficient with technology, digital working is the ability to quickly realign priorities and alter work practices,” said Lynsey Whitmarsh, Director of Innovation at Hemsley Fraser. “Today’s employees need to manage information, share knowledge, interact with others and solve problems in a modern, digital environment. To do this, they’ll need key competencies such as a willingness to learn, an openness to change, agility, flexibility, curiosity and resilience. This paper explains how L&D teams can develop employees at all levels to meet and master the challenge of digital change.” 

The paper warns that a global shortage of digital talent will prevent organisations from simply recruiting-in the required expertise.

“The pace of technology is changing so fast that schools and universities are struggling to equip young people with the digital skills that are needed in the workplace,” said Lynsey Whitmarsh. “Only the most renowned employers – or the highest payers – will be able to attract the top digital talent. For everyone else, the most cost effective strategy is to develop the digital capabilities of your existing employees.” 

According to the paper, a necessary preliminary step is to excite and engage senior executives and to communicate to the business the value of a digitally-enabled culture.

David Knight, Chairman of DEfactoED, a digital education services company working alongside Hemsley Fraser, said:

“Digital education needs to be made available 24/7, delivered in digestible form and provided to the entire workforce, not just to leadership or the IT teams. This should not be optional. Everyone needs an understanding of the fundamentals and to be kept abreast of developments. Few, if any, business transformation programmes will deliver on their potential unless the workforce embraces digital. It is crucially important for L&D functions to step up and deliver.”

Lynsey Whitmarsh added:

“Formal and informal learning opportunities can be created and digital learning resources can be used to up-skill employees quickly and effectively, and support them at the point of need. Providing robust digital development will not only help you to retain your talent, it will also enhance your employer brand and position your organisation as a more attractive environment for skilled digital workers.” 

The paper claims that companies which ignore the digital revolution – and rely on the ‘proven’ methods of the past – will rapidly fall behind, because they won’t be able to respond quickly or appropriately enough to compete.

“Developing the digital skills of your employees can bring significant improvements in productivity, engagement and customer satisfaction,” said Lynsey Whitmarsh. “This is particularly important if you want to unleash innovation and free up people to think differently, so they can respond more effectively to customer needs.”

The new ‘Bridging the digital talent gap’ white paper can be freely downloaded from www.hemsleyfraser.co.uk/resources