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Digital skills gap

Exploring and Understanding the Digital Skills Gap

by Abby Portugal on and last update on September 08, 2020

Digitization of business is necessary for companies to grow and innovate. But as we follow the global shift to digital transformation, the scarcity of appropriately skill leaders is apparent. So much so that it is a significant factor that effectively slows down the transition of business operations. What exactly are the necessary digital transformation skills and how can leaders bridge them?

What Digital Transformation Means for Businesses

Digital transformation stretches far beyond remote work and expands to include business functions, models, and strategies. This is especially true for companies that have to rethink how they deliver value to customers to continue operations that were impacted by the pandemic.

Fragmented Landscape—Digital Skills Gaps

Digital transformation as a driver for growth has been recognized well before the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the adoption of technology. But as recent research shows, these are not strictly technology skills that leaders need to further digital transformation..

Instead, leaders should possess a combination of skills that sprawl across soft skills, business awareness, and technical acumen. Only the ability to deconstruct business processes and models and the full understanding of specific business requirements allows leaders to incorporate appropriate technology to optimize operations.

The Pandemic Revealed Skill Scarcity

As businesses began incorporating digital initiatives to remain operational during the pandemic, the severity of the skill gap became apparent. Many companies realized they did not have the necessary talent to move with the transition and overhaul operations using technology.

It became obvious that companies had to hire people with a distinct blend of business and tech skills to redevelop their strategies and models.

As a CIO 2019 survey showed, the top skills reported as necessary for digital transformation, aside from technology implementation skills, were:

  • Strategy building
  • Project management
  • Business relationship management
  • User support/training

This strong emphasis on business and people skills reveals that the reorganization of business functions through technology requires skills that will let leaders grasp the intricacies of different business processes.

Leaders have to know exactly how these processes translate into products and services that deliver value to customers or optimize business operations. To be able to do this, leaders need communication and collaboration skills on top of digital acumen to communicate effectively with stakeholders and weld their expectations into digital initiatives.

With a thorough understanding of the business and its desired impact, companies can implement specific technology solutions to support digital transformation.

Recognizing Skill Gaps

Although digital skill gaps are widespread among companies, leaders have difficulties pinpointing the exact skills necessary in their business context.

Digital transformation creates new tasks and responsibilities that spread across departments. This then requires HR specialists to take a closer look at specific talent needs. As business processes become more digitized, companies need talent who can respond to that change effectively

For example, companies that implement technology generate plenty of data. In order to weld this data into meaningful insight that can be mirrored in remodeled services and processes, companies need specialists versed in data analysis. 

In fact, we can observe a growing need for IT talent coming from companies that aren’t technology-related. A Gartner analysis revealed that non-technology companies increasingly look for talent specialized in automation, artificial intelligence, or data analytics.

On top of that, organizations have to ensure that technologies driving innovation are implemented with adequate security. This calls for talent that can factor in IT security into the bigger picture.

How to Bridge the Digital Skill Gaps?

The war for talent in IT has been intensifying over the years, with the pandemic accelerating it even more. Now more than ever, we see an increased demand for candidates with tech skills.

Companies intending to hire talent that possesses both tech acumen and business skills can employ strategies that help them bridge digital skill gaps and facilitate digital innovation.

  • Create a culture of mentorship to facilitate skill-sharing and knowledge expansion within the company.
  • Expand the current employee skills through internal training programs to incorporate the necessary skill set.
  • Look for external talent.
  • Offer competitive working conditions (flex time, compensation, collaborative spaces).

The requisite employee skills are likely to fluctuate and shift. This requires management, as well as HR, to regularly assess which specific tech skills are necessary for digital innovation. They then need to adjust talent management and acquisition to include candidate skills relevant to how the company actually works.

Read: Building a Digital Transformation Team

Bridging Digital Skills Gaps Accelerates Growth

For leaders to successfully drive digital transformation they need to be able to deconstruct the business model and to pinpoint areas in need of redefined processes to increase effectiveness. As we move forward toward the as of yet uncertain post-pandemic future, the successful implementation of technology to navigate the fluctuating business environment with agility and speed is crucial for companies that want to thrive.

Governance and Leadership
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