Leading a company is much like managing a sports team, as each member of the collective must not only have the requisite individual skills to fill a role, but must also be thoroughly equipped to work within a larger system in order to have the best opportunities for success.
The function of leaders in these organizations is to ensure that the talent under their management fits both descriptions, but the importance of effective leadership can often go under-appreciated. Even the most capable team members will find themselves ill-equipped to compete within a well-run organization if they lack the proper guidance, and perhaps nowhere is this concept more evident in the business world than with the growing digital skills gap in the American workforce.
Responsible for up to $1.3 trillion in lost resources for the nation’s companies each year, the digital skills gap is one of the most volatile threats to the viability of a business. Despite untold sums of money being poured into the latest technologies by organizations across industries, only 1 in 10 employees in the country rate themselves as “proficient” in using common digital tools such as email, employee management systems or collaboration utilities.
In fact, a recent McKinsey poll indicated that 21 percent of the average American work week was wasted due to inadequate digital skills, leading to a $10 million average yearly loss for a firm with at least 1,000 employees. This costly gap is only expected to widen as new technologies become available, and so companies who take a passive attitude toward keeping their practices current will quickly find themselves outpaced by those with more foresight.
Closing the digital skills gap starts at the top of an organization. Company leadership must devise a comprehensive plan to enhance the overall digital literacy and skill set of their workforce, developing skills their employees will need in the future as well as identifying any lacking skills in their current roles. Training practices and goals should be regularly evaluated to ensure they are still relevant and beneficial to individual employees based on their evolving responsibilities.
The first steps for any company to take when addressing their digital skills gap are simple:
1. Assess the unique training challenges you face first. What’s holding your workforce back? Do they need to brush up on digital marketing skills? Are tasks slipping through the cracks due to inefficient project management? Only once a workforce’s specific skills gap has been identified can it be addressed. For starting tips on performing a Skills Gap Analysis, refer to The Houston Chronicle.
2. Decide how much budget you can allocate towards solving the problem. HubSpot provides each of their employees with a $5,000 annual learning budget, ensuring they stay on top of the latest trends, technologies and skills. Aim to address the largest areas of need first.
3. Once budget considerations are clear, attend to any positions you’re having trouble filling by training your existing workforce.
4. Set a training cadence for employees old and new to make sure everyone’s knowledge stays up-to-speed in the future. A Deloitte study found that the increased pace of technological change is leading to a skills half-life of 2.5 years, making it increasingly important that leadership provides its employees with opportunity to continually sharpen their skills.
5. Reconsider your training needs monthly, if not more frequently, to ensure that your training plan remains effective at addressing your business’ unique challenges. As technology advances, you may find that your business’ needs advance as well.
Leaders must work closely with supervisors and HR to ensure that all new hires and existing employees possess and maintain the skills to confidently navigate the office of today. They must also establish clear goals for skills training by identifying ideal performing employees and working with them to help mold the workforce in their image, as well as assessing the practices of competitors to see where your company can improve.
Leadership can be an overlooked aspect of an organization, but in the digital revolution of today, the importance of company leaders has arguably never been higher. The current marketplace demands that skills training be considered a necessity and not an option, as a continual commitment to improvement reflects effective leadership and is often the difference between teams that lose and teams that last. The players you have may be good on their own, but they’re bound to be better with the right coaching.
– Jeff Fernandez is co-founder and CEO of Grovo, helping to educate the digital workforce with an end-to-end training solution that delivers quality results in a short amount of time.
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