The 6 Skills Your Workforce Needs to Weather Digital Transformation

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Bleeding-edge digital tech like big data, artificial intelligence, automation, virtual reality, and augmented reality is transforming the workplace at a dizzying pace. Every day, it seems we hear news of some high-profile, labor-intensive process finally being streamlined — or even replaced completely — through slick automated systems.

New technologies are opening the doors to new game-changing capabilities, and this digital transformation will challenge the workforce to adapt — or risk become outdated themselves.

To thrive in a landscape of digital transformation, your organization and its employees need to cultivate these six skills and qualities:

1. Adaptability

Change is constant in the modern, digitally transformational workplace, meaning employees need adaptability and mental agility keep up. Businesses that develop agile cultures wherein their workforces are both willing and able to deploy the latest game-changing tech in the shortest possible time will have an edge over the competition. Adaptable workplace cultures lead to agile businesses that can pivot and react to a volatile marketplace permanently disrupted by digital innovation.

2. Data-Driven Decision-Making

The emergence of big data means it is now possible to acquire statistical analyses of just about anything. This, in turn, is changing the way we view the world and how we make decisions.

Corporate strategies and policies have historically emphasized intuition and experience during the formulation stage. However, the ready availability of so much actionable data and business intelligence means we can now eliminate much of the guesswork and base our decisions on statistical probabilities of success.

As data-driven decision-making becomes key to business, sport, politics, and healthcare, it is also becoming a crucial competency for the digital age. McKinsey predicts that demand for big-data talent could outstrip supply by 50-60 percent in the next five years.

3. Collaboration

Siloed work and isolationist thinking will not serve organizations well in a digitally transformational environment. According to Deloitte, the most digitally mature businesses use cross-functional teams to coordinate activities.

The typical deliverable in a digitally transformed environment is rarely the result of one person or even one function’s activity. Instead, cross-functional project teams and task forces must work together outside of functional hierarchies to deliver change and business outcomes. Collaboration skills, including the ability to break down silos and solve problems as a group, are mission-critical in digitally transformational environments.

4. An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Success in the digital age requires risk-taking, experimentation, and entrepreneurial thinking. Digital transformation means an organization’s workforce will constantly find itself breaking new ground and doing things for the first time. There won’t always be a clear roadmap or guarantee of success. Entrepreneurial mindsets thrive in this uncharted territory, as they are comfortable with risk and can approach uncertainty positively, proactively, and pragmatically.

5. Learning Agility

Research from Korn Ferry shows that individuals who possess learning agility are better positioned to thrive in the volatile and uncertain age of digital transformation.

In particular, the learning agile are those who demonstrate the following five behaviors:

  1. Creative problem-solving
  2. Ability to communicate with a diverse range of people
  3. Openness to change
  4. Self-aware of strengths and weaknesses
  5. Ability to be effective in novel situations

When facing a new problem or an uncertain situation, the learning agile don’t panic. Instead, they enthusiastically tackle these challenges, fully evaluating the situation in order to make the most informed decision about how to proceed. For this reason, the learning-agile worker will be an invaluable asset in a digitally transformational environment.

6. Self-Directed Learning

The sheer volume of knowledge that needs to be transferred to workers during digital transformation is breathtaking. Organizations that wish to retain their workforces while adjusting to the new realities of digital transformation must support this knowledge transfer, but they cannot do it alone. Employees, too, have a key role in that they must self-source new knowledge from the vast library of free online training resources in order to stay updated on the latest digital software applications and practices.

Those employees who can confront their own weaknesses in a digitally transformational environment, set their own career-related learning targets, and proactively engage with available resources to meet those targets will thrive; those who cannot may find it impossible to keep up with the pace of change.

While technical skills have a significant bearing on success, thriving in the age of digital transformation is as much about mindset as it is about having the right competencies. Employees must take the initiative to adopt and refine the above six skills for themselves, while organizations hoping to weather digital transformation must take steps to support their workforces in this effort.

Paul Jarrett is founder of Renaix.

By Paul Jarrett