If you are attending or reading about CES 2023—the world’s largest consumer electronics technology show—you already know how increasingly crucial it is for businesses to access the right technology and skills to succeed. After all, technology and digital tools are now essential components of any successful global company.
“AI-ovens, dual-display or 3D screen laptops and satellite SOS texting shine at Las Vegas tech show,” reported The Guardian. But while it is evident that technology plays an outsized role in our lives, the fact remains that businesses need more than just shiny gadgets to keep up with the competition. They also need access to experts and top talent who can help them make the most of their technology investments.
But many organizations face a “digital skills gap”—the inability to access skilled professionals with the proper knowledge and experience in emerging technologies. This leaves businesses at a competitive disadvantage as they struggle to close the gaps between their employees’ current capabilities and what is needed to succeed in the digital economy.
According to AND Digital research, $285 billion of Britain’s economic growth is at risk between now and 2026 if the nation does not tackle the digital skills gap—an estimation based on ONS estimations of a $2 trillion GDP at a 2% growth rate by 2026. This sentiment was echoed by Raconteur last month, which reported that “the skills gap is stopping businesses from achieving agility.” Fortune concluded, “[the] digital skills crisis presents a new defining challenge for the global economy.”
Elsewhere, a study by Microsoft found that 65% of hiring managers worldwide report difficulty finding qualified digital talent. This isn’t surprising, given that another study from AND Digital revealed that 81% of managing directors admit that a lack of digital skills negatively impacts their organization.
Separate research by AND Digital and McKinsey concluded that 76% of organizations believe transforming culture and ways of working is a crucial challenge, 42% lack leadership and talent for agile transformation, and 28% lack sufficient resources. This problem needs urgent attention from leaders, primarily because, according to Gartner, 58% of the workforce will need new skill sets to do their jobs successfully, and Gallup found that 57% of US workers want to update their skills.
Leaders must close the gap between current skills and future needs to tackle this problem. They must ensure that their teams have access to the right training resources, mentors, and career paths that will enable them to stay competitive in a rapidly changing business world. Leaders should also commit to creating an environment of open dialogue where employees can share their goals and be supported in their growth journey. They can do this by:
1. Investing in training and skills development programs, such as certification courses and online resources, that provide employees with the knowledge they need to thrive.
2. Building learning and development pathways so individual employees can gain core skills in areas like cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and machine learning, alongside leadership and management capabilities.
3. Developing mentorship programs to provide employees with guidance and support from experienced professionals and peers.
4. Creating an internal culture that encourages continuous learning, celebrates successes and rewards those who have gone the extra mile in their skills development journey.
“Leaders need to focus on creating an environment where employees can access the right tools and resources needed for personal growth,” said Simon Holden, Chief for BU Success at AND Digital, in an interview. “At AND Digital, we believe eliminating the digital skills gap is imperative for the future success of our businesses and communities. But, it takes more than just providing training.” Holden added, “It requires a shift in organizational culture and an investment in tools, resources, mentorships, and career support.”
Holden’s view was shared by Matt Dawson, a senior member of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning team. Dawson, who won 77 caps, including nine as captain, has become an influential strategy advisor post-retirement at Lemon & Lime Associates—a strategic consigliere to many of the world’s top firms—including AND Digital.
“I see similarities here with my experience in my playing career,” said Dawson in an interview. “The key to success is having the right skills and attitudes around you. You need to bring out the best in people, regardless of their level of digital know-how. Today’s challenge for leaders is recognizing where those gaps are present.”
Dawson drew a comparison between the skills needed to take on the world’s top rugby teams and the need for business leaders to close the digital skills gap, highlighting a common thread: “Leaders must recognize that it takes a whole team effort to succeed, including people from different backgrounds and skill sets.” This is interesting because it ties together the need for leaders to build strong teams and foster a diverse workforce to close the digital skills gap.
Dawson shared some of his experiences as he navigated life on and off the rugby pitch, including how his passion for sports helped him in business: “We all have something we are passionate about that can help drive us in business. When I was younger, playing rugby helped me focus on the importance of communication and collaboration.” He emphasized the need for solid teamwork: “We all have to work together and be supportive of each other if we are going to succeed.” Ultimately, Dawson urged leaders to recognize that digital skills are essential in today’s world and to invest in the right people and training to ensure that their teams have what it takes to compete.
The global economy is increasingly becoming more technology-focused, meaning businesses must be capable of leveraging the latest digital tools and skills. Leaders must invest in closing the digital skills gap among their employees so they can better compete in a changing landscape. Through training, mentorship, and cultivating an environment of open dialogue, leaders can ensure that their teams are prepared to take on any challenge in the digital world. Ultimately, closing the digital skills gap is essential for any successful global company. It takes commitment, investment, and a team effort to make it happen. By doing so, businesses can remain competitive and thrive in the digital age. After all, digital transformation starts at the top.