Re-skilling Staff: Closing the digital gaps

July 29, 2021 2:00 AM

In the digital economy, continual learning will be the cornerstone to success

Sanket Atal PortraitSanket Atal Portrait

By Sanket Atal

COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated our planet’s gradual, decade-long migration to digital. Transformations that previously took years suddenly became transformations overnight, pushing businesses of every size, industry and country to digitalise at an unprecedented pace. Seismic digital-first shifts from traditional business models and workplaces have resulted in the widening of an already large skills gap.

Simply put, there is low supply and high demand – existing workforces do not have the digital skills to power their transforming companies now and in the future. We need to recognise the need for immediate and sustained investment in digital skills, to offset job displacement driven by digitalisation. As it becomes increasingly clear that the improvement of digital literacy, provision of training and re-skilling opportunities must be a priority for governments and businesses alike, it is imperative for us to work collectively towards closing the Digital Gap.

Investing in existing talent
Different countries are going to be more impacted by the digital skills gap than others, depending on the country’s economic structure, its industries and labour distribution according to a recent report by Accenture. The Digital Skills gap in India, has the greatest GDP growth risk at an average of 2.3% every year, followed by South Africa and Mexico at 1.8% GDP, and China and Brazil at 1.7% GDP.

The decisions companies make now to solve the digital skills gap will echo for a generation. This is a pivotal moment – a unique opportunity for companies to add future value to their business and drive equity and inclusion. A commitment to bridging the widening digital skills gap is fundamental to the future success and prosperity of every organisation. In addition, doing so in a manner that promotes equity and inclusivity, effectively leverages untapped talent within the workforce.

Employees need to be empowered
In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the urgency to future-proof and transition careers has required nothing short of a reskilling revolution. According to global Salesforce research, since the onset of the pandemic 40% of the workforce have considered a career change. As the digital economy continues to evolve, businesses don’t just have a responsibility to provide employees opportunities to retrain and transition to the jobs of the future. It’s increasingly within their interest to do so. In another study commissioned by Salesforce and YouGov, titled ‘The Digital Skills Report’, nine in ten people surveyed in India believe that the pandemic has accelerated the need for digital skills in their organisation. Additionally, 92% of managers surveyed from India, said that their organisation has plans in place to fill their ‘digital skills gap’.

Industries and governments need to work together towards providing individuals with the opportunity to participate. As we reimagine education for a learn-from-anywhere world, for instance, we need to ensure every student can gain the best teaching regardless of circumstance. When it comes to changing careers, everyone deserves the opportunity to reskill. As essential everyday services transition to online, ensuring universal access to anything from health to social care will be the true test of an inclusive digital-first world.

Given the rapid transformations we are seeing, it seems we are all having to learn and upskill to some degree. In the digital economy, for businesses and people alike, a transformative mindset will be crucial to how we live and learn. How we equip young people for the changing world, empower employees with the skills they need, and address widening digital gaps will determine our success both as an economy and as a society.

The writer is SVP & MD, Sites (India), Salesforce India

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