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Want to Be a Leader in the Digital-First Era? Upskill Your Workforce

August 26,2020 Learning and Development
dr. marlene wolfgruber
By Dr. Marlene Wolfgruber

The digital-first era has arrived. Companies have expedited plans for automating their businesses, transformed legacy processes and raised the bar for digital experiences, all in an effort to best serve customers and maintain business continuity amidst the pandemic.

The pandemic has led to a new global remote workforce, pushing companies to find innovative ways to increase operational efficiencies and streamline workflows. Furthermore, social distancing prompted many organizations to explore new digital channels, innovate service delivery models, and entirely reimagine the way in which they serve their customers. In doing so, it set a new standard for the skills their workforce required.

However, these skill sets are in short supply. According to IDC research, 75% of respondents said their organization was finding it challenging to recruit employees with the needed digital skills.

The world of work as we know it will never be the same. But are employees ready for the future of work?  

Digital Transformation Starts With Your Employees

The lack of digital skills is creating a major obstacle to implementing and managing automation processes and other technologies necessary for a successful digital transformation, a problem that will continue well after the pandemic is over.

The future of work is increasingly being defined by human-machine collaboration. With many enterprises accelerating automation initiatives and introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into their organizations, it’s won’t be uncommon for employees to work alongside digital co-workers such as software robots and automation technologies. In fact, contributions from digital workers will increase by over 50% in the next two years according to IDC research. As it becomes more common for employees to work alongside software robots and AI technologies, they will need to be equipped with the skills to effectively train, manage and collaborate with their new software robot colleagues.

Now is the time to support employees with training opportunities and professional development programs that will outfit them with indispensable technical capabilities for the digital-first era. Employees will also need a mix of soft and business skills to take on greater leadership roles in digital initiatives, skills such as empathy, creative problem solving, data driven decision-making, critical and strategic thinking and more. There is only so far a company can accelerate digital transformation when employees lack the right skill sets.

Related Article: How DevOps Is Automating the Workplace

Empowering the Citizen Developer

Digital transformation initiatives are most effective — and sustainable — when every function within an organization can play a role, not just the IT department. The trend towards citizen development is in part about empowering business users to play a greater role in building applications and propelling automation deployments, even with little to no coding experience.

While business users don’t need to know how to code in order to play a central role in IT initiatives, it’s invaluable to equip employees with training that provides a working understanding that allows them to take on technical responsibilities with ease and confidence.

The five actionable strategies below are easy to implement and will help your workforce take on a greater role in digital transformation initiatives:

  1. Train employees in intelligent automation: A number of accessible online resources are available that can help equip employees with practical digital skills. Platforms such as LinkedIn offer affordable resources to brush up on AI and intelligent automation knowledge, including a beginner course on Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI and Cognitive Tech for Leaders. The course is designed to introduce digital-era executives to key concepts that are vital in leading their teams in the new world of work. For more in-depth online training, Automation Academy offers advanced programs covering machine learning and RPA technologies for stakeholders within an IT function as well as business users operating outside a technical role.
  2. Prepare employees for human-machine collaboration: For employers offering tuition assistance programs, there are a number of in-depth academic programs designed to prepare students to work alongside software robots and lead in a future of work defined by greater human-machine collaboration.
    Every spring, Carnegie Mellon University offers coursework on advances in RPA which teaches students how to manage software robots, how to identify processes that are a good fit for automation, and how to build a business case. In addition, California State University, Fullerton offers graduate and undergraduate coursework designed to equip students with the skills to understand, code and deploy their own software robots. Focused on the real-world benefits of automation applications, the courses explore the use of RPA to enhance accounting functions including data mining, consolidations and tax functions. 
  3. Consider technical certification offerings: Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers training programs that can equip employees with vital skills to help accelerate digital transformation. Class offerings focus on a wide range of key skills including machine learning, data analytics, security, software development and system operations. Amazon also offers technical certification programs that are both role-based as well as specific to areas of high-demand technical proficiency.
  4. Streamline process workflows: This will allow employees to spend less time fixing or working around process inefficiencies and more time on meaningful work. With process mining techniques, organizations can take the guess work out of process flows and ensure all operations are working efficiently. Advanced process intelligence technologies can even be configured to alert your team when processes are not performing as intended.
  5. Choose technologies that augment your team’s capabilities: Low-code and no-code technologies are becoming more commonplace in enterprise software. Advanced machine learning technologies that provide cognitive skills like understanding, reasoning and decision-making to content can easily be added to intelligent automation platforms by users with limited or no technical expertise. With these solutions, organizations can augment human intelligence and empower the business user to assume a greater role in implementing impactful digital transformation initiatives.

Related Article: Why Digital Transformation Feels so Difficult

Emerging as a Leader in the Digital-First Era

Unprecedented challenges bring extraordinary opportunities. Enterprise leaders who equip their employees with the digital skills of tomorrow will be well-prepared to emerge from these unprecedented times ready to embrace change and lead in a future of work that is already here.

About the Author

Dr. Marlene Wolfgruber is director of product marketing at ABBYY.

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