HomeLearning & DevelopmentThe business case for digitally upskilling the workforce

The business case for digitally upskilling the workforce

  • 5 Min Read

Businesses must invest in digital upskilling to bridge the skills gap and unlock employee potential for the digital age. This boosts productivity, engagement, and future-proofs the workforce.

Featured Image

Technology is developing at a faster rate than workforces can keep up with. As a result, the pool of workers skilled in both understanding and utilising these new technologies is smaller than the demand for it. 

According to findings from Good Things Foundation, 10.2 million people in the UK lack the most basic digital skills – leaving them unable to carry out tasks such as accessing internet browsers to pay bills or sending emails to apply for jobs. 

Yet tech proficiency is gradually becoming an essential job requirement. Currently, 82% of jobs require digital skills and the World Economic Forum predicts that 1.1 billion jobs will be radically altered by tech in the next decade. 

So, how can this be addressed? As digitisation continues to surge, business leaders must get ahead and future-proof their workforce by investing in training and development opportunities for their employees. 

The impact of the growing digital divide 

With the increase in remote work, tech is rapidly transforming private and public sector professions. Private sector companies are turning to digital solutions to streamline services, while innovations in public sector infrastructure seek to drive efficiencies in stretched teams. 

However, in many cases, not all employees have the necessary skill set to operate new tech in the workplace. This is affecting employee progression, with almost a third (31%) of workers believing they have not received a promotion or pay rise due to a lack of digital skills.  

Therefore, it is the responsibility of business leaders to ensure they are aware of the increasing digital skills gap within their business and take the necessary steps to tackle it – either with help from external IT teams or by leveraging talent within the business.   

How does this impact business operations?  

Digital transformation has introduced new tools and solutions such as unified communications, collaboration tools and cloud-based services, all aimed at improving workflow efficiency. But simply implementing new workplace tech simply isn’t enough. In fact, over half of business leaders believe their teams are not using tools to their full extent, with limited skills and user resistance impacting business operations. 

What’s more, when staff aren’t informed of how to use new technology and tools, this has the potential to derail their professional development. For leaders, this can be the first step on the path to a disengaged and underperforming workforce. 

To tackle this, business leads have a role in providing training and support for employees to build confidence in using new solutions.  

The financial benefits of digital upskilling 

In addition to lower engagement levels, failure to successfully manage effective digital skills training can trigger retention challenges for businesses – as, user friction and a lack of understanding of how to utilise tools and equipment can impact an employee’s desire to stay at that company.  

Organisations that don’t actively monitor productivity and progress after implementing new processes are opening the door to unnecessary risk. 

Businesses should monitor staff perception and attitudes to new processes and provide opportunities for upskilling accordingly. Even high-performing staff will require training to maximise the value of new tools and solutions and failure to provide this can quickly create a frustrated workforce. Whereas, findings from McKinsey reveal that effective reskilling can improve productivity by between 6 to 12%.   

Company leaders should also take steps to recognise the employees who require the most support. With the introduction of new technologies and varying skill levels, a one-size-fits-all approach based on preconceived ideas about the relationship staff have with modern technology is not an effective strategy.   

However, the returns for business leaders who invest in the right training are clear, particularly during the ongoing period of high prices and inflation. Research from McKinsey shows that 75% of all reskilling cases yield payoffs for UK businesses. Providing workers with the right upskilling opportunities can drive employee engagement, satisfaction and retention, while also ensuring they can grow alongside digital transformation at work.  

Right training equals right outcomes   

Findings from the Tech and the Battle for Talent report reveal that a third of UK workers believe that one reason for the skills shortage is a lack of training opportunities, with 36% stating their organisation rarely (if ever) provides training.   

While training costs may seem a hefty expense in the current economic climate, the return on investment, through increased staff productivity and engagement, will ensure organisations move closer to achieving their financial goals.   

Whether it’s provided by external IT teams, training suppliers, or leveraging existing skillsets within the business, company leaders should recognise the positive impact the right training can have for employees and the organisation.    

Fundamentally, business leaders should not assume that all of their employees are naturally equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to proficiently use new tech and processes. Instead, leaders should see investment in personalised upskilling and training as an opportunity to maximise the value of new tools and bolster the professional qualities of their workforce.  

When business leaders adopt this mindset shift, they are better positioned to monitor and manage any skills gaps within their organisation. Not only helping their employees in their day-to-day jobs but empowering their staff to become digital experts who are spearheading business growth for the future. 

Was this article helpful?

Subscribe to get your daily business insights


HRD Roundtable: Combating 'Quiet Quitting'…

08 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • 1y

HRD Network Roundtable: The Retention…

15 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • 1y

Manage change and drive value…

01 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • 1y
Sign up to our Newsletter