Upskilling for a modern world

Helping employees develop digital skills

Krishna Gathwal

Krishna Gathwal

Director Advisory, Human Capital Advisory, KPMG US

+1 214-840-2000

Brock Solano

Brock Solano

Managing Director, Human Capital Advisory, KPMG LLP

+1 858-750-7063

Digital tools have been seamlessly integrated into our personal, everyday lives. However, organizations are challenged to keep pace with embedding technology into established business processes and behaviors. A key limitation to adopting technology is employees’ digital skills in an organization.

The shift to predominantly virtual or hybrid work models has exposed these digital skills gaps within many organizations—presenting learning and development (L&D) with an opportunity for an upskilling boom. Let’s examine how learning organizations can prepare to upskill employees with the digital skills they need to succeed.

Digital skills gap

The need for robust and scalable digital skills isn’t just an aspiration, it’s now a requirement for organizations to remain competitive and well-positioned for long-term growth. In fact, organizations with advanced data fluency skills—or the ability to understand data and apply it in the workplace—report increased revenue growth, market share, and customer and employee satisfaction compared to organizations with immature data fluency skills, according to Training Industry research.

To remain competitive, organizations must close digital skills gaps, and this requires starting with the basics. Employees must understand the basics of digital processes, how to visualize and interpret data, and how digitization can impact business outcomes. Employees also need to build awareness around technology, including when and how to use tools and applications. A successful digital transformation requires employees at all levels of the organization to understand and apply technology and data in the context of their job role.

Organizations with advanced digital skills recognize the importance of prioritizing data fluency across the business compared to organizations just starting out on the journey, according to Training Industry research. These advanced organizations realize the inherent value of investing in digital literacy, and that doing so involves helping employees learn the basics.

Creating an upskilling strategy

Learning leaders have a critical role to play in leading the charge toward digital upskilling in the organization. They must work with business leaders to create a data education strategy that enables employees to learn and fluently speak “the language of data.”

To create this strategy, leaders must understand how the business is currently managing data, data storage, and knowledge transfer. This means learning leaders must:

  • Conduct a thorough learning needs analysis to assess current skills gaps and identify the talent development needs for specific job roles and functions
  • Understand the intricacies and challenges employees encounter on the job to create training that targets direct needs
  • Meet with employees to better understand how digital skills can be utilized to overcome challenges, create efficiencies, and enable better business outcomes.

Designing training that targets the right skills

Today’s learners need learning resources in the flow of work to enhance productivity and encourage problem-solving on the job. Adopting a learner-centric approach to upskilling enables L&D to personalize training to job roles and functions, providing relevant and consumable content to learners during their time of need.

Without relevancy, training will be unsuccessful. Learning leaders must ensure employees receive training on the specific skills they need for their job role. For optimal success, the training content should be easily digestible and actionable to learners, so they can immediately put skills into practice.

Reinforcement and application of skills is critical to building core competencies across the business. To create more accountability and ensure learning is retained and applied on the job, skills should be connected to performance management. For instance, digital skills, such as data analytics, coding or machine learning, should be identified and linked to job roles. Managers will need to monitor progress and recommend additional training when necessary and evaluate employees on the mastery of the skills as part of regular performance reviews.

By including skills development as part of the performance management process, employees will be more motivated to learn and develop the necessary skills. When employees understand how the skills relate to their job and potential impact on the business, they will be more engaged in the learning process. Additionally, digital skills can be transferable to other job roles, increasing future mobility and job opportunities within the organization. This enables employees to develop a more holistic career in one organization, leading to increased employee engagement and retention rates.

Moving forward

It’s no longer enough to just be aware of data and where to source it. Moving forward, organizations need to apply data to build more efficiencies into existing processes. This requires employees to have the digital skills necessary to understand technology and data and how to effectively use it to optimize workflows. Long-term business growth hinges on an organization’s ability to adapt to change—and embedding digital skills in the company’s culture can equip employees with a digital mindset to enhance processes and innovate solutions to reach new markets.