Most UK businesses yet to finalise their digital skills plans
  • Louise Scott-Worrall, Partner |
4 min read

Over sixty percent of businesses are yet to implement a plan for reskilling their workforce as part of their future digital transformation. A poll of business leaders during the Future of Re-skilling and Learning breakout session at the recent Our Digital Futures virtual conference revealed that 27percent were implementing a plan and that a further 10percent had a plan and were confident in it.

Of the remainder, 41percent stated they were still in the process of developing something, while the final 22percent admitted they hadn’t even begun to think about it.

These results highlight how those organisations that haven’t yet begun to plan for their future digital skills requirements still have a lot to think about.

Leaders need to be thinking about what skills they will need in their future workforce, of course, but they also need to consider the percentage of their organisation’s jobs and processes they expect to be automated in the future and to establish whether HR has started to factor this into their long-term strategic planning.

Businesses should be consulting staff on the impact that learning and development (L&D) activities have had on them during the pandemic, to understand how attitudes towards learning might be shifting as a result. And they need to be honest with themselves, thinking about how personally well-equipped they are to lead a future hybrid workforce that combines human and digital resources. Answers to these questions, and many more besides, need to be factored into their digital reskilling plans – and those plans need to be coming together now.

Echoing this sentiment, Russ Shaw of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, who chaired the session, said, “It’s so important to understand where UK businesses are on their digital transformation journey and how prepared they are with their workforce plans. A workforce that’s suitably equipped for a digital future could deliver increased prosperity and cement the UK’s place as a world-leading leading tech nation, after the US and China. Get it wrong though and we could see an even bigger digital divide within the workforce, which could seriously harm national productivity.”

L&D’s growing influence

Joining myself and Russ on the expert panel for the skills session was Jeff Matthews of LinkedIn Learning Solutions. Drawing on data from the most recent LinkedIn workplace learning report, he highlighted how L&D’s importance within their organisations had rocketed over the past year. “63percent of L&D leaders now claim to have a seat at the senior leadership table,” he stated, “up from just 24percent the previous year. I’d put that down to the role L&D has played in helping businesses respond rapidly to the past year’s two major themes; remote working and workforce diversity and equality.”

“The report also showed the correlation between investing in people and improving your retention rates. In organisations where internal mobility was good, resulting in high lateral hire rates, we found that retention rates were double what they were elsewhere. The reason that most people typically cite for leaving a company is because they encountered a lack of development opportunities. It therefore stands to reason that the more you help them learn, the more you invest in them, the longer they’ll stay.”

The LinkedIn report also revealed that when people were being reskilled to take advantage of new job opportunities, they were increasingly doing so from areas of work that had little or no adjacency or similarity to the roles they would be moving into.

We could each have as many as five different careers in the future. It’s therefore not that surprising that some of our reskilling might take us into very different areas of work. The employers and employees who appreciate this are the ones who really engage with lifelong learning and understand its importance.

By engaging fully, the employee gets to develop relevant skills for the future, no matter how much of a stretch that might seem at first. Also – as per Jeff’s point –  the very act of being offered such a development opportunity increases the chances of them staying with their existing employer. In turn, the employer retains that person’s ‘corporate memory’ within their workforce. And, by reskilling someone, they avoid the typical £3,000 cost and 26 weeks of onboarding and developing involved in hiring and getting a new recruit fully up to speed.

With these things in mind, you really cannot underestimate the importance and value of establishing a culture of lifelong learning within your organisation.

Watch the full session on-demand click here. You can find other resources from the event on the Our Digital Future hub.