Reskill Not Just To Thrive, But To Survive

business tech

By Aileen Allkins

“The time is now for companies to make bold investments in technology and capabilities”, according to a recent study from McKinsey. In fact, some might suggest it is well past time – while spending on tech may have once been a luxury, in the digital era it is a necessity for businesses looking to remain competitive and ready for the future.   

For the full benefits of new technology to be achieved, a business must be equipped with the appropriate skillsets to properly deploy and use it, making talent requirements more complex. The key hurdle here, however, is a substantial global digital skills gap.

In a recent report by AND Digital, 81% of UK managing directors reported that a lack of digital skills was negatively impacting their company. With demand for skills far outweighing available talent, there is an opportunity for organisations to set themselves apart from competitors by investing in their people through digital upskilling. Filling specific skills gaps will create a capable, resilient and adaptable workforce that can prosper in the fourth industrial revolution.

Which new tech skills are a priority will vary by industry, and every company’s digital transformation journey will be unique. However, some stand-out industries have set strong examples of how to capitalise on upskilling initiatives.  

TMT proves the consumer is key

The way the public consumes media has undergone a rapid evolution with the explosion of streaming platforms and social media. Furthermore, the constant arrival of new challengers in the TMT space has rendered fast adaptation a necessary survival skill for all telecommunications firms. Indeed, a Deloitte report recently highlighted that a strong driver of this has been the need to “transform into more customer-centric organisations that respond to consumer needs more rapidly and effectively”. 

In this highly competitive arena, being the first to adopt, develop, and offer the most cutting edge and innovative services is central to not just growth, but staying in the race. Businesses that have prioritised internal upskilling have risen to the top. For example, in the US, telecoms giant AT&T recognised the need to pivot from a voice network to a data network, and invested in upskilling its workforce in data science, computer science and cybersecurity. It is now the leading provider of mobile services in the US. 

In the UK, BT is streamlining its customer experience with an integrated design and shipping platform, restructuring processes for agility and efficiency. This transformation, which has been heavily dependent on the business’ ambitious internal upskilling programmes, has ensured that it can provide best-in class customer service that can stand up to the challenge from newer market entrants. 

Manufacturing – man vs machine?

8.5% of manufacturing jobs could be replaced by robots by 2030, according to a 2019 report by Oxford Economics. With AI and automated systems becoming more sophisticated, it begs the question: what is next for the human workforce? 

Automated systems have huge potential for increasing efficiencies in the manufacturing industry, but these machines are no direct swap for current staff. Systems will always require management, maintenance and troubleshooting, and therefore will always need human intervention. Those best placed for these roles are staff already on the ground, with experience of the jobs themselves. 

For Jaguar Land Rover, digitisation and innovation for sustainability go hand in hand. In looking to automate, the company first identified areas to prioritise, such as accounts payable, invoice reconciliation, and data analytics.

The business was then able to reinvest value generated by its automated systems into the business, including providing substantial training to 60% of their workforce on electric vehicle manufacturing. From upskilling engineers in battery development technology to reskilling servicing technicians in electrification, these training efforts are a crucial strategic aspect of Jaguar Land Rover’s green evolution, allowing the company to stay on the front foot of innovation.

Talent and tech growing in tandem will not only help future-proof the operations of the business, but it shows commitment to employee progression, which in turn encourages employee buy-in and helps with staff retention.

Banking on new skills

Financial services firms are dependent on their ability to accurately predict future outcomes and stay ahead of the competition – a skillset crucial for success in both the financial sector and in developing and adopting the next generation of financial technology.

According to a Bank of England report, the majority of financial services organisations are currently using AI. Tools such as neural networks and tree-based models are being used to improve pricing, fraud prevention and other crucial banking functions. 

More traditional firms should not fear robo-advisory services, automated analytics, or smart contract writing systems, but rather recognise the skilling pathways that open up through widespread fintech uptake. 

Back in 2017, JPMorgan Chase & Co’s CEO Jamie Dimon forecast that his firm’s headcount would continue to rise to match the rate of digitisation, and time has proven him right. Financial services leaders who invest in growing a digitally skilled talent pool capitalise on cutting-edge, emerging technologies, and remain at the forefront of their industry.

An open door

PwC predicts that up to 30% of jobs could be automated by the mid-2030s. The potential that this unlocks is profound, but only if the upskilling of existing talent follows suit. Industries that look to evolve their workforces along with new technology are truly futureproofing their business; those remaining stagnant, however, are in danger of getting left behind.

About the Author

Aileen AllkensAileen Allkins is the Chief Revenue Officer of Elev8

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.