The insightful, and sometimes breathless, predictions regarding digital transformation are everywhere. We are right to be mindful of both the potential and the challenges posed by digital transformation. Digital transformation is increasing the rate of change in every business, in every line of business and even in every role.
Digital transformation requires new development practices, organizational culture changes, customer intelligence and focus, empathy and, above all, new ways of thinking. Only when everyone is committed to improving the way work gets done, can an organization thrive in a competitive environment. As organizations continue to grapple with how to prepare their workforce for an increasingly digital world, they have a technology skills development problem.
Below are five considerations for bridging the technology skills gap brought on by digital transformation.
Identify the Skill or Development Problem You Are Trying to Solve
It’s essential that the technology skills development program be aligned in purpose and design with the intended business objective. That may sound obvious, but organizations have a way of accelerating beyond the original scope and intentions.
Ultimately, what you are trying to do will determine the combination of tools, content and even organizational commitment needed to be successful. For instance, are you trying to deepen technical knowledge for a set of employees? Or, are you tasked with improving specific performance objectives in data, DevOps and/or security?
Before investing in training, it’s important to establish the targeted employees, the range of competencies to be covered, the degree of proficiency required and the time frame to complete the initiative. In all cases, build a program that can solve the problem in a time frame that meets the business needs.
Establish the Performance Objective
For nearly all technology skill problems, the goal is performance: the target learners becoming sufficiently competent to perform at the required level. Understanding what the performance standard or measure of success is or will be helps focus all stakeholders on the same goal.
If specific performance objectives are required, monitoring a specific key performance indicator (KPI) can be the most valuable approach to determining training success or impact. If the KPIs are not available, using post-assessments can be a useful measure of knowledge gained and can help demonstrate the impact of the training.
Leverage Authoritative Content
It’s important to understand the sources used to create the course material as well as who authored or collaborated on the material. This matters not just because the learning content should be accurate, but also because adult learners are sensitive to the credibility of the source material. Especially in technical areas, IT professionals expect to be provided with material from authoritative sources.
IT professionals consider current practitioners, or well-known consultants the most authoritative voices on how to use technology. In some cases, industry associations or trade groups have established themselves as authoritative sources in their specific technical areas. Regardless, the source material should be highly reputable and authoritative.
Put User Experience First
Making learning as convenient for the target learner as possible is essential to a successful learning program.
Convenience has often meant anytime/anywhere learning—learners can take courses at home, while commuting, from their desk or wherever they work. This experience should be much like watching a movie on Netflix or Hulu: Learners should be able to start the course at one location, on one device and continue it at another time on a different device from just the right point in the course.
Training can also be seamlessly incorporated into the workflow of some applications. Think of it like a more sophisticated, less annoying version of “Clippy,” the Microsoft assistant that provided in-context help for Microsoft Office through the mid-2000s. For some types of applications and technical roles, having a context-sensitive learning engine that can identify and serve up nuggets of learning appropriate to the task can be very useful.
Offer the Right Mix of Push Learning and Pull Learning
Employers are beginning to realize the benefits of pull learning where IT professionals identify and select their own learning paths. This model allows motivated professionals to acquire skills, gain more responsibilities and, in some cases, promotions and new job opportunities. Employers have realized that when employees self-select a course, it is a strong indicator of self-motivation, and a strong predictor of professional dedication and success.
But pull learning isn’t appropriate for every problem to be solved. For example, maybe you need a group to learn the same thing about cloud security or compliance. In such situations, it’s not practical to wait until the target learners are motivated to take the specific courses. It makes more sense to solve these challenges by assigning specific courses to the right groups of target learners, assigning completion dates and monitoring progress.
Depending on what problem you are trying to solve, either push learning or pull learning may be more appropriate.
Setting Your Organization Up for Success
Ultimately, successfully navigating digital transformation requires a team with well-aligned IT roles and skill sets. People are the make-or-break element of a high-performing IT organization. There is simply no replacement for people with the right skills, attitudes and traits. CIOs don’t have the luxury of hiring a totally new roster of people with “the right stuff,” so they will have to be creative in using a combination of hiring, mentoring and training, contractors, and partners to create the needed mix of capabilities.
Once you have hired and trained the talent in your organization, what’s your plan to help them continue their learning journey for the duration of their career?