Dealing with the digital skills gap

Dealing with the digital skills gap

Enterprises need to strategise for the impending talent crunch in emerging technologies.

As enterprises strive to embrace digital technologies and transform to stay competitive in a market environment characterised by digital disruption, they are up against a skills availability crisis. While adopting technologies like Analytics, Mobility, Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), they are likely to run into challenges in acquiring and retaining the right talent that will help them take their digital transformation projects to fruition.

The massive demand-supply gap in terms of skills is a global phenomenon. Skills to enable digital technologies will require expertise across diverse areas such as software engineering, ML, deep learning, quantitative research, econometrics and analytics. It’s been noted that the demand for digital skills in most parts of the world will grow very fast in the years to come and enterprises as well as training organisations will have to find ways to train professionals to master and deliver on these skills. While adoption of new technologies like ML, AI and NLP are making a few job functions unnecessary, embracing these technologies is paving way for the creation of a whole new set of opportunities.

As most enterprises are preparing for their digital transformation journeys, a research survey conducted in different countries found out that only 20 per cent of employees have the required skills to perform their current roles in a digitally transformed scenario. As many as 70 per cent of the employees surveyed did not have the skills required to perform in their current roles and 80 per cent were yet to master the skills required for them to stay relevant post-digital transformation. A connected learning approach is recommended to build synergies between the industry and academia to overcome the digital skills gap.

In India, where we have a mix of enterprises across sectors that are seeking to digitally transform and software services companies that are looking to help enterprises around the globe in their digital transformation projects, the skills shortage is even more acute.

Last year NITI Aayog released a report that estimated that India will be short of 2,00,000 data analytics professionals by 2020. With AI and ML being relatively newer concepts, the demand supply gap in these areas will be even more critical. A global research firm estimates that by 2020, 60 per cent of Indian enterprises looking to benefit through advanced analytics will be hampered by an acute skills shortage. Pundits point out that the Indian industry and academia need to forge stronger partnerships and put together relevant curricula that will churn out skilled graduates who can take on new jobs profiles, the kind that don’t even exist today.

While the skills gap we spoke about so far refers to technical skills, there are also gaps in managerial skills that enterprises will have to address to stay competitive in a digitally transforming world. CIOs and CDOs have a tougher and more complex change management task on hand and will have to rise up to the challenge. Information security challenges will be trickier to overcome. Consequently, everyone in the C-suite will need to synergise and adopt new and out-of-the-box approaches to secure their information assets in a hyperconnected business ecosystem. Leadership in the digital era will also take on a new hue. And business leaders should be ready to unlearn and learn again.

Photograph: Peoplecreations/