Why Investing in Digital Upskilling is Important for Employee Experience Transformation  

Leaders must prioritize upskilling as a means to use technology to empower their workforce to be more effective and efficient.

In today’s digital age, we are surrounded by innovative technologies that were unimaginable even a decade ago in our personal and professional lives. Because the world around us constantly evolves, upskilling has become an increasingly important investment for organizations.

Studies show that 92 percent of leaders say their employees are happy at work, while only 30 percent of individuals and 65 percent of managers agree. While there are many challenges facing the workforce today, lack of adequate upskilling and closing the growing technology skills gap are significant factors affecting employee experience.

So, what does this mean? At a high level, leaders must prioritize upskilling as a means to use technology to empower their workforce to be more effective and efficient and to make better business decisions. And while every organization has a different definition of what it means to be “digital-first,” leadership at enterprises across industries are at a tipping point when it comes to investing in training and development.

In the current business climate, many organizations are left questioning whether now is the right time to invest in upskilling. From an economic perspective, budgetary constraints and tough financial decisions have boardrooms questioning where the bulk of their investments should be allocated. Unfortunately, training is typically the first initiative to fall by the wayside. From a technological lens, many enterprises are also evaluating the role that artificial intelligence (AI) will play in their organizational DNA in the future. Leaders are beginning to evaluate and understand the relative role of AI in the workforce. As the roles and expectations of organizational talent continue to evolve, upskilling will become increasingly essential.

Whether you are embarking on an employee experience transformation, or still evaluating your priorities surrounding training, there are several key considerations for leaders to keep in mind throughout this journey.

Evaluating the benefits and challenges

When defining the term ‘upskilling,’ many leaders might argue that this is the art of teaching an employee the skills needed to execute their job function properly. However, digital upskilling is much more than that. If we take this one step further, leaders should be asking not only whether their employees are able to do their current jobs properly but if they have been adequately trained to grow in tandem with technological evolution. As technology advances, is your workforce not only equipped to handle the tools and techniques of their current roles, but will they be prepared for how their roles change and grow as technology shifts?

Understanding this distinction is critical for an upskilling strategy and will usher in one of the many benefits – retention. Upskilling is an exceptional retention technique and is the key to both attracting and retaining top talent.

Beyond retention, when organizations invest in new technology and drive adoption within their workforce, the possibility for dramatic growth in productivity, quality, and brand reputation is immeasurable. On the flipside, organizations that do not have a workforce skilled to deliver and adapt will face business and reputational damages.

Looking beyond technology upskilling, organizations should also focus on data. Because the amount of valuable data available to enterprises continues to grow, leaders who teach their workforce to employ data-driven decision-making and hone their data analysis skills will see major benefits.

There are also two main challenges associated with upskilling. The first is the time commitment for employees, as it is often difficult to engage personnel in consistent and regular training.

The second major challenge is the cost associated with training. When upskilling, organizations have two options – outsource to an external training partner or develop training programs in house. In-house training programs are typically the most effective but require an already technologically proficient and talented team to be impactful. To teach digital literacy, enterprises require advanced training techniques, which also come at a cost. Some organizations even invest in their own universities, a major cost incurred on the enterprise.

In addition, Gen Z employees have different expectations when it comes to their career development and training. Many organizations are adapting training programs that are more reflective of the Gen Z learning style, implementing gamification, and other more captivating learning techniques. Outsourcing training can be just as expensive, if not more costly. As mentioned previously, when budgets get tight, training is typically one of the first initiatives to be cut.

Industry spotlight – pharmaceuticals

One of the sectors in which upskilling needs are most persistent is pharma. The main functions across the pharmaceutical industry – bringing drugs to market, managing fulfillment, etc. – require employees to operate complex systems that have their own enhanced capabilities. This means that strong digital literacy is necessary for an organization to be successful – and yet the skills gap remains quite large.

For pharmaceutical companies, the priority is to bring new drugs to market as quickly and safely as possible to maintain and boost revenues. What leaders often fail to realize is that this heavy focus on production and revenue may result in their talent getting left behind where training is concerned.

That said, this industry requires a strategic shift of leaders to viewing upskilling as a business asset, rather than a costly requirement. For decades, the term ‘learning organization’ has been touted by leaders across sectors, but what does this truly mean? Until enterprises change their perspective on budgeting and truly evaluate how to keep their workforce ahead of the market, they will continue to experience turnover and lack an adaptive, skilled talent pool to operate as a learning organization truly.

It is important to note that this is not one-size-fits-all. While some enterprises may invest in training and upskilling yearly, others may employ less frequent timeframes. What is important is that your organization’s upskilling strategy is targeted and tied to your business roadmap. While training is a great retention tool, there should also be a quantifiable return on investment (ROI). For example, if existing talent lacks the skills to evaluate data effectively, they will be unable to make informed and strategic business decisions. Specifically in the pharmaceutical industry, business development and strategy mistakes can be catastrophic and impact patient lives in the long run.

Beginning your upskilling journey

For leaders looking to define their enterprise learning journey, begin by assessing what digital upskilling means to their organization. This includes:

  • Evaluating needs and existing skills gaps: what do your teams need to be able to do that they currently are unable to? What about 5 years from now?
  • Determining where your organization stands today: does the existing talent possess some level of the necessary skills already, and in what capacity?
  • Prioritizing an organizational approach: what skills are needed for what departments, and how can training be specialized across the organization?

Once these questions have been answered, business leaders, not solely Human Resources, must determine the tools and techniques most effective for closing the skills gap. For example, can the organization leverage artificial intelligence to improve training? Organizational issues are often blamed on lack of training, but often it goes much deeper. Suppose roles and responsibilities are not properly outlined. In that case, if accountability for a system is not properly aligned, or if teams are operating in silos, training can often be mistaken as the root cause. Upskilling is an organization-wide initiative, and it involves the proper usage of talent resources in order to be successful.

Today, the usability of our technology has continued to improve and become more intuitive. From a people experience perspective, by thinking ahead and investing in upskilling upfront – not as an afterthought – these issues can be prevented, and the gaps can be removed.

Amy Rothman and Sheetal Chawla
Amy Rothman is the Vice President of Workforce & Organization at Capgemini Invent and Sheetal Chawla, Head of Life Sciences, Head of Northeast Region, Capgemini Americas