The Digital Talent Gap

Developing skills for today’s digital organizations

The shortage of digital skills in the current marketplace is unprecedented. It is estimated that over 4.4 million IT jobs will be created around Big Data by 2015; however, only a third of these new jobs will be lled. Martha Lane Fox, the UK’s digital inclusion champion, believes over 16 million people in the UK lack the basic digital skills to fully benefit from the Internet. Even Millenials are a matter of concern. In a survey comprising over 800 middle to upper management executives from over 50 industries, nearly one in ve Millenials in the modern workplace are perceived to be lacking in analytical skills.

The impact of digital technologies is now felt not only in the IT department, but across the entire organization, creating a huge demand for digital skills.

The reasons driving this skills shortage are not hard to identify. The usage of mobile, social and analytical tools is permeating the length and breadth of every function across the organization. Unlike the past, the impact of these digital technologies and tools is felt not just in the IT department. This means that the magnitude of training and re-skilling that is required is enormous. Moreover, each new technology cycle has brought forth new requirements and these cycles are increasingly getting shorter. Employees must now refresh their skills more frequently if they wish to stay relevant in this rapidly changing digital environment. The head of India R&D Labs of software rm SAP succinctly states: “The shelf life of a software engineer today is no more than that of a cricketer – about 15 years. The 20-year-old guys provide me more value than the 35-year-olds do.”

Organizations are beginning to recognize the magnitude of the problem. Our own research with the MIT Center for Digital Business has revealed that 77% of companies considered missing digital skills as the key hurdle to their digital transformation. Digital leaders or ‘Digirati’a are already investing in digital skills and reaping signi cant bene ts in comparison to other companies. On average, ‘Digirati’ are 26% more pro table than their industry competitors.

This skills shortage is creating a ‘war for talent’, where companies have to compete for the best talent with new categories of players. Unlike in the past, the hunt for the best talent is no more limited to localized skills in certain departments. In this case, the talent war is manifest across the entire organization. The important questions are: Do organizations include digital skills as a key component in their workforce plans? Are HR departments equipped and skilled to bring innovative solutions to bridge the digital skills gap? How are Digiratis developing digital skills?

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