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How firms can bridge skills gap in digital era

By People Reporter
Monday, December 2nd, 2019
Digital world. Photo/Courtesy

Ngaite Mgeni      

As organisations evolve and competition to acquire top talent heats up the world over, businesses are increasingly realising the need and essence of investing in their most prized possession: the workforce.

Yet there hasn’t been enough commitment to this training with studies showing that some of the learning and development programmes, especially in African businesses, are either outdated, not responding to employees’ needs or businesses are not making convincing investments in the initiatives.

This, despite a yawning skills gap occasioned by technological advancements that are disrupting the way of doing business.

A recent study by Oxford Group that examined the views of 1,000 workers in global organisations, 500 of whom had key management responsibilities, revealed that 60 per cent of those interviewed felt that leaders and staff in their organisations didn’t have the requisite skills to tackle digital transformation. 

Going by how technology is shaping the future of work, the statistics are food for thought. Talent Management is the most important human resource challenge; and in a highly competitive business environment, it is very crucial to have talented as well as committed employees to attain an upper hand.

Yet beyond digital skills, organisations continue to pay lip service to investment in skills that are not only key in building workplace relations and rewarding employees, but which ultimately have an impact on the bottomline.

City & Guilds Group business Kineo, a leading global skills organisation, recently captured this in a study that pointed to workers unmet needs. The study that surveyed 6,500 employees and 1,300 employers in 13 markets among them Kenya, South Africa and UK found that while 79 per cent of employees expressed interest in seeing a bigger focus on training and people development in their workplace, 85 per cent were struggling to access training in the workplace.

And in what points to a mismatch between employee needs and what the organisations offer, only 16 per cent of those surveyed found the learning and development programmes being offered by their organisations effective and relevant to their growth. 

As a result, the staff had invested in alternatives with six out of ten employees surveyed investing personal time in learning, education or training activity, and 59 per cent seeking online guidance or e-learning solutions.

Organisations acknowledge the connection between corporate learning development and business sustainability. The current trend is creating  a “learning organisation” that has acquired skill in creating, interpreting, transferring, retaining and managing knowledge.

It is unfortunate that the effectiveness and appropriateness of this learning organisation model in Africa still leaves a lot to be desired.

Most organisations’ employees have university degrees but lack the skills and attitudes to operate in the business environment.

To achieve success in Africa in implementing the “success element” in learning processes in education and business, there is an urgent need to change leadership behaviour and human resource management practices.

This can be achieved through concerted efforts in investing in internal and external training and capacity building.

It’s very clear that the digital era has demonstrated that Africa cannot progress without developing leadership capabilities.

 Africa stands on the brink of a great unknown, and the new model should be on helping leaders reach a new level of success, through a new approach to managing organisations in the new realities that arise and threaten the success and growth of business.

This has inspired the upcoming Annual Training Evaluation Compendium in Africa conference, the first of its kind in the region organised by training and management firm Edify Learning Forum Africa to congregate players in the training, learning and development industry with a view to looking at ways of standardising systems and ensuring Africa is at par with its global peers in having learning processes that address 21st century labour market needs.

— The writer is the advisory board member at Edify Learning Forum Africa