Which soft skills enable digital transformation?

Posting date:18 Jun 2020

Talent versus technology

I passionately believe that digital transformation is about talent just as much, if not more so, than technology. While finding the right balance between technical and soft skills will always be essential, business leaders must go further in these times of uncertainly to ensure that digital transformation is a success. 

Technology can improve efficiencies, productivity and enable human value but only if you have the right behaviours and competencies across your organisation.

So how can organisations ensure they have the right skills across their organisation to enable successful transformation?

Aligning workforce competencies and behaviours

It’s an unfortunate fact that many digital transformation programmes which aim to implement new technology, develop digital capabilities and achieve sustainable business performance improvement, fail to deliver in the long-term. 

The biggest obstacle is that new digital capabilities call for specific workforce competencies (the skills, knowledge, and beliefs held by employees) and fundamental changes in behaviors (the ways that leaders, managers and employees work on a daily basis). These are the ‘muscles’ that companies must build and strengthen in order to sustain the benefits of digital transformation. 

Leaders must engage their people in understanding what this change will mean for them individually and for the business. Crucially, the communication of the vision must be relatable to all, this will ensure that change is truly embraced, adopted and sustained.  

Without a systematic and explicit approach, organisations can, at best, acquire or develop the right workforce competencies and change behaviors only superficially and temporarily. Once the transformation process is over and attention shifts to the next priority, employees can easily revert to their old ways of working and the improvements of the transformation disappear.

Ensuring that you set out to identify, align and purposefully develop the workforce competencies and behaviours that enable digital transformation is therefore paramount to success. 

The competencies which enable digital adoption & transformation

Every employee now needs the ability to perform tasks, manage information, share knowledge and work with others in a digital and remote context. The employers we speak to regularly identify the following workforce competencies as essential for enabling successful digital adoption and transformation:

Resilient / Emotionally Intelligent - Self-aware and able to cope with pressure and setbacks

Adaptable - Learn from setbacks and changing course quickly 

Analytical - Evaluate situations and analyse information to form data-driven decisions

Curious - Ask questions, listen and solve problems creatively 

Collaborative - Interact with others remotely and work together towards common goals

Communicative - Communicate, influence and maintain rapport with others via technology

Proactive - Take initiative and follow through to accomplish objectives

Process Oriented - Methodical approach to task and project delivery

Commercial - Understand the business, the needs of customers and develop new opportunities

Coaching mindset - Support the development of others and motivate them through feedback and encouragement

The hiring managers we spoke to during strict lockdown, most often referred to Resilience as the competency that they needed most from their workforce during that time. 

One senior professional said to me, “Resilience has been key for getting through this period. It is clear to see which individuals are more resilient and adaptable to change as business priorities quickly change.”

So, to survive the digital future, organisations need employees who are adaptable and digitally ready and able to cope with rapidly changing circumstances.

In fact, I’d go further and say that it is not possible to leverage the changes and opportunities afforded by digital technology if your talent does not have the right mindset towards technological change.

Download our insight paper

For more on this topic, download a full version of our insight paper 'Digital Transformation: What does it take to succeed?,' where we explore what constitutes the right mindset needed for change and share the technical skills and talent in demand right now.

Share your insights 

If you need help finding talent with the necessary competencies to transform your business please get in touch. We’d also love to hear from leaders on how you are progressing your digital transformation projects in these challenging times.

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