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Training: For the Data-driven Enterprise, It’s Job No. 1

Modern businesses love data. In the digital age, data is used just about everywhere to develop useful strategic insights. Companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook are leveraging data to impact multiple areas of their businesses. Yet when it comes to interpreting the data around their own workplace skills shortages, many organizations seem to have a blind spot. Even in 2019 companies of every size are ignoring all the indicators telling that they have a real and urgent need for ongoing workplace training.

In its 2018 report on the future of jobs, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that 54% of global workers will need “significant re- and upskilling” by 2022. Though the disruption of the digital age is expected to purge some 75 million jobs from the world’s economy, the WEF believes that it will create up to 133 million new positions, largely connected to technologies like the mobile internet, big data, blockchain, cloud computing and machine learning. Each of these technologies calls for information technology (IT) skill sets that are currently in critically short supply.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently sounded the alarm on America’s growing skills gap in its report “The Global Skills Shortage.” Among the HR professionals responding to SHRM’s survey, 83% reported difficulty recruiting qualified job candidates within the past year. Of those respondents, 75% said that applicants lacked necessary skills for the positions they sought.

These SHRM findings are supported by the results of a 2019 KPMG/Harvey Nash Group survey of global chief information officers (CIOs). This research suggests that technical skills shortages are now at an all-time high, with an average of 67% of CIOs struggling to find employees with the necessary skills, particularly in areas such as big data and analytics, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence (AI).

It’s not just the employers who are feeling frustrated. In its 2019 “Global Human Capital Trends” report, Deloitte found that employees’ hunger for training is at an all-time high. The need to improve learning and development is this year’s highest-rated trend, with the “opportunity to learn” cited by respondents as a key factor in deciding whether to accept a job offer. And employers are starting to take notice; with organizations needing an average of 42 days to fill an open position, they’ve learned the hard way that they can’t hire their way out of a skills shortage. Eighty-four percent are increasing their investment in reskilling programs, and 77% said they would rather train existing employees than attempt to hire new ones.

Based on these numbers, it’s evident that training cannot be a one-time expenditure. It must be a culture shift. According to the Deloitte report, “In a competitive external talent market, learning is vital to an organization’s ability to obtain needed skills. But to achieve the goal of lifelong learning, it must be embedded into not only the flow of work but the flow of life.”

Today, the pace of change can render any single training module obsolete in mere months. The most successful businesses of the 21st century will be the ones that build learning into the fabric of their organization’s culture — not as an unwanted expense but as an obvious and necessary investment in their ongoing prosperity. For businesses that have yet to accept this new reality, it’s time to get on board. As the old saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

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