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Leaders unprepared to drive digital skills transformation

Employees believe it is up to leaders to drive digital change, but gaps in skillsets are impacting whether organisations are able to transform

Most employees (96%) believe the onus is on leaders to drive the adoption of new technology in organisations, and 94% believe it’s important for leaders to challenge traditional ways of thinking, according to The Oxford Group, a City & Guilds Group business.

However, only a third (33%) of leaders feel well prepared to lead the digital skills agenda at their business.

The research warned that gaps in leaders’ digital skillsets are having an impact on how able organisations are to transform. Forty-one per cent of employees said that a lack of digital expertise makes decision-making more difficult, and 30% of leaders said it has prevented their team from innovating.

Digital skills gaps are also present in the wider workforce, according to the research, with 60% of employees saying that staff at different levels of their organisation lack the skills needed to propel the business into the digital age.

Employees outlined the key factors limiting digital transformation. Managing security and the risk of data leaks (45%), tackling the fear of change to roles and routines (42%), and reskilling the workforce (31%) were all highlighted as concerns.

Despite the challenges both management and the wider workforce realise the benefits of strong digital skills. Eighty per cent of employees said leaders with good digital skills are able to communicate more effectively with employees and clients, and 71% said strong digital skills help staff progress more quickly.

Employees have a strong desire to learn and develop their skillsets, the research suggested. Half (48%) of employees said their careers would benefit from further training on the technology and systems in their business.

Beyond technical skills, 41% of employees said they would value coaching or guidance on how to perform and communicate more effectively in an era of digital transformation.

John Yates, MD of corporate learning at City and Guilds Group, said that businesses must be prepared for the changing skills demands of work.

“Digital transformation is seeding itself in all aspects of our lives as we continue even further into the fourth revolution. Businesses, C-suites and employees need to adapt their attitudes and behaviours to meet the changing demands of the workplace,” he said.

“The critical skills of today are different to those that were needed a decade and even a few years ago, and will differ from those needed tomorrow and into the future. New technologies and learning tools can make it far easier to adapt, but only where there is consistency and buy-in from employees across organisations.”

Yates added that leaders must set an example to the rest of the workforce through creating a strong culture of learning: “It is clear that when it comes to leading effectively in the digital age we are in, attitudes need to shift. Leaders need to set an example by learning new skills – whether that’s about how to empower employees to make changes or developing their own digital capabilities – and ultimately create a learning culture where everyone recognises that learning is an ongoing gradual process regardless of where they are on the career ladder.”

Censuswide surveyed 1,000 managers, C-suite executives, and employees in global organisations for City & Guilds Group for its Leading in a Digital Age report.