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17 Aug 2018

Enabling the Modern Workforce in the Digital Age

Digital transformation is driving change in every area of business. As a result, the role of Learning  and Development (L&D) professionals and their involvement in assisting organisations and employees handle this change is garnering much needed attention.

Based on the responses the Eventful Group consolidated in the L&D research report which forms the agenda of the upcoming L&D Innovation and Tech Fest. What is apparent was despite geographical or industry differences, L&D leaders share similar concerns. L&D must focus on:

  • Creating a learning culture with a clear vision and innovation at its core
  • Translating data into business outcomes and quantifying value
  • Acquiring the skills and competences of the modern L&D leader
  • Selecting and implementing technology solutions to deliver on business objectives
  • Providing employees with access to new technologies that delivers an amazing user experience


I see a common thread running through all these areas – the transformation of work as a result of the digitalisation of the workplace. We are living in the digital age and everything is shifting and to ensure your organisation does not get left behind, or become obsolete, HR and L&D must play a role in providing  employees with the skills and knowledge to operate and thrive in this new environment.

In 2015 the New Zealand government implemented its own ICT strategy. The initiative supports better public services and agency digital transformation, and placed citizens and businesses at the heart of digital services. This makes a lot of sense given that a recent Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific study predicts that by 2021 digital transformation will add an estimated US$7 billion to New Zealand’s GDP, and increase the growth rate by 0.7% annually. They also found that those surveyed believe 89% of jobs will be transformed in the next three years due to digital transformation, and 65% of the jobs in the market today will be redeployed to higher value roles or reskilled to meet the needs of the digital age.

It’s a similar picture in Australia. Some reports suggest that 44% of the Australian workforce will feel the effects of digital transformation over the next twenty years. And while the majority of Australian companies see AI, robotics, and automation as important, only 23% feel prepared for their impact.  And yet, the latest research estimates that digital transformation will add an estimated $45 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2021 and increase its growth rate by 0.5% annually. 

This begs the question how is this accomplished? Who is responsible for upskilling employees?

Earlier this year Philip Lowe, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia acknowledged that investment in technology, and the staff training that is needed to support that investment, tops the list of current investing.  So companies are aware of the significance of digitalization and importantly the skills needed for this new workforce. Those currently in possession of digital skills are in demand. Chris Barry, from Hays Globalink agrees, “Candidates with experience with the latest tools and technologies will be in demand, especially Software Engineers, Cyber Security specialists, candidates who are skilled with Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are also in demand. We also expect to see continued demand for Agile Business Analysts & Project Managers due to the number of digital transformation projects happening across Australia.”

In most organisations, the task of preparing or providing employees with the required knowledge and skillsets falls to Human Resources and the Learning and Development team. Digital transformation requires not just technical skills and knowledge, it also means having knowledge of operating within shorter product development cycles,  or “product-as-a-service” business model adoption, a focus on customer success, big data and analytics as competitive differentiators, and deep collaboration via mission-based teams.

Therefore it is essential that when looking or creating digital transformation employee development initiates, the following are considered:

  • What technology provides the most value to the organization and how to leverage it
  • How to give all employees a basic understanding of engineering, analytics, systems, design thinking, Agile, and user experience
  • What technological innovations are potentially revenue-generating?
  • How to re-framing or extending traditional business models to include a stronger digital dimension
  • How will digital technologies enhance communication and collaboration, Increase innovation and streamline operations and improve the performance of individuals and teams.


Delivering learning opportunities to accommodate this vast array of subjects is just one hurdle faced by those in charge of providing the necessary content/programmes. Learners today have specific expectations around the types of learning experience they desire. A learning program that does not meet these expectations is unlikely to succeed.

Therefore, when selecting a learning solution it is essential that it offers learners a personalised and engaging experience; one that offers choice and caters to different learning preferences. Is there video, books or audio books? Opportunity to put in practice what they learn? Is the material organized into preset channels that make it easy to find and progress in the subject/topic.

Ultimately, the success at which employees acquire the skills and knowledge to meet the digital transformation opportunity will determine the future of your organisation.

Therefore, the organization must make a careful and informed decision about the leaning opportunities they offer.

About the Author

Rosie Cairnes is Regional Vice President at Skillsoft.

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