Sean Farrington Pluralsight and Christian Benson Fujitsu UK
L-R: Sean Farrington from Pluralsight and Christian Benson from Fujitsu UK

Investment in skills development is the new differentiator for business

Sean Farrington, SVP EMEA at Pluralsight and Christian Benson, VP and Client Managing Director at Fujitsu UK, discuss why companies must take skill development seriously.

The rate of technological advancement is exponential, speeding up as time goes by. According to Moore’s Law, this is evident from the fact that the capabilities of computers double every 18 to 24 months. To put this into context, someone moving from graduation to a managerial role over a 20 year period will end up facing technology 500,000 times more powerful than the day they started working.

This poses a challenge for businesses, as keeping up with the pace of change is vital in order to remain competitive. Research from Fujitsu found that the majority (73%) of business leaders believe that embracing new technology is vital to future success. However, a lack of technology talent is hampering efforts to keep up with advancements, with Indeed, a world-leading job site, finding that a lack of skilled employees is leading to slower innovation and product development, and negatively affecting company revenues.

To keep up with the ongoing, rapid pace of change in technology, organisations must therefore look at the potential of existing employees and develop the skills and expertise of technologists in-house as a way to address the imbalance between the demand and supply for talent.

Why traditional training methods don’t always work

More than just an employee benefit, workplace learning is now a commercial imperative. Businesses must keep their employees equipped with the latest skills, aligned to business needs, in order to compete with their peers and meet market demand.

While traditional methods, such as classroom based training, have long been used to train employees, many businesses are finding these methods ineffective. With each employee being unique, coming to their role with their own learning techniques, skill levels and areas of expertise, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to technology skill development is unlikely to work. With traditional training, organisations are at risk of perpetuating their skills gap, and subsequently being left unable to embrace new technologies and effectively support customers.

Forward-thinking companies, on the other hand, are moving towards an approach which has been found to be much more effective. On-demand, digital courses, tailorable to each specific employee with individual learning pathways, are an efficient tool that fosters engagement in learning and keeps employees working towards business goals. Available on cloud-based platforms, employees can access courses whenever suits them best and choose how they learn – be it in bite-sized chunks or dedicated hours – ensuring they don’t have to wait until a formal training session is organised to develop new skills.

This is the preferred approach of Fujitsu. With its global client base, the business found that customer demands were changing, and there was a business need to reskill its workforce to continue delivering high standards of service and counsel and close the skills gap. Fujitsu was determined to become more agile and rather than investing in a one- size-fits-all method of training, it opted for a more tailored approach using Pluralsight to develop six different job-specific learning pathways for UK employees to take. By working with technology experts, Fujitsu could ensure learning pathways were matched to the needs of different teams and could easily be adapted when new requirements arose.

Tailored skills assessments and pathways

Today, businesses who out- compete their peers are those who have the actionable data and insights at their disposal to make fast and accurate decisions. Like many others, Fujitsu has found that investment in skill development via cloud-based technology platforms is a robust strategy to keep up with technological change and meet customer demands.

Fujitsu can monitor and identify where skills gaps exist, use this data to understand where up-skilling is required and implement bespoke learning pathways to ensure that training is relevant, strategic and efficient. For Fujitsu in particular, this has involved a focus on AWS, DevOps, Security and Agile software programmes, which have all been dropped into online channels for specific employees to focus their development.

Moreover, it’s critical that this data is measurable if a training programme is to be judged effectively or if leaders are to understand if a skills gap has been closed. This digital- first approach can provide in-depth analytics to track the progress of employees and quantify how new skills are supporting the company’s larger objectives.

Impacting company culture

Investment in skill development, however, is also a sign of trust in a workforce. Empowering team members to take control of their own development and providing the tools so they can better themselves not only boosts morale and performance, but it increases engagement with business strategy and direction. In fact, research from Harvard Business Review found that 71% of employers believe that high levels of employee engagement is one of the most likely factors to bring business success.

While there’s no blanket approach for employee empowerment, Fujitsu has found that it can encourage self- learning by supporting employees with setting up their own social learning groups. This has allowed them to share their knowledge, increase curiosity and ultimately foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.

Future-proofing the organisation

As the rate of technological change continues to increase, skill development must be focused on equipping teams with the tools and abilities that the future will demand. What’s concerning, however, is that research from Fujitsu has found that nearly half (44%) of leaders fear that their organisation will miss out on the benefits of new technologies in the future because they haven’t planned for them.

Although the fast pace of development in fields like AI makes planning for the future difficult, this should not discourage businesses from working with experts today to equip employees with the skills that will help them maintain their competitive edge in the future.

Investing in developing skills such as DevOps and cybersecurity, for instance, helps to future-proof an organisation and its employees as they become more prevalent. Clearly, the pace of technological change poses a significant challenge for most organisations, but with flexible, comprehensive, up-to-date and data-driven training methods in place, it is possible to embrace these changes and empower team members to upskill quickly and effectively. As a result, organisations can feel confident that they will be able to continue meeting customer demands, offering quality products and services and remain competitive.

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