Using digital upskilling to make a wider impact

Digital upskilling adds value to talent, businesses and society, as Nabila Salem, president of talent creation company Revolent, explains

While the pandemic has served as a catalyst for digital upskilling, the need to update skillsets and develop talent is something all businesses should be looking at. Revolent was born out of two words put together: revolution and talent. Everything we do revolves around talent, and our goal is to revolutionise that space. We know that there simply isn’t enough talent out there to fill demand in the technology space, so we help both businesses and jobseekers fill this need by creating the talent.

Candidates from technology backgrounds come to us to cross-train on platforms like Salesforce before being placed with clients to gain business experience. For businesses, we’re a highly valuable, cost-effective way to build their talent pipelines.

Flexible, agile, rounded

While digital upskilling has always been prevalent, the pandemic has had a catalytic effect as organisations double down on digital transformation programmes. Businesses have a duty to upskill employees, but it’s not always easy to develop programmes yourself. The pace of change in technology and the demand for certain skills means that businesses sometimes have to look externally, which is where Revolent comes in – particularly when employers need to hire in bulk and don’t have the expertise.

That’s not to say that employers should only focus on technical skills. All technological skills eventually become redundant, as new technologies and coding languages emerge. That is exactly why cross-training and upskilling is so important. Instead of trying to force skills to remain relevant, what we need to do is make sure organisations have the support and training in place to transform their systems, skills and knowledge into something new that meets the demands of business today.

It’s also why technical skills and soft skills – or consultancy skills as I prefer to call them – go hand in hand. One without the other isn’t effective. There will always be technical skills as businesses will always need people who can operate the tools. However, consultancy skills like communication, creativity and flexibility should not be underestimated. Employees need to be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders and translate their requirements. If your best coder can’t explain what they’re doing and the impact it’s having on the business, it won’t be as effective.

The digital skills gap

For years our education system has been behind the curve when it comes to technology. What people learn in school and university doesn’t resemble what an actual career in the industry looks like. I believe that businesses should be working more closely with schools and universities to update curriculums to more accurately reflect the needs of the industry. Tackling digital skills gaps can’t be done alone. Governments, educators and business leaders all need to come together to change the narrative.

Of course, for businesses, there is the added incentive of employer branding that upskilling has. Both employees and customers are becoming more concerned with what a business stands for – what they do, how they do it and the impact they have.

As the industry grows and more tech jobs become available, people will have more choice over where they work. A job for life is a rare thing today, not necessarily because of a lack of loyalty, but because of the pace of change in technology and the vast amount of choice this generation has. This is why constant training and upskilling is so appealing when considering employers and research bears that out. That’s why we make a huge investment in our people upfront, providing initial training of between 10-12 weeks before experience with an employer.

Set your values

When people talk about employer branding, what they really should be thinking about is core values. What brings your people together as a collective? You need to be able to communicate this clearly internally, otherwise you’ll struggle to articulate your brand externally.

When Revolent developed our core values, the first thing I did was to speak to our employees to get their views. Values need to be led from the top and not outsourced to HR or marketing. Once you set your values, they should drive decision making. This will impact who you hire, how you develop your people and what clients you work with.

For example, one of our values is celebrating differences. So when we interview new candidates, we consciously look for those with different viewpoints because this is key to innovation. Or take our business decisions. We turned down a client last year because they had a problem with something we were promoting diversity wise. The client was not aligned with our values, and therefore the partnership would not work. Get your values right, and it underpins everything you do.

Ultimately, it comes down to listening. A lot of leaders are good at telling people what to do, but what I strive to create is an open and transparent environment where feedback goes both ways. People don’t work for a brand, logo or office space – people work for people, and it is crucial that leaders listen to what their employees have to say – good and bad – if they really want to create a workplace where people want to be.

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