How to Infuse Digital DNA into Your Future-Ready Workforce

February 14, 2020 Mina Morris

First Published on From Day One


In case you had any doubt about technology’s unprecedented role in our lives today, here’s a statistic for you. It took 62 years for the automobile to reach 50 million users, but Pokémon Go reached 50 million users in only 19 days.

Times have definitely changed, and technology is more accessible and integrated into our work than ever before. As we anticipate the future of work, there’s a lot of uncertainty. But one thing we know for sure: We will be working alongside more machines–not fewer.

A successful future-ready workforce has to be digitally prepared. That digital readiness has to be ingrained in your workforce, like DNA. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques available to help you understand what digital readiness looks like, measure its activation in your organization’s workforce, and build your digitally ready internal-talent pipeline.

Activate the Elements of Digital Competence

Many companies believe that their workforce must be exposed to elite technology to become digitally ready. But that’s true only in very specific contexts. The ability to be malleable to the digital landscape–to be agile, flexible and willing to learn–is much more predictive of the digital readiness of your workforce.

Digitalization is going to mean a constant improvement in technology, and it’s going to impact the way work gets executed at every level. Essential to every workforce will be agility. The qualities that support agility among your workers are curiosity, learnability, and adaptability. These are three traits you should identify and reward as you develop your future-ready workforce. They will allow your workforce to evolve with the technology around it.

A future-ready team, however, still needs to function in the present, meaning that your team members need to be able to execute their current roles even as they prepare for the future. How can employers identify and activate the talent DNA their organization needs?

The answer is job neighborhoods. Certain competencies and behaviors needed for success in different parts of the organization can be grouped together. Job neighborhoods can help you map the characteristics that support digital readiness to skill-specific, functional job groupings that serve you now. These specific skill-groupings, once aligned with job pathways, can be used to determine transparent re-skilling paths for your employees. These pathways empower them to take ownership of their own growth and development.

Assess Your Existing Team’s Talent DNA

The skills your organization needs to become future-ready are probably already in practice at key points in your organization. Standardizing these skills is an important step in preparing your workforce for the future. If you can isolate and identify the most valuable skill sets, you can replicate them.

A helpful first step is to assess your talent. Take stock of where they currently are, capturing a 30,000-ft. view of talent at every level across all teams. This step gives individuals insight into where they are in their journey. It can also inform what your next steps are as an organization.

Using the results from the assessment process, you can create learning and development pathways that offer opportunities to standardize and focus on behaviors you identify as essential to your company’s long-term success. Giving employees pathways to learn and activate transferable skills is particularly important. Most technical skills are short-term, with an average shelf-life of just five years. While short-lived skills are important in the moment, it’s critical to lay the groundwork for long-term, transferable skills when you’re seeking to develop a viable workforce for the next decade.

Nurture Your Internal Talent Pipeline

Empowering employees to own their careers includes giving them a significant degree of control over their training-and-development journey. Employee buy-in into re-skilling is a critical element of building a future-ready workforce. That buy-in is easiest to attain when employees are given agency over their own career journey.

Job neighborhoods also play a role in increasing employee buy-in. Certain job groupings are more aligned with certain competencies and skills. Once those potential career moves are laid out, employees can match their skill sets to a series of interconnected job pathways. Employees are more likely to buy in when they receive multiple options for job mobility within your organization. Distinct, individual career paths should present themselves.

But restructuring your workforce requires more than employee buy-in. Leadership must also back the initiative. Championing a growth mindset means supporting and implementing it at all levels. Leadership has to provide employees the time and resources they need to focus on re-skilling and professional development. Employees should be encouraged to engage in learning, retraining and re-skilling, and key performance indicators (KPIs) should be adjusted to account for engagement in these initiatives. The seeds of the future workforce can develop only if your organization is active and present in their nourishment and growth.

About the Author

Mina Morris

Mina Morris is an Associate Partner with Aon’s Assessment Solution Practice. As an organizational psychologist, Mina works with clients to maximize the effectiveness of their talent selection processes, implement talent management systems and helps organizations manage change. Mina has extensive global experience partnering with clients in North America, Asia Pacific, and Middle East to deliver human capital solutions that help deliver business results.

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