Upskilling is essential but out of reach for many

Leaders want to train and upskill their workforces, but not everyone knows how, and many organizations lack the expertise needed to design effective internal training programs.

Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents agree that upskilling is important. However, only 38% say their organizations have the necessary skills and resources to design internal training programs, making it difficult for companies to effectively train employees on systems and processes that are specific to their organization. However, these limitations are not stopping companies from offering any training at all. For instance, 71% are implementing continuous learning.

To bridge the training gap, some companies are bringing in outside help in the form of third-party training platforms. “We’ve opted for self-driven training over classroom training,” says Richard Matchett of Zutari, an infrastructure engineering and advisory practice. “We have a very robust training system and structured online courses, and we’ve got open availability to all of this training for our team.”

Companies lack resources or skills for internal training programs

Percentage of respondents who agree they don’t have what they need

Survey question: My company doesn’t have the skills or the resources to design internal training programs. 5-point scale. Values do not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Other self-directed learning methods include in-product training for learning digital tools, which already show a level of success—and often at a lower cost than formal training programs. For example, Autodesk’s anonymized AutoCAD data shows users are 35% more likely to learn a new command after seeing a personalized insight recommendation.

Maria Fernanda Olmos of Unispace, a workplace strategy, design, and construction firm, points out that training challenges are not always related to a lack of budget or resources. “The challenge internally when running training programs is mostly due to balancing upskilling needs and ongoing project demands,” she says. “Of course, the adoption of new skills and workflows may encounter resistance from some employees, but this is becoming less of a challenge as we consistently demonstrate the efficacy of our systems and processes.”

Among respondents who cite access to skilled talent as a top challenge, 21% say their company is meeting this challenge with upskilling and development for existing employees by way of technology training, mentorship and coaching, and upskilling and reskilling programs that help employees to meet evolving demands.

Another 11% are addressing talent challenges by training new hires and offering internships and apprenticeships.

Lei Yuan, chief engineer of iron and steel company China Baowu Design Institute/Baosteel Engineering & Technology Group Co., Ltd, stresses the importance of not only training employees but also tracking and incentivizing these upskilling initiatives. “We have digital training for our designers and exams to measure the results of the training program—both their theoretical competence and also their practical competence,” Yuan says. “This is all part of our HR system, and the promotion and compensation of employees are closely linked with their digital performance.”

Digital skills in demand

The ability to work with AI has emerged as the top digital skill that organizations are looking for—followed by digital design and software development/programming.

Industry professionals say that these skills are essential to unlocking the digital transformation benefits discussed above. For instance, Michał Latała of Centralny Port Komunikacyjny—an air, road, and rail transfer hub—notes that firms that lack digital expertise may find themselves at a disadvantage—especially when competing against companies that have made proactive investments in employees with advanced digital skills. “If you are not hiring digital experts, you will not be selected for certain projects, because there are other companies that are ready,” he says.

Maria Fernanda Olmos of Unispace says that companies in her industry need skills directly related to integrating technology with business processes. Such roles include AI strategists, data scientists, and BIM specialists. “It’s super important to have people who can look at the entire technology portfolio in a business and understand how it can be integrated and utilized,” she says.

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