How to capitalise on the digital transformation skills gap


The success of digital transformation is under threat due to a sizeable skills gap, and it has nothing to do with a lack of technical knowledge. We’re talking about a shortage of change leadership expertise at the heart of transformation management. Digital progress demands a cultural evolution that, for many organisations, is falling short.

84% of digital transformations fail. The reason? A lack of universal awareness about the challenges facing the organisation - which implies inefficient communication and leadership. This isn’t a technology or a process problem; it’s a people problem.

Recruiting managers are waking up to this reality. To buck the trend, the transformational leadership team must place people at the core of the agenda, ahead of the technicalities of migrating legacy systems and adjusting processes.

This shift in focus provides an opportunity for the candidate willing to broaden their thinking, away from technology alone and towards a change management mindset.

How do successful leaders operate through change?

Historically, IT has been the linchpin of security and stability within a business. The approach to digital innovation was iterative, enabling small scale advancements while maintaining the integrity of legacy systems.

We’re in an age of rapid technological advancement. Things move so quickly that systems become almost redundant almost as soon as they are introduced. In order to succeed, businesses must bake adaptability and agility into the core of operations.

To survive change at this rate, the IT function must discard procedures that took decades to perfect. It must hone a new wave of skills, inevitably requiring extensive third party support. It must embrace speed-enabling project management methodologies such as Agile, and it has to proactively respond to change.

In turn, this threatens to undermine the long-held working practices and core values of the IT profession. This can be hugely unsettling, and without effective management of the people implementing these changes, any transformational initiative will fail. The team needs to shift too - it needs to embrace risk. Ultimately, the need for cultural shift eclipses the need for enhanced technological skills.

It’s the leadership team’s job to bring about this cultural shift. Simply put, each employee needs clarity in three areas; why things are changing, how the business will reach its destination and where they fit into the new picture.

Leaders and managers must adopt an open, transparent and communicative approach which encourages every member of the business to contribute to the narrative as it unfolds. If people don’t feel part of the change, it’s impossible for them to embrace it.

Repetition and role-modelling are paramount. If leaders fail to visibly live the changes, seeds of doubt will creep in - and without constant reinforcement of the new model, people will inevitably revert to type.

Demonstrating a change mindset

Businesses want to recruit leaders and managers who can guide people through digital transformation. To fulfil this requirement, candidates must demonstrate a change mindset. Throughout the recruitment process, it’s critical to recognise and capitalise on each opportunity to prove your leadership expertise.

It begins at the first point of contact. Ensure that your CV and covering letter convey the right tone before you submit your application. Place an emphasis on leadership throughout - from your personal statement through to your key skills. If you can reword your experiences to show you have the skills to manage change, do so. Make it clear that a people-centric approach is your point of difference.

Before your interview, research and understand the company’s culture and history. Find out about any changes the business has already made and how well those changes are working out. Look for interviews with the CEO or, better still, find statements and presentations where they discuss the company’s digital aspirations. Read press statements about the business to get a feel for their external communications.

During the interview itself, ask about the company culture and the current state of digital transformation. Take an active interest in the issues affecting the business and how they expect the IT leadership team to address them.

Stand out from the crowd

The success or failure of a company rests on its ability to adapt to a changing environment. Today, the litmus test for businesses is the degree to which it remains fit for purpose by transforming its digital enterprise. Ultimately, this hangs on the ability of its leaders and managers to drive the change through their people.

A world of opportunity awaits the IT professional who can demonstrate an aptitude for change management. By taking a genuine interest in people, candidates will distinguish themselves from the competition.