First of a four-part series.

Be digital.” I’ve thought a lot about this business mandate, and I fully agree that it’s not enough to focus on isolated digital initiatives or take anything less than a full-on approach to customer centricity and personalization. It’s completely true that business leaders need to think “digital first” when approaching any new goal, challenge or strategy.

And yet – there’s an often overlooked element on the road to being digital: transforming the workforce itself. I believe businesses are only as digital as they can encourage their workforce to be.

We’re seeing the phrases “talent gap” and “skills shortage” emerging with renewed urgency as industry after industry faces disruptive change from digitally native startups. According to our own research, the vast majority of executives (94%) believe a skills gap threatens their ability to reach their digital future.

Therein lies the challenge. If you’re like most organizations, your staff is weighted heavily toward skills in legacy platforms and business models, and managed by traditional, hierarchical modes of thinking and communicating. That needs to change if you’re going to drive the innovative, bottom-up and group-driven dynamics required to compete in the digital age.

Creating the Digital Workforce

Transforming your workforce to meet your digital needs is not just about hiring the right consultants or service providers, or setting up shop in a tech hot spot (although that can be part of a workforce transformation strategy). While you’ll likely need to look externally for at least some digital skills, it’s also essential to infuse your current workers with digital skills and digital mindsets.

After all, you don’t just need digital skills – you need digital skills applied intelligently to your specific business. No new hire will understand your business, your industry, your corporate culture and your customers as well as your existing employees. These veteran employees are the ones who know your customers’ most critical needs, how much digital change your organization can handle at any one time, and which workflow bottlenecks deserve the most attention.

In this blog series, we’ll examine five key action items that can help your business digitally transform its workforce, based on our work with customers worldwide:

  1. Develop depth charts, just like those used by sports teams to assess their talent. This mechanism helps guide everything from recruitment and training to succession planning.
  2. Design a master plan, informed by employee Code Halos. Key elements of the plan include improving human-to-machine workflows, tapping new sources of talent and developing flatter, more streamlined management processes.
  3. Update the technology foundation so your business can track workers’ activities across projects.
  4. Take a digital approach to encouraging skill adoption, such as gamification and collaborative tools to accelerate learning among the workforce.
  5. Encourage employee engagement. Digital technologies such as wearable sensors and social media can help workers feel connected to digital initiatives while also enabling businesses to monitor progress with their digital transformation.

This blog series will cover all five elements. I’ll start by describing how to develop and use a depth chart to manage your talent. In another post, you can learn about the master plan and technology foundation, and in the final post, about skill development and employee engagement.

Businesses can only be as digital as their workforce allows. By following our roadmap, you can encourage workers to adopt a digital mindset and transform your workforce to compete in the digital future.

Anbu Muppidathi

Anbu Muppidathi

Anbu Muppidathi is a member of Cognizant’s executive leadership team and is a senior leader in the company’s Digital Systems and Technology... Read more