The digital skills gap has arrived, and unless we do something about it, it’s only going to get wider.
For example, the Salesforce ecosystem is predicted to create over 100,000 net new jobs in Australia and New Zealand by 2026. Most of those roles will require some form of digital skill — and in many cases those skills will be highly specialised.
While businesses invest in digital transformation there’s still a lack of digital confidence within our workforce. According to the Digital Skills Index, 80% of Australians don't feel ready for the digital future of work — but only 12% are investing in upskilling.
So, what can employers do to better prepare their current and future workers?
A session at Salesforce World Tour Sydney 2022 brought together industry experts — including Tiffani Bova, Global Growth Evangelist at Salesforce, Tom Alstein, Global OD Leader at Deloitte, and Kyle O’Brien, Director, APAC at Revolent Group — to discuss how organisations can help close the digital divide.
From data analysis and visualisation to knowledge of machine learning, there’s a diverse spread of digital skills that need to be developed within the Australian workforce.
Kyle from Revolent said he’s noticed an increasing need for specialist skills in the market — and the list is constantly evolving.
“The skills that we require today will not be the same as those needed in a decade, and the training we offer needs to reflect the dynamic nature of the market.”
He urged businesses to think long-term and invest seriously in people and training, to avoid digital skills inertia.
“Bringing new talent into the business takes a lot of time, a lot of infrastructure … But if we're planting the seeds now to address the skills shortage, it will pay off in the future.”
“There are a lot of different communities out there that would love to contribute, would love to be part of the economy.”
He suggested looking to non-traditional talent pools — such as Indigenous, regional, neuro-diverse, ex-athlete, or veteran communities — and asking how to best support them.
“You need to meet their needs, you need to make sure you are trusted by the community organisations in the first place. And you need to make sure that when people land in the business, that you embrace their unique talents.”
Salesforce has joined forces with Deloitte to launch their Digital Career Compass program. The initiative will focus on reaching a diverse cross-section of the community, including Indigenous Australians, women returning to the workforce, and retired athletes, who will be provided with the training and technical skills to kick-start a career in technology.
As an example of what can be achieved, Kyle mentioned Revolent has introduced an innovative program in collaboration with PwC and Salesforce called the Indigenous Tech Academy.
This is exclusively designed for young adults from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds and gives them training that supports them in finding employment in the Salesforce ecosystem.
To attract the right talent, and encourage applications from diverse communities, the panel agreed it’s important for businesses to consider accessibility.
Moving out of a community and into an unfamiliar industry can be daunting, so organisations need to be genuinely welcoming and supportive.
Tom said collaborating with and listening to workers from underrepresented communities can reap benefits.
“We have seen a couple of organisations really start to change the ways of working and actually learn — for example, from a neurodiverse community to be more voice and visual driven.”
He also suggested being mindful of unconscious bias in recruitment. Ask yourself whether you’re doing your best to attract talent? How accessible are you making new skills to employees?
Promoting awareness of the career development and training opportunities your business offers could also attract more diverse talent — so be sure to make clear there are more digital skills training options than just a traditional university degree.
Tom stressed the need for businesses to invest in learning — to both build and attract talent.
“If you don't, I think you will be left behind. There’s a war [for] talent — and if you don't invest in learning, they will not even think about working for you.”
It’s also worth remembering the huge potential of people already in the workforce — there’s an appetite to learn among older generations, if businesses can make digital skills training accessible, flexible, and practical.
The panel also discussed the relationship between business and training organisations — as well as opportunities for collaboration.
For example, more employment-based training programs could be certified to allow skilled workers to prove their ability without having to commit to university.
As Kyle put it, there’s a gap between digital skills training and workplace application. Learners need the opportunity to develop and practise their skills in a work-like environment to build confidence.
“Certifications are a very good place to start — but getting the foundational skills needed to be successful in a role is crucial.”
He described this in a simple equation: “Training + Application = Competence.”
Education can guarantee the training part of that equation, but employers have the power to provide the opportunity for individuals to apply their skills. Competence will follow.
“Training + Application = Competence”
Tiffani suggested programs such as Salesforce’s Trailhead, which offer the perfect chance to combine newly learned digital skills with workplace application.
Trailhead has already awarded just over a million certifications in Australia, across 100,000 registered users. It offers a platform for lifelong learning and allows anyone to develop the skills needed for the future.
Tiffani ended the session by posing some pertinent questions to the audience, ones that are relevant to all leaders and organisations.
“Ask yourself: what are you going to do differently?
“Are you going to upskill yourself? Open up to someone and give them an opportunity? Forge an alliance with a local training organisation?”
To embrace new ways of working and build a digital-ready workforce, initiatives like the Salesforce Talent Alliance can help. By signing up, you can access diverse and active talent pools, and commit to providing opportunities for underrepresented groups.