New research debunks the “millennial myth”, revealing that employees across the organisation – of all ages – have significant influence within businesses to drive digital transformation, as they realise the importance of digital skills in delivering business growth and competitive advantage.
A VMware study of 5 700 employees across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) found that, far from being confined to the “millennial” or “Generation Z” demographics, digital skills are a priority for all employees – impacting them and the broader business. Almost three quarters (71%) think the widespread use of digital skills can improve competitive edge, while 67% believe it enables greater collaboration between colleagues and two thirds (66%) think the widespread use of digital skills will increase revenue/profitability for the business over the next five years.
With almost two thirds (64%) willing to use their own time to learn new digital skills and ways of working that will drive productivity in the business, the recognition of the role digital skills can play, and the appetite for learning these, is evident.
In addition, older generations of the workforce are actively pursuing more technical digital skills, with 39% of 45-54 year olds seeking advice or training on designing and building mobile applications, and almost a third (31%) of 55 year olds and over doing the same for coding and creating online content.
Despite this recognition by employees, less than half (48%) of today’s workforce believe they are able to fully use their digital skills within their organisations. Barriers to realising employees’ full digital skills are due to a complex range of reasons, including: ‘digital’ not being integrated into personal objectives (51%), lack of budget (43%), lack of adequate support from IT (40%) and company policies being too restrictive (39%).
“Profoundly changing skillsets in today’s digital age are transforming the way businesses are run, impacting how strategy, direction and decisions themselves are formulated,” says Matt Crosby, head of expertise: UK and Ireland at global management consulting firm Hay Group. “The challenge and opportunity will be in aligning senior teams with years of experience of running businesses in a pre-digital age with younger talent who bring new expertise, expectations and motivations.
“Each company must work hard to find a system that brings this multi-generational workforce together, doing some of the ‘old’ things well, such as measuring accountability, performance and outcomes, while also making sure that ideas and new ways of working  flourish.”
The alignment between IT and senior management needs to play a significant role in driving change towards a more digitally-led organisation. The IT department was ranked first for being responsible for driving this change (with 34% of respondents seeing it as responsible), compared to the MD/CEO (19%), the board (16%) and heads of other individual departments (13%). Yet to affect change within the organisation, many employees believe senior management needs to take a more active role, with only half (50%) saying senior management encourages the use of new ways of working in the organisation.
In addition, respondents identified more investment in formal training to further develop digital skills (54%), better reward and recognition for using digital skills (47%) and the development of a culture that better embraces digital skills (44%) as priority areas to focus on.
“Successful digital transformation in today’s business world is shaped by culture, people and capabilities,” comments Joe Baguley, vice-president and chief technology officer: EMEA at VMware. “Enterprises are rightly investing heavily in ‘digital’ talent as they look to harness the key skills and capabilities that can help organisations evolve to innovate faster and fully engage customers – both of which impact an organisation’s bottom line. We’re committed to working with all organisations to help them better understand the ‘art of the possible’ with regards to truly transforming for the digital age without compromising security and operations. Only then will businesses be able to fully utilise their talent, of all ages, and realise their potential.”