The digital transformation offered by Industry 4.0 means the world of work is in the middle of fundamental change that is unprecedented in recent years. The skills shortage in the digital jobs so vital for businesses to thrive is a significant impediment to their success. The demand for these skills is only going to grow further, meaning the recruitment problem is likely to get worse before the labor market catches up. And the pace of change is set to quicken. Unless things change, businesses will be held back just when their opportunity to leap forward is at its greatest.
Overcoming this requires action from government and education — and companies themselves.
Now is the time for Europe to be bold. Building a better working Europe calls for an aspirational ambition for the digital future – one that addresses the imbalance in the labor market by recognizing human capital as a core asset and driving inclusive growth through the right education, and upskilling and reskilling of young and old alike.
1. Government must act as a catalyst for change
By promoting a new policy initiative for a strategic, durable and forward-looking alliance between business and educational institutions, government can help to build the talent for tomorrow.
2. Cross-border collaboration is essential
The current imbalances suggest that digital literacy should not sit only at a local or national level and that collaboration across borders is essential to bridge the gap between the old and new economy. The European Union institutions have a crucial role to play in facilitating and promoting a structural collaboration, and the exchange of knowledge and best practice among stakeholders.
3. Businesses must actively address the skills gap
Raising awareness and government support is particularly essential for less digitally mature companies, particularly Small and Middle Enterprises (SMEs), that often lack the required investment.
However, there are important steps for businesses to take if they are to close their skills gap. Ensuring employees have the right digital knowledge is so crucial to their performance that decisions should be taken at boardroom level. Employing the right people to realize digital opportunities and having a forward-looking view of the capabilities required should sit at the core of a business’s plans for the future. Without this, a company risks being unable to compete on the global stage.
It is right that boards are accountable for such a key driver of their business. For governments and educational institutions to play their part, it is essential they understand business’s future capability needs in order to embed the right learning, tools and apprenticeships to secure the appropriate future talent supply.
4. Employers must be strategic about skills
Employers must undertake strategic workforce planning, and the role of human resources needs to shift. The pace of change means companies must recruit for capabilities rather than roles and be prepared to reskill or upskill.
5. Human resources must evolve
The role of human resources must evolve to manage role disruption; the new generation of human resource professionals must be able not only to evaluate their current requirements but also anticipate any required shifts.
A comprehensive people strategy and a commitment to invest in the recruitment, training and development of key staff are fundamental to help companies overcome their skills shortages. This can help business profitability and performance, and ensure they are ready for a digital future. In partnership with governments and educational institutions, businesses can also ensure that the right skills are made available right across the economy, creating a diverse and vibrant talent pool.
That, in turn, will be good news for future employees — and will help them unlock Europe’s digital growth potential for the benefit of all.