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Upskilling talent to thrive amid the digital revolution

Vanessa Byrnes

To review the original article click here 4th Dec 2018

Recent research from PwC highlights how finding and hiring employees with the key skills they need to succeed in the digital world continues to keep business leaders awake at night, with 80% of all CEOs admitting that it is a key challenge. A separate report, meanwhile, from Lloyds Bank Business has found that UK companies are missing out on £85 billion each year due to a lack of digital capability.

In the retail banking sector, this issue is arguably even more pertinent, with the rise of mobile banking, video appointments and tech-enabled ‘micro-branches’ creating a climate where skills demand is shifting at a remarkable rate.

However, rather than looking to hire niche and specialist skills in a competitive market, business leaders should instead focus on retraining and redeploying internal resources – as ‘growing your own talent’ comes with numerous benefits, not least the retention of culture and reduced recruitment costs.

The skills dearth facing the retail banking sector at present is significant, with customer behaviour and demand influencing changing business models exponentially. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show nearly 6,000 local branches have shut since 2010 in the UK alone, as individuals turn to online and mobile banking with their existing provider, or switch to digital only challenger banks.

Against this backdrop, retail banks are scrambling for experts specialising in disciplines as diverse as cyber security, blockchain, AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), user experience and analytics to transform customer journeys. However, there is a finite pool of talent available. And the banks that we work with are not only competing with their contemporaries for these skills – but also every other business which requires this talent.

While the more well-known brands in the digital arena – such as Google, Facebook and Amazon – have developed highly attractive talent campaigns, with their modern offices and training schemes, businesses from outside this industry have yet to really make their mark as a top employer for tech talent. And given the extent of the skills shortage – with a survey from techUK revealing that 93% of tech firms felt a skills gap was having a negative impact on their business – achieving this will be a struggle.

With this in mind, it is unsurprising that previous research by Alexander Mann Solutions found that 25% of senior HR professionals believe that improving lateral hiring internally will serve as companies’ best weapon for talent management in the immediate future – among banking organisations specifically, this figure rose to 36%.

Indeed, identifying and investing in training suitable individuals is a sustainable strategy for building digital capabilities. For those with existing tech skills and an interest in the subject, demonstrating that the company is keen to help them develop their knowledge further will also go a long way in keeping individuals engaged. This is particularly important for the millennial generation, of which 52% are most attracted to career progression in an employer, ahead of competitive salaries, according to the PwC study, Millennials at Work.

It’s also important to also look at upskilling the workforce as a whole, to ensure everyone is on relatively equal footing in terms of digital developments within the business. This includes investing in upskilling veteran team members on emerging technology.

This is a strategy that market leaders are already employing. Lloyds Banking Group, for example, recently confirmed that it is cutting 6,240 jobs and creating 8,240 new ones as it overhauls its digital services – but that 75% of these new roles would be filled by existing staff in line with its wider commitment to training and development.

By collecting hard statistics on what expertise – digital or otherwise – a company already has at hand, and cross referencing this with what skills it requires and the talent likely to be lost in the future, organisations can map the entire business. By doing this firms can identify the opportunities to cross train, redeploy or hire – and plan for the potential threats that these chronic skills shortages pose.

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