The Challenge of Training for Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation is a long-term strategic initiative. Skill building requires practice. It requires an experiential approach that not only rewards success but also allows the learner to fail, receive coaching, and practice to get better.

Developing the skills needed for digital transformation is no different. Organizations won’t be able to move the needle through lectures that explain critical thinking or problem-solving.  Their professionals will need practice. Lots of practice.

What can be addressed through training?

Not every upskilling challenge can be solved through formal classroom training. Some changes could be achieved through better coaching, more timely feedback from supervisors, or a different approach to performance evaluations, compensation, or recruiting. 

What if firm leaders required all managers to work one-on-one with their staff to demonstrate how to connect the dots between “what can go wrong” and the audit program? Or, if audit partners spent 10 minutes at their planning meetings to explain the questions they would ask the client during planning and why?

Organizations have many tools at their disposal to develop and reinforce skills and competencies, and all of these should be aligned to complement each other. Training alone cannot fill the skills gap.

How can the classroom support digital transformation? 

Skills development requires practice, and a classroom training session is a perfect opportunity for practice. At the outset, professionals trying to learn a new skill may not get it right the first, or even the twenty-first, time. That’s okay.

“Fail fast, fail forward.” That’s the mantra of entrepreneurs who understand that failure allows their organizations to mature faster. The same is true of skill building. Remember that this will be a trial and error process. What you want to minimize is having these errors occur on the job, or worse yet, in front of the client. Enter a more strategic use of classroom time.

Rather than use the classroom to test for comprehension, use the classroom as a safe space where your professionals can try out new skills, make mistakes, receive constructive feedback and try again. You don’t have to add time in the classroom—just reduce the lecture.

New Skills Need a New Approach to Training

The desire for staff professionals with advanced analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills is not new. Organizations that have a gap in these skills required for digital transformation need to ask why—given the longstanding need—their existing training has been unsuccessful at preventing the emergence of this gap.

A new approach to training is required, one that leverages the strategic value of learning, not just minimizes the cost of continuing education. In the final article in this series, we’ll explore the biggest challenge to making this change and how to overcome it.

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