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How bridging the IT skills gap can help digital transformation

Clearly, businesses in all sectors need to take advantage of evolving technology in order to retain competitive advantage. This is especially true with the travel industry, but keeping up with customer demand while ensuring your workforce has the correct skills to implement new, innovative technology solutions can be a struggle. It takes time for your people to become familiar with the tools which will make them more efficient and productive.

This is why business leaders say their main concern is reducing the IT skills gap. If you invest in technology but your employees can’t use it effectively, your business’ progress will slow down and your market advantage will reduce. Your stress levels will rise, work will take longer, deadlines will be rushed and your brand will suffer as a result. In extreme cases, your business may fail.

With our impending presence at the Digital Travel Summit in London next week, I’m keen to highlight why businesses need to tackle the IT skills gap within their organisations at all levels. The travel sector has shown it can implement digital transformation successfully and effectively. But how might your business tackle the gap?

Educating the workforce

84 per cent of businesses say their digital technologies and capabilities enable employees at their organisation to work better with customers and fellow employees. Digital transformation is the key for businesses to adapt to the modern market and provide a seamless customer experience. It will increase brand loyalty and profit margins, as staff can add value at every stage.

However, this does not mean digital transformation has taken place throughout the business. With only 45 per cent of business executives understanding digital trends and technologies, more needs to be done for businesses to excel at digital transformation and remain competitive. Making sure staff are educated and understand new technology changes is key to success.

It’s not just senior executives who need a greater understanding of technology, nor is it sufficient to train new starters or apprentices. Digital transformation touches every person in every department. 21 per cent of employers report they’re struggling with skills gaps: many say staff don’t have the necessary customer service, management and leadership skills they need. As staff turnover is a huge concern within the travel sector, investment in retraining and upskilling existing employees is very important. It reduces staff turnover as well as the IT skills gap, as it will drastically increase engagement and loyalty between employee and employer.

Development of digital directors

As with any change to company strategy, the skills needed for digital transformation entail a re-organisation of technology leadership and this is where we, at Black Pepper, see the rise of the digital director.

A digital director or chief digital officer is someone who sits on the main board and specialises in the technological advancements of the business. The main purpose of the role is to identify key technology trends and advise the board on how best to utilise available technology to benefit the business. Although, with 80 per cent of UK businesses not having a tech executive of any kind on the board, there is some serious catching up to be done.

To ensure the IT skills gap is addressed, a digital director should be considering where technologies can have the greatest impact on the business, understanding the implementation strategy and ensuring there’s a plan to enable the workforce to adapt to the new world as it arrives. To help with implementation, a digital director should work closely with both the in-house technical team and external specialists to ensure employees of all levels understand the changes which are occurring within the business and are trained appropriately.

The future

Everyone in your business needs to be more tech savvy in order to implement digital strategies for the next generation of customers. For the travel sector, ensuring your company is at the forefront of digital transformation is crucial. More than 148 million holiday bookings were made online in 2014 and 65 per cent of same-day hotel reservations were made via a smartphone. To remain competitive, you need to ensure your workforce is as comfortable with technology as your consumers are. Reducing the IT skills gap is the only way forward.