Lacking ICT skills? Maybe it's your own fault

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3 min read

Time and again, a lack of specialist know-how and expertise are cited as hurdles to digitization. But what can companies do about it?

Create a knowledge matrix

Many companies don't actually know exactly who knows what. This is often because company departments are sharply divided. Exchanges between colleagues rarely go beyond routine tasks. Therefore, it can be worthwhile to provide spaces for sharing knowledge. This way, you can also get an overview of the types of expertise, the level and, correspondingly, the gaps in any company. 

Align knowledge gaps with the corporate objective

Especially when trend topics are taken up by management, it's not uncommon that they act before they consider whether the specific trend is actually relevant to the company.  

Going after trends without clear goals (or resources), can actually hurt a company, so much so that Gartner recommended for a long time that internal AI projects should only be initiated if the company already had experience with AI, since the effort often far exceeded the benefit. 

Support interests

Often, certain areas of interest arise with a job and companies should support their employees in following up on them. That doesn't mean that a marketing manager needs to be supported in their music career. But if, for example, they show an interest in search engine optimization in order to optimize website presence, it may be worthwhile to provide time and, if necessary, resources for further education.

Allocate resources

Experience shows that many employees are not averse to develop themselves and in fact want lifelong learning to be part of their jobs. But in their daily work they often lack the time to actually research, learn and practice. It's not enough as a company to communicate that education and trainings are appreciated. Companies have to actively enable their employees by making resources (e.g. time and budget) available.

Provide incentives

Be it through gamification, development goals or even bonuses: further development should be rewarded. This doesn't always have to be a monetary reward. Since further training helps employees with their own portfolio as well, a badge system, that can be displayed on job platforms such as LinkedIn or Xing, for example, may be enough to provide motivation. Another idea might be to assign expert roles internally, so employees act as sponsors or owners for their special topics within the company. That way, they can directly drive these topics forward and create their own projects.

Establish knowledge transfer as a cornerstone

Incentives should be provided not only for acquiring but also for sharing expertise. Nothing hinders knowledge sharing in companies more than the attitude that one's own expertise is only valuable if no one else has it. Sharing knowledge should be one of the cornerstones of the corporate philosophy and should also be exemplified by managers. Accordingly, resources should be made available for imparting know-how (e.g., through special training days, workshops, mentorships, etc.).

Set realistic expectations

In the article "Establish Expertise Inside Your Company" in the Harvard Business Review (2015), Michael Leckie explains:

"First of all, it’s important to recognize that you don’t have to start out as a worldwide expert."

In short, goals for training and development should be realistic and fit into everyday work. Ideally, employees should have the opportunity to set their own goals. If the goals are decided upon by management with no input by the employees, it can easily happen that they are set too high or do not fit the available resources. Especially, when it comes to the independent acquisition of know-how, it must be possible to develop step by step without immediately being expected to implement huge projects.

Use external consulting

Projects in collaboration with service providers can provide an enormous pool of know-how, especially if the service provider does not simply execute, but sets up and implements the project together with an internal team. In many technical areas, but also for strategic concepts, pilot projects are suitable for learning the first basics and applying them to follow-up projects. In addition, workshops and moderated training sessions can help to communicate new topics to teams or individual employees.

Provide testing grounds

Speaking of which, pilot projects are a good way to enable new knowledge in a space where mistakes are allowed. It helps to give employees options to apply their know-how practically and preferably without business-critical risks. In the Holacracy concept, there is a simple and very practical question to ask when proposing ideas: does it hurt the company?

Giving employees projects to try that are low-risk, but can positively impact business goals, gives everyone involved a stronger incentive.

Building up know-how takes time but in these volatile times, you don't always have the time. DIGITALL offers its skills and resources, so you can scale your company and/or fulfil your IT project needs. 

Expand your capabilities

by Sabine Kirchem

Sabine Kirchem is Vice President Marketing as well as a book author. She is enthused by innovation topics, current trends and technologies in the areas of digitalization, marketing and communications.

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