by: Tim Hanley, Advisory Partner at Deloitte

With Industry 4.0 making new demands on the skill sets of workers, it should come as no surprise that talent is integral to a successful digital transformation. However, the path to true transformation may require more than just the traditional view of training and retention.

On the face of it, organizations may sound like they’ve got talent in the age of Industry 4.0 figured out. According to the new Deloitte survey, The Industry 4.0 paradox: Overcoming disconnects on the path to digital transformation, 85 percent of respondents agree that their organization has “exactly the workforce and skillset it needs to support digital transformation.” That seems very encouraging.

Yet, when the survey digs a bit deeper, the view of talent gets a bit murkier. When asked about the challenges faced by their organizations, participants named finding, training, and retaining the right talent as the number one obstacle. So … respondents have “exactly” the workforce they need, but finding the right talent is a major problem. Clearly, there’s a disconnect here.

The usability gap

The explanation for that disconnect appears to be usability. That is, the employees who actually use emerging digital technologies are more likely to assess their company’s talent needs as being met. In fact, employees who use these technologies on a daily basis think their company has the right talent more than 90 percent of the time. But that number falls to more than 40 percent among those employees who use these technologies rarely or not at all.

Let’s face it—using a new technology can be daunting. It takes time out of daily tasks to learn, can slow you down as you try to master it, and, unless you use it regularly, each time you log on can feel like you’re starting from scratch. This reticence about interacting with new digital technology can be seen in the talent most employees point to when asked about needed—but not budgeted for—skills: user interface design. Employees simply want it to be easier to use the technologies being made available to them.

More intuitive design is truly the “last mile” to unlocking the value to be had from digital transformation. To build an Industry 4.0 workforce, more user-friendly collaboration between humans and machines is key—and there must be more employees with the skills to deliver on that.

The thing is, tech implementations rarely fail because they didn’t work. They fail because people found them too hard or too time-consuming to master. And what’s the point of digital transformation then?

The talent-technology link

It’s easy to think that companies with significant ROI through digital transformation are the ones with the least talent worries. But according to the survey, talent concerns only seem to rise with success. It seems these organizations continue to be attuned to the fact that digital transformation and talent are linked in more ways than just implementation.

Keeping the right lens on talent and how it impacts technology usability is critical to both sustaining and elevating digital technologies. To do this, a company should consider three facets of talent when planning digital transformation:

  • Build these capabilities with, not for your employees. These technologies work best when they are built collaboratively with their business users rather than for them. Employees that are not fully immersed in the digital integration process may react with a level of skepticism (or confusion) to its benefits.
  • Hire for design. Better user interface design can act as the channel to greater employee engagement with digital technologies. The more intuitive the design, the less need for finding new talent with greater technical skills.
  • Sustaining success requires continual investment in talent development. If accessibility is the linchpin to adoption, leaders need to continually ensure that their people have the right tools in place to use and interact with enhanced features. It’s most likely more cost effective to invest in training and hiring talent that make technologies more engaging versus wholesale changes in personnel.

Industry 4.0 has brought us amazing new tools—from sensors to artificial intelligence to 3D printing. But for the uninitiated, these technologies may seem more intimidating—or cumbersome—than visionary. It’s not necessarily their lack of skill that is the problem—but the lack of skill that was employed in designing a tool’s usability. Only by taking a hard look at this gap will companies truly extract the most value from digital transformation.

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