How to combat the digital skills gap amongst senior leaders

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 26 October 2023

In the march of digital progress, it's crucial for leaders to stay in step. Leadership within any organisation doesn't just provide direction; it sets a tone. When leaders are committed to continuous learning, adapting and evolving with technology, it inspires those around them to do the same. It also has the knock-on effect of making employees more invested in your organisation.


The statistics reflect this. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, “the No.1 way organisations are working to improve retention is by “providing learning opportunities.”


And yet, only 35% of learners have been encouraged to learn by their manager in the last six months, and obvious skill gaps have emerged within our talent pools. Many candidates, even when they’re willing to learn, find themselves under-equipped for the roles they’re applying for. Addressing this issue demands a top-down approach. Senior leaders must place a premium on continuous education and cultivate a culture of growth.

The need for continuous learning in a digital-first world

The digital era we’re living in is one in which change is the only constant. With emerging technologies coming to market at an almost mind-boggling pace, taking a back seat isn’t an option; it's a potential pitfall. You have to learn to be able to roll with digital change in order to thrive.


This urgency for continuous learning and adaptation begins at the leadership level. When a company's leadership emphasises the value of ongoing digital education, it sets a tone that your entire organisation can follow.


Business leaders can help to plug the skill gaps in two key ways:

1. Notice when candidates have a thirst for knowledge

The digital skills gap isn’t just about ensuring existing employees have the opportunity to learn - it’s also about future employees.


Hiring managers need to look beyond a candidate’s current skill set and ask if they can adapt. Are they eager to learn and grow? While baseline qualifications are non-negotiable, a candidate’s willingness to learn can sometimes help to bridge the skills crisis we currently face. Recognising and valuing these types of candidates can offer long-term benefits.

2. Promote internal continuing education efforts

Organisations that champion and support continuing education truly stand out, no matter whether that’s digital or tech skills or any other type of learning.


If your company provides avenues for continuous learning and development, it's not just an internal asset, it's something worth broadcasting. By promoting this benefit, you signal to both current and potential employees that growth and evolution are at the heart of your business. 


Statistics show that people typically want to work for a company that’s invested in their development and future learning. An astonishing 94% of employees say they would work for their organisation for longer if there is a commitment to their learning and development.

Keep your best talent skilled up, even if they don’t want to lead

Don’t forget that not everyone wants to or can be a leader - but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn or be part of filling the digital skills gap. 


Establishing well-defined career trajectories and learning pathways that enable growth without necessitating a leap into leadership is crucial. Even if an ‘individual contributor’ - i.e. someone with a specialist skill who doesn’t want to manage people - isn't looking to step into leadership, they probably still have career aspirations. 


Offer them skill enhancement opportunities, training sessions, workshops and certification programs. Such initiatives help individual contributors to refine their capabilities and enrich your talent. You could also create senior or master-level positions for individual contributors, positions that acknowledge and reward deep expertise. These roles can stand alongside traditional senior leadership positions, providing an alternative path for those who excel in their chosen field.

It starts with business leaders

Trends gain momentum when thought leaders and role models are at the fore. Business leaders have the power and platform to influence behaviour and set standards - and therefore help to plug the digital skills gap at your organisation. 


By prioritising learning, adapting to emerging technologies and promoting a growth mindset, they can drive positive change. A culture of curiosity, spearheaded by leadership, can ensure that everyone, regardless of their position, stays abreast of industry shifts and the digital evolution.

How can Hanover help you find leaders during a digital skills shortage?

The rapid evolution of the digital landscape, while challenging, also presents opportunities. 


As we navigate the digital era, it's vital to reframe our perspective on hiring. By emphasising continuous learning, nurturing a culture of curiosity and seeking leaders who are proactive in addressing skill gaps, businesses can not only survive - they can thrive. 


These are transformative times, and partnering with recruitment specialists like Hanover for your executive search requirements can offer the expertise and insights needed to bridge the leadership skills gap effectively. 

To find out how we can support you, contact us today.

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