Editor's note: The following is a guest article from Michael Voegele, chief digital and information officer at Philip Morris International.
Organizations with the technological prowess to support a digital workforce have held the advantage throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
This sudden and overwhelming reliance on IT has underscored its critical importance in meeting evolving business needs — a key component of success in a post-COVID-19 world.
Technology is no longer exclusive to the IT department. It is the beating heart of an organization and impacts every function, from the customer journey to marketing and innovation.
It's vital companies cultivate an environment of learning and upskilling, enabling employees to develop their knowledge and skills.
This will deliver greater agility, power digital transformation and drive customer centricity.
Fostering a learning environment
To create this learning environment, technology leaders must respond rapidly to change with solutions, such as upskilling IT teams to help them keep pace with demand.
Throughout my career, and most recently during the pandemic, I've launched learning and training initiatives to foster faster-learning teams. At PMI, my key ambition is to build the fastest-learning IT teams in the world, which is why we launched our IT Academy.
Here are the three key steps that have proved most crucial in facilitating robust, sustainable learning programs.
1. Learning: Baselining, anticipating change and co-creation
First, we must communicate openly with IT teams and leaders across the organization to identify pain points, business issues and key growth areas, developing bespoke programs in response. This requires IT leaders to demonstrate and leverage softer skills, such as emotional intelligence, to facilitate these important conversations.
This ongoing two-way communication increases internal alignment and employee engagement, ensuring that the organization is meeting actual needs (versus perceived) and encouraging employee buy-in. Listening to workers helps boost their confidence — in themselves and their abilities, as well as in the organization's objectives.
2. Reflection: Change management and transformation superstars
Change management and transformation involves identifying those with the skill sets and passion to help drive program adoption and active participation. Employees should be empowered to step forward and drive action in executing changes that deliver value for the business.
As internal advocates, employees can show the benefits of learning programs and further the adoption of new systems and platforms. They can serve as mentors for others in upskilling programs and provide support outside of formal training sessions.
These are the people who can help to empower employees, motivate colleagues to participate, foster greater agency, and give others a voice.
Investing in internal conduits of change creates ripple effects across all talent in the organization, cultivating tech-savvy skills that propel the business forward. As teams become more efficient and support other colleagues in upskilling and adopting new tools and techniques, organizational transformation can happen quicker.
This dynamic instills an appetite for learning and constant improvement, creates a network of leaders, and promotes lifetime employability.
3. Adoption: Evolving and creating a more digitally savvy company culture
Finally, recognize and celebrate learning through benchmarks. Celebrating milestones as they are achieved helps to increase motivation, excitement, curiosity and confidence to try new things and experiment.
It also ensures that progress is measured, setbacks are addressed quickly, and failures are seen as important learnings and progress toward a solution.
The culture shift results in more innovative, agile, resilient and future-proofed individuals and, ultimately, teams. Harnessing a culture that celebrates learning encourages proactive upskilling across the organization and instills a growth mindset for all employees.
Future-proofing to lead the change
As the world continues to embrace digital transformation, organizations that help employees adopt new technologies and methods of working will increase lifetime employability.
They will empower individuals and teams to be agile, innovative and motivated by the company and its ambitions. These are the future-proofed businesses that can lead the rapid change happening all around us — and deliver a better future for society.