From banking to furniture shopping, more and more happens online—a trend that shows no signs of bucking. Even the workplace has gone digital now. Consequently, an increasing percentage of new businesses are digital-first, if not digital-only.
For some, this is a big shift. How are employers and their staff handling it?
Recommendation engine GetApp Canada did some research and found that over a quarter of SMEs surveyed had no digital strategy in place before COVID-19. However, they are waking up to reality fast.
Over one-third of Canadian SMEs cited increases in sales opportunities, website traffic, and brand awareness as the main benefits of implementing digital strategies. SMEs are regularly making changes to their digital presence, according to GetApp, largely to engage with customers in virtual spaces.
The budget for digital strategies between 2022 and 2024 is anticipated to either stay the same or increase for the vast majority of SMEs.
“They’ve been able to reach more customers, increase traffic to their websites, and start utilizing data collection for marketing and sales purposes,” analyst Tessa Anaya said of small business embracing digital. “Digital strategies have enabled many surveyed SMEs to grow their business in new ways.”
Not surprisingly, the shift to digital has redistributed demands for talent.
“Because new digital methods can streamline business processes, they have the potential to make some manual work redundant, and therefore may result in job losses,” explains Anaya. “On the other hand, digital strategies require skills and expertise to devise, implement, and manage, so companies might actually have to hire new people.”
Overall, less than one company in ten solely fired people because of its digital strategy. Most had to seek help, either by hiring (58%) or outsourcing (2%). One-third managed to complete the process with the skills and experience of their existing employees.
Of those who did hire, hand-on experts and technical specialists were the most sought-after roles, according to the report. On the other side of the equation, the roles most commonly lost as part of a digital strategy were consultants in general, marketing, and accountants and finance.
Among companies that managed to implement a digital strategy with existing staff, half said they already had staff with experience in digital strategy. 30% said they first took part in training (in-house or external) and then migrated to the digital strategy. One-quarter rolled out the digital strategy alongside day-to-day operations without receiving specific training.
A majority of Canadian companies are currently experiencing a downward trend in employee retention for digital-focused roles, notes Darian Kovacs of Jelly Academy.
Being prolific in the digital realm will pay dividends moving forward, believes Jeremy Shaki, CEO of Lighthouse Labs, a skills development accelerator for the digital age.
“Building critical skills from within an organization is more cost-efficient and practical than hiring external talent,” Shaki explains. “External hires also take longer to train and acclimate to the corporate culture.”
Investing in current employees “is an adaptive approach for organizations to meet their digital skills demands,” according to Shaki. “The most innovative enterprises are building internal academies to create this pool of qualified talent with the requisite skills.”
“In order to retain employees in digital roles and attempt to reduce the effects of The Great Resignation, there needs to be greater resources available for employees to be able to continually progress their skills,” Kovacs agrees.
Shaki cites six steps that companies looking to invest in their team should follow.