Business intelligence firm reveals nearly 90% of frontliners need IT skills

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By U2B Staff 

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A new white paper by Harvard Business Review, sponsored by ThoughtSpot, “The New Decision Makers: Equipping Frontline Workers for Success” reveals the need for upskilling and empowering frontliners with IT and digital skills.

According to the report, “Organisations across industries are under pressure to operate more quickly and with greater intelligence than ever before. Armed with new digital tools that enhance the capabilities of frontline workers, companies in the manufacturing, technology, financial services, energy, and health care sectors, among others, are extending their digital reach to the edges of their business and beyond.”

However, despite the urgency for employees to be equipped with IT skills and knowledge to use digital tools, organisations have been largely unable to provide the necessary data tools for them to become empowered to make data-driven decisions. 

The report was based on survey responses from 464 business executives in a recent global survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.

Respondents are from key industry sectors: 15% financial services, 13% manufacturing, 13% technology and 10% healthcare. Almost half of the respondents – 44% – are from North America while 22% are from Europe, 20% from Asia/Pacific, 7% from Middle East/Africa and 7% from Latin America 

87% of the respondents, said their organisation will be more successful when frontline workers are empowered to make important decisions, while 86% said that frontline workers need better technology-enabled insights to be able to make these decisions. 

Only a fifth said they have frontline employees who are “both empowered and digitally well equipped to succeed in this way”, who are mostly in leadership roles.

Other key findings from the report are that respondents strongly believed that both work quality and productivity will increase if more data-based insights are available to frontline workers in both the long and short-term. 

IT skills
A robot from the Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems (AIIS) laboratory of Italy’s National Interuniversity Consortium for Computer Science (CINI) is displayed at the 7th edition of the Maker Faire 2019, the greatest European event on innovation, on October 18, 2019 in Rome. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Training needed in frontline industries to upskill with IT and digital skills

Kerry Small, who leads global commercial and operations for Vodafone Business, was quoted in the report as saying, “Data is powerful when it is in everyone’s hands.” 

The report stated that training is needed across the board – not just for leaders, who currently benefit the most from investments in upskilling training – with new digital tools and information.

“Training and change programs must engage all parts of the organisation, from leaders to middle managers to the frontline workers themselves.”

GE Healthcare in Brazil is an example of how employees can be empowered to make data-driven decisions through the use of advanced technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, robotics, and data analytics.

According to the report, GE Healthcare in Brazil took capacity expansion up a level, “using sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) for predictive maintenance on its medical equipment installed in hospitals and clinics.”

When an engineer goes to a site to repair a certain issue, they already know the problem as they have already been provided with insights on how to fix it.

“AI-enabled workflow will refer a specialist to assist the technician if necessary. For the sales workforce, robotic process automation is being put in place to streamline commercial processes and approvals.”

By empowering frontliners with skills to take action on data and insights provided to them through digital tools, organisations can improve their efficiency and productivity levels.

CEO of ThoughtSpot Sudheesh Nair wrote in the report, “Data-driven insights are critical to all business activities, whether it’s delivering tailored customer experience, bringing a new product to market, or streamlining operations. 

“When the data exists but a company lacks the tools or culture to enable employees to effectively access and analyse it, businesses miss out on opportunities, employees wind up frustrated, and customers suffer. Enterprises must leverage their most valuable asset for decision making—they owe it to themselves and to their workforce.”

Financial Times recently released its FT executive education rankings 2020, which ranks top business schools in the world for open enrolment and customised executive education programmes. 

Customised programmes are tailored for specific companies, while open enrolment courses are focused on specific topics –  such as leadership or digital marketing –  open to experienced professionals and executives from any business.

Platforms such as Coursera, FutureLearn and EdX also offer a myriad of IT and digital skills courses, even those specifically for frontliners.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution is just around the corner and economic instability is on the horizon, it’s best to upskill yourself – or your workers – so your organisation won’t get left behind.