Digital jobs account for one in 10 of all roles advertised online. And that’s up a quarter in the past four years. Digital technologies are changing tomorrow’s jobs — and the skills we need to do them.

If companies want to stay ahead, they need to be thinking about what talent they have in the business right now — and what they will need in the future. With many digital skills in short supply, businesses will likely have to change their recruitment tactics to ensure they can compete and are building a pipeline of talent enabling them to match future demands.

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Data insights on Building a Workforce for a Digital Future — a U.S. View

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Here are five steps to consider to ensure your business is ready for tomorrow’s workplace.

1. invest in retention

While building a future-ready workforce may require new colleagues with up-to-date skills, holding onto existing ones through a strong retention strategy is also key.

Employers must take account of the fundamental shifts in workplace expectations that have arisen since the pandemic. Flexible working is a deal-breaker for many potential recruits. And the already growing desire among employees to work somewhere that mirrors their values has surged, with environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations taking on new prominence.

“Employers need to look at the full package they offer beyond just remuneration — what value and opportunities do they present to workers?” says Alisia Genzler, Group President and Chief Client Officer of Randstad Technologies. “Retention is always an undervalued element of recruitment — the benefits of offering opportunities to valued team members with knowledge of the business are likely to cut both ways.”

2. place greater value on career-long learning

Digital technologies are changing the face of many jobs — even those traditionally thought of as manual or not involving technology. Take cargo handling and warehousing — vehicles and forklift trucks are increasingly computerized, and many warehouses now rely on robotics and algorithms.

In addition, repetitive and simple elements of roles will increasingly be taken on by AI. This means that all workers will need to adapt their skills as their jobs change.

Taken together, this means that the concept of career-long learning is more important than ever. And in some cases, the decline of particular roles may mean some people need to learn entirely new skill sets.

Companies need to be prepared to invest in learning, for example by supporting their employees through dedicated training time and budgets.

“Many studies underline the value employees place in training and learning opportunities, which many actively seek out in the recruitment process,” says Terry O’Leary, Executive Vice President, Randstad Technologies. “These opportunities need to be backed up by a culture that celebrates learning and knowledge development.”

3. emphasize the right skill sets

As technology seeps into all quarters of the workplace, the traits that mark us out from machines are becoming increasingly valued. Creativity, emotional intelligence, adaptability and interpersonal skills are among those every employer should be seeking out and celebrating.

These “human” skills are often overlooked in the recruitment process, which is traditionally weighted toward individuals who can show evidence of technical knowhow and experience in a role.

“Take a look at the typical interview questions you ask,” says Genzler. “Do they really uncover the skills that you should be valuing? Coming at the interview process from a slightly different angle may also help you unearth candidates beyond your normal sphere of recruitment.”

It is also worth recognizing that while digital skills will become increasingly valued, they aren’t a means to an end in themselves. Businesses need people who can put these skills in the context of the sector and business they work in.

4. support colleagues transitioning from declining roles into thriving roles

Digital transformation within your business is likely to be uneven — some roles will be in decline, others will be growing. Forward-thinking businesses understand they don’t always need to look externally for talent. Many colleagues will be well positioned to learn news skills. By offering colleagues the chance to work temporarily in other parts of the business and embracing cross-department internal recruitment, businesses can ensure new digital skills are developed across the business.

“Digital innovation isn’t about reinventing the wheel every single time — there are plenty of times when significant progress can be made just by leaning on what has worked elsewhere around the business,” says O’Leary.

5. revisit graduate recruitment

Graduate recruitment programs are often more standardized than when hiring for more senior roles. And it’s likely that talent acquisition at the junior end is still angled toward educational attainment and the skills businesses need right now. Companies may wish to consider seeking softer, human skills and prioritizing the abilities they think they may need in the future.

In addition to this, the graduate market lags business reality — there’s a shortage of many of the digital skills in demand. And many companies want junior recruits who are more “business ready” than the market is able to provide.

“Now is the time to revisit whether existing programs are fit for purpose in an increasingly digital workplace. Could trainees, who can build up their skills in-house, provide a better or additional stream of talent? Do you need to mix up the places you traditionally turn to for recruits?” Genzler says.

The recruitment status quo will not help companies get ahead in a rapidly changing workplace. Companies need to use data and insights to better predict the skills they will need and start taking steps to build their talent pipeline now.