The digital economy has reformulated the equation to business success. Competitive advantage is no longer realized by offering the best product on the market. It’s also about delivering an experience better than anyone else, optimizing operations, and monetizing data-driven insight that gives customers more value.

Although many businesses have made significant progress in recent years, the speed of digital transformation required to achieve these goals does not appear to be fast enough to keep up with the marketplace. It’s not their technology and strategy that are holding them back. It’s their people.

In fact, the IDC research report “HR Must Deliver on Transformation,” sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors, recently revealed that three out of the top four barriers are people-oriented. Nearly one-quarter of CEOs from European Fortune 500 companies who participated in the study cited that either limited workforce digital skills, misperceptions in digital transformation, or cultures unwilling to embrace risk are significantly obstructing their digital success.

Source: “HR Must Deliver on Transformation,” IDC, sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors, 2017. Click to enlarge.

Collaborative Learning Bridges the People Gap in Digital Transformation

Investing in new technology and executing a coordinated strategy are critical to digital success, but they also inevitably change the nature of work. Task automation, business model innovation, and evolving processes tend to shift job responsibilities to the point where new skills are required. For HR organizations, this reality is creating an urgent need to satisfy a widening talent gap by finding ways to reskill or upskill employees and discover much-needed talent hidden in the existing workforce.

Although formal training can be helpful, most people learn best through hands-on education, live discussions, on-the-job training, and experiences with others that cannot be mimicked in the classroom. When supported in a convenient environment, two or more people can freely exchange their expertise, ideas, and perspectives and tap into that knowledge to expand their own skill sets.

Such collaborative learning leads to digital transformation breakthroughs that can advance future business success, including:

  • Speed: New hires and existing employees can access the tools, resources, and expertise they need to work productively at a much faster pace. With a single collaboration platform, the entire workforce can locate the right experts and share proven best practices anytime and anywhere.
  • Scale: The business can scale its workforce to enable new business models, processes, or experiences by fostering two-way communication between leaders and employees. Creating and monitoring open discussion forums for a specific organization or across the company allows everyone to share their experiences and resolve issues quickly.
  • Community building: When all leaders and employees work together as a unified force, the workforce becomes a community of people looking to drive value and win over customers.
    Give employees a safe environment to ask questions, showcase their competencies, clarify misconceptions, build awareness of business progress, and understand market conditions.
  • Content validation: As content is shared, the community can vote or rate information based on usefulness, degree of expertise, and richness of information. Much like an e-commerce experience, ratings and comments can help employees to find the best practices and advice to contribute to the business.
  • Increased reach: The more employees transition to some level of remote work experience, the more traditional learning must evolve into collaborative learning that reaches across geographies and time zones. By providing a running thread of discussions and housing the right content in one place, employees can access the information they need to succeed on the job.
  • Use of untapped knowledge: All too often, organizations – as well as the broader business – do not have a complete understanding of what employees know and don’t know. Through a collaborative learning platform, employees magnify their value by sharing expertise and fill in any gaps in their skill set by acquiring the resources and advice they need.

It’s Time to Rewrite the Rules of Workplace Learning With Collaboration

The success of digital transformation depends on a paradigm shift in corporate learning. Executives who expect to realize the full potential of their digital vision must also create a workplace culture that embraces continuous learning and engages in skill development that is convenient, accessible, and simple for all employees. By supporting collaborative learning that matches these needs, HR leaders can finally deliver the foundation required to give every employee a reason to stay engaged, evolve with the business without hesitation, and bring their best selves to work every day.

Find out the five key trends and actions that can help businesses of all sizes address the challenges of digital transformation. Read the IDC interactive report “HR Must Deliver on Transformation,” sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors.

Daisy Hernandez is global vice president of Enterprise Collaboration Product Management at SAP