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Why Canadian companies need to ‘digitally upskill’ their staff


August 2, 2018   by Jason Contant


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While a majority (85%) of Canadian organizations are investing in emerging technologies, few of them are managing the risks associated with technology, such as cybersecurity threats and lack of talent, a recent PwC Canada report has found.

The Full Risk in Review report, released in late June, found that 85% of more than 1,500 global senior risk executives polled are investing in emerging tech such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things, but not managing associated risks.

Managing talent is the most important step in managing risk and it appears that the challenge of attracting and retaining talent is more difficult than ever, PwC Canada said in a press release. Close to half (46%) of polled Canadian organizations perceived a lack of properly skilled teams as a barrier to the benefits of digital innovation. Further, 72% of Canadian CEOs are concerned about the availability of digital skills in their industries and 67% believe those same skills are lacking amongst their senior leadership teams.

Jennifer Johnson, a partner and national financial services leader with PwC Canada, told Canadian Underwriter in an interview Wednesday that companies “still think about the skills that you needed as an organization for the last, could be decades, then you start to think about the skills that you are going to need going forward.”

That mix of skills is changing, Johnson noted, and it’s changing quite rapidly. While digital skills related to technology and data are needed, organizations need to think about how they “digitally upskill” their staff, she said. While people may understand technology to an extent or are able to use it in their day-to-day jobs, “a lot of us maybe haven’t been taught that along the way because it wasn’t part of our job, our role, or even our formal education. “As these technologies are coming more and more, it’s bleeding into those roles.”

Consider, for example, auto repair technicians who may be encountering more vehicles that take longer and are more complex to repair, with more sensors. What is manually done today, will be done through robotic process automation (RPA), but probably not 100% RPA-driven.

“It’s melding of the people and technology, which means the people need to understand and leverage that technology,” Johnson said. “I think that’s a very important point when clients are thinking about the use of emerging technology. It has tremendous business value to them, but you’ve got keep people at the centre of the discussion as well. That really means upskilling your people and your workforce, your talent to be able to operate in this new world.”

To manage the risks associated with technology or innovation, Johnson suggests bringing in individuals within the organization or partnering with companies that can bring that “deep technological understanding.

“A lot of risk management and internal audit teams, they don’t necessarily have those skills in house,” she said. “A number of organizations are also teaming with innovation hubs and universities to try to cultivate a bit more of a culture of innovation.”