Covid-19 revenue pressures heighten need to train and hire digital-savvy staff

As business and nonprofit leaders restructure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, while also increasing their virtual presence with customers and employees, it will be more critical than ever to boost their staff’s digital and data skills, both through accelerated training of remaining workers and in filling any open positions.

That was the consensus of about a dozen participants in the latest series of dPrism-moderated Zoom sessions with nonprofit CEOs and leaders, held on June 11.

Many organizations in recent years have taken steps to invest in data-gathering and processing technologies, including digital dashboards that aggregate customer and performance data from multiple sources. The global pandemic, at the same time, has put new pressure on enterprises to improve their digital sophistication in terms of product marketing, delivery and support.

But simply making the decision to invest in new digital technologies is only part of the journey toward becoming a data-driven enterprise, the executives said. Training staff to get the most from the new capabilities is even more important.

“People don’t really know how to use the analytics” said one executive with experience in nonprofit publishing and human relations. “Training is really imperative as people bring on more marketing technology.”

“I think we have worked really hard to put in place and enhance our data capabilities,” said another leader, from a large professional society. “But unless you have people who are trained to take advantage of them, you’re still not making better decisions.”

With all types of organizations suffering from unprecedented declines in annual revenue due to the Covid-19 crisis, many will be confronting difficult decisions on reducing staff. The executives suggested embarking on a wholesale restructuring rather than simply letting go those who were hired most recently. “Don’t base decisions just on tenure,” one suggested. “Think of the organization’s digital future.”

For some organizations, the Covid-19 disruption itself is driving an imperative to become more data-driven. Such is the case for organizations in the financial services sector, where credit and spending problems will place new demands on organizations that serve distressed consumers.

“We expect Covid to be a market driver for us serving literally millions more people,” said one nonprofit executive in the sector. “So, we need better quality data and better access to that data. We’re working on data-sharing agreements with members. For over 50 years we didn’t really have that, but the challenge now is to design new data-collection platforms and systems to make it usable for us.”

Some members, the executive said, are “excited about the possibilities,” while others are reluctant out of concerns about data privacy and security.

The CEO of a mid-sized nonprofit in a petroleum-based industry said that recent crises, including hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, collapses in the oil market and now Covid-19, have taught the organization’s leaders to focus only on digital-savvy people when making new hires. 

“Turnover here is almost zero, so there are few opportunities to make moves. But when we can, we’re very purposeful,” the executive said. “No hiring gets done until we have a strategic discussion on what to do with that position. We’ve had six positions to fill in recent years and every one of them is around digital.”

The principals at Digital Prism Advisors have many decades of combined experience in driving growth through digital strategy. Feel free to contact us to set up a conversation about how we might help your organization assess and implement the strategies required to build resilience and improve your organization’s ability to adapt and respond to the challenges ahead.

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