Think Digital: Why Mindset Matters For The Workforce Of The Future

"People are seeing how the technology can work for them, and this is the best evidence that a digital mindset is taking hold at Aramco."

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Like every successful business, my company, Aramco, the Saudi Arabia-based energy giant, relies on the skills of its staff.

In this fast-changing world, though, it is not enough for our highly-qualified workforce to be skilled for the jobs they have now- they must be ready for the jobs to come.

That is why our digital transformation program is focused on creating a "digital mindset" to unleash our people's capabilities, rather than merely instilling a set of digital competencies.

What's the difference? While a skill, or competency, is something you learn to perform, your mindset is the lens through which you view the entire world. Both are valuable, but where one is narrow, the other is broad.

Research from recruiters Reed concludes that 96% of businesses choose mindset over skillset when deciding who to hire. They know that skill needs change over time, but a good mindset helps employees adapt.

Driving a digital mindset

When Aramco started its digital transformation program in 2017, we knew that we wanted our people -across all generations- to see the potential of digital solutions to overcome work challenges they face.

We want to equip and encourage them to use digital knowledge and the power of data to re-examine how we are working at Aramco, and find better ways of doing things.

Aramco is focusing on three elements in our drive to become the world's leading digital energy company.

The first is making good-quality digital training accessible and readily available to all employees. Second is building awareness of the benefits that digital technology can bring. And third is harnessing the power of wider familiarization with digital processes and technologies, as our employees encounter developments such as digital banking and online government services in their everyday lives.

That first element of digital training was given fresh impetus by the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. As employees adapted to remote working and other new approaches to work, their digital awareness grew.

The constraints of lockdowns also helped make many of our workforce keen to learn new skills. We exceeded our target of training 7,500 people by mid- 2021, with 14,000 people taking courses in total.

Related: A Fresh Start: Business Trends For 2021 (Through The Lens Of Digital Transformation)

Ensuring quality training

Good-quality learning is where it starts. We now have more than 300 digital training programs in place, ranging from one-hour tutorials to a one-year master's course, covering almost every topic from broad-brush digital trends, to the specifics of machine learning.

The most popular course is our Introduction to Digitalization in Aramco program, which gives an overview of our digital transformation; the second most-completed is the Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course.

We add new courses nearly every week and most courses are made accessible to employees without prior approval. Once completed, they will be added to their training record.

This motivates people to take their personal development into their own hands, opening up new job opportunities and career paths.

Applying digital thinking in the workplace

But while digital learning might seem a welcome distraction in a pandemic, the real difference comes when benefits emerge in everyday workplace situations. When a digitally-trained employee replaces a 1,000-page maintenance log with a digital assistant, capable of responding to any query, the business really begins to gain.

This way of thinking is already filtering through the company. There have been over 600 suggested digital business applications and products -what we call business use cases- from across the organization, proposing how various digital technologies can improve the way we operate.

These leverage real-time data, analytics and artificial intelligence to streamline many day-to-day business operations- from using chatbots to deal with HR inquiries, to using artificial intelligence to determine which piece of machinery will need maintenance next.

Some of these suggestions come from our digital transformation office, which works with engineering services and information technology teams to adopt new digital technologies and make them available to the rest of the business for use.

However, many come from our people working in the field, who understand best how digitalization can transform issues they are dealing with every day.

We also have 13 "communities of practice," groups on our company intranet, where people who are driven by their passion for IR4.0 are discussing digital topics, in areas such as data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, and user experience design.

Achieving digital maturity

Increasingly, people are seeing how the technology can work for them, and this is the best evidence that a digital mindset is taking hold at Aramco. The new way of thinking is leading to new jobs and new business opportunities.

Systems are being put in place to allow employees who understand business and technologies, such as blockchain and data analytics, to assume the role of a"citizen developer," and build the required solutions.

Facing the future with confidence

There's no doubt that around the world many people fear that growing digitalization is coming to take their jobs. But four years into our digital transformation program, we can see that it's not so binary.

In fact, we envisage new roles being created by technologies like artificial intelligence. That's why adding a digital mindset to the capabilities of our people today will help ensure we are ready for the world of tomorrow.

Related: Training For The Future: How Businesses Can Build Their "Innovation Muscles"