According to Gartner there is a huge skills shortage in IT. As the COVID-19 response accelerates the speed and scale of digital transformation, a lack of digital skills could jeopardize companies with misaligned talent plans.

This is part of the reasons organisations such as Microsoft have implemented Digital Skills Week – a week-long event to promote the development of digital skills across all workforces. The lack of access to candidates with the appropriate digital skills isn’t just something troubling the big tech companies though, it’s something that affects every workplace as we continue to evolve in our use and reliance on digital tools and infrastructure.

Digital Skills Evolution

The impact of the pandemic has pushed many organisations into becoming digital-first workplaces, due to the need to conduct the majority of business affairs remotely, communicate via videoconferencing, and support clients via digital means.

While most organisations have risen to the challenge admirable, the truth is that it has been a forced migration to the digital world and has not been easy for all. Many employees have been expected to pick up new technologies with little or no training at all. This includes video conferencing platforms that almost all remote workers have relied on for the past year. Though these tools are relatively intuitive to use, they each have their own quirks and employees have had to work things out as they go.

Although learning on the job is an effective learning approach in general, it is less so when employees have limited access to support. In a traditional office environment, individuals can normally ask colleagues for help if they get stuck. This is harder to do in a remote environment.

As a result, workforces are not only struggling to adapt to new ways of working and pick up the latest tools, but they are also facing challenges in using everyday business tools. For example, an employee who relies heavily on a colleague for support in day-to-day Excel spreadsheet management, may, when forced to work remotely, struggle to complete tasks, leading to possible errors and delays.

Add to this the fact that many companies have been forced to cut back on training due to staffing and financial constraints, and it means that employees may be seriously delayed in the digital skills development.

In most cases this problem is hidden from the business, as employees may not want to speak up about their lack of knowledge. This is particularly true in the modern workplace, where there is an assumption that everyone already understands and is comfortable using technology. However, with technology evolving so rapidly it is unreasonable to expect every employee to be able to keep up with the latest tech on the block. Especially if they do not have access to the training or support that they need in order to use it effectively.

The need for digital skills is only going to intensify as things progress, and this needs to be factored into talent management across the board. It is not enough, anymore, for only technical teams to have access to technical training, the development of digital skills needs to be a widespread effort.

This will involve action from individual employees and their managers to identify current digital skills gaps and possible solutions. It will also require greater input from HR and L&D functions, as well as the C-Suit, in terms of formulating the longer terms digital strategy. What skills will be needed as the business grows and evolves? Are new forms of technology on the horizon which will require new digital skillsets? Who in the business may be suitably qualified to step into any new roles that do emerge?

What can be done?

Solving the digital skills gap challenge isn’t an easy task, and certainly isn’t something that can be achieved overnight. However, it is imperative that organisations start taking steps to address it sooner, rather than later, to avoid being left behind as the digital revolution continues.

The first stage, for organisations, is to find out from the business what skills are needed right now. What technologies are used? How are they used? What skills are needed to use them effectively?

Next, find out what skills your business already has. Complete an employee skills audit, exploring their competence in common business tools, such as Microsoft Office, as well as niche and bespoke tools used within the business.

With this data to hand, examine the gaps. Who needs upskilling in what? How urgently?

Then create a robust training plan for the existing workforce, and where necessary, begin hiring new people into the business who can plug some of the gaps that internal employees cannot fill. (For examples of courses that may be of benefit in upskilling existing teams, please see below).

In parallel to the audit of current skills, also set up a think tank to explore what the future will look like for your business in the digital space. What gaps are already emerging? What will definitely need to be addressed in the future? What might need addressing, but is currently uncertain? What skills are needed to achieve the business goals?

Armed with this information, you can begin strategizing, and planning for the future, while also ensuring that current skills are where they need to be.

Need to upskill your team in core business tools?

We have a range of training courses designed to equip your employees with the skills to confidently utilise essential business software, including:

Excel
Macros
VBA
Teams
PowerPoint
Power BI
Acumen Fuse
Acumen Risk
Primavera
Acrobat
Outlook

Visit our training courses page to see the full breakdown of courses on offer. We also offer bespoke programmes for instances where our off-the-shelf solutions do not quite fit your requirements. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

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