We Need To Talk About The Digital Skills Gap
The digital skills gap’s kryptonite is learning; a thirst for learning, to push ourselves to stay current in terms of technology, software and programmes that weren’t available to learn, or let’s face it, exist only five years ago. The need is there, and however the education system is changing to attempt to stay abreast of the continual and accelerating developments in tech, it’s not quick enough to make a significant enough impact on closing the digital skills gap yet, if it ever will be.
The digital skills gap has developed for a number of reasons, one of which is that the education sector is just not able to prepare our new graduates and workforces quickly enough. Another is that we have experienced workforces who are seemingly ‘ageing’ more rapidly as their substantial knowledge is outdated that much faster than ever before.
While most businesses can do little to change the educational systems right now, they can help to replenish the skills of their own workforces!
Only 25% of businesses in a recent study claimed that their current workforce has sufficient knowledge and expertise to execute their organisation’s digital strategy, although this was an increase from 16 % in 2018, that’s still 75% who are not well equipped.
Businesses should note that many employees are gravely aware of their lacking knowledge and skill in new systems and technology being introduced and of the benefits for them to be educated in them. The demand is there, being able to fill this demand is a significant pro for your company and shows your awareness of the digital skills gap and a commitment to your workforce.
It will help your workforce to know that yours is an environment which values learning and development. Applying this across the board, horizontally an vertically through the business, directly championing taking the initiative to learn new skills will show your team that you’re the kind of employer who nurtures the company and its staff.
Evolving from only promoting learning and development opportunities, it is vital that businesses now begin to offer training to their staff at all levels, if they are to narrow the digital skills gap at all. This can be outsourced or taken onboard in-house, both have their pros and cons.
Outsourcing may broaden your horizons a little more but will also cost you more.
When training is kept in-house, there is often more of a sense of requirement, and so even if this is entirely optional, you may see a higher uptake.
Inviting exciting names to hold training sessions is an excellent way to secure a turnout and kick start your new training initiative. Enquiring about training from places like the Google Digital Garage could be a good place to start.
Buddying up to skillshare is a wonderful training tool which needn’t be too daunting and can take the responsibility of mastering a new skill or passing a course away. Pair up two (or more) differently skilled workers and ask them to work together to share their knowledge. You might like to allocate a couple of hours a week for ‘learning and development skillshare’ which can be used when they hit on an important or helpful topic to exchange and take the time to explain and teach.
A similar idea, in that two parties, are engaging in a skill share, however, this is a more extensive operation. Couple up with a business which you have worked with in the past, or perhaps share a building with, but not a competitor or a company working directly in the same industry. Come together to give training sessions to each other on areas which the other wishes to develop; this might be digital skills for you, but for them, it might be customer service. An exchange in skills will offer first-hand experience and means a like for like swap, so your training doesn’t have to break the bank.
An honest evaluation will help to identify which areas of digital skills are lacking.
- Management evaluates who is lacking in which skills.
- A joint evaluation with members of staff, planning how, together, you can build these skills (remember not everyone will share your passion for learning, so this might include a little negotiation or persuasion)
To be able to help your workforce to develop, you’ll need to irradicate any negativity around the topic and encourage an all levels welcome mindset. To do this, you might label sessions as for beginners or anyone who’d like a refresh, therefore any shy workers in need of the training can opt to ‘refresh’ their knowledge, and the benefit is still present for you and them.