Dealing with the Digital Skills Gap

Dealing with the digital skills gap | Claromentis

In our hyper-connected world, it’s easy to assume that everyone ‘gets’ the digital workplace. But with workplace productivity plateauing and 33% of US employees saying they’re ready to quit their jobs because of poor digital workplace communication, are our digital skills letting us down or are poorly designed workplaces to blame?

Is there a digital skills gap?

Martha Lane Fox, businesswoman and advocate of digital inclusion, believes that 16 million people in the UK lack the basic digital skills to get the best out of a digital work environment. 77% of companies believe that these missing skills are the biggest hurdle they face when striving for digital transformation, yet only 46% of companies are actively investing in these skills. A European Commission study found that 88% of businesses surveyed had taken no action to address the issue at all.

Some organisations are making efforts to upskill their employees – the Scottish Parliament’s Digital Friends scheme introduced a buddy system to coach MSPs in the effective use of social media – but more needs to be done to identify skills shortages and find innovative ways to deal with them.

Embracing the digital workplace

If there is a skills gap in the digital workplace it may be in the disconnect between employees’ expectations and the reality. An optimised workplace should integrate technologies, people and processes in a way that allows your organisation to rethink its traditional practices and deliver a step change in collaboration and operational efficiency. In reality, most digital workplaces grow exponentially to become a cluttered behemoth of legacy workarounds and operational quirks that demand digital skills far in advance of anything your workforce typically need for day to day digital tasks.

Digitally upskilling the workforce can’t compensate for a poorly thought out and implemented digital workplace. Therefore, best practice guidelines for a successful digital transformation would address design and implementation in concert with a dedicated skills training programme.

Assessing digital skills competence

Before your organisation can begin to implement digital workplace best practice, you need to forensically assess the current competences of your workforce. A good 360 assessment will include qualitative and quantitative approaches including interviews, surveys and focus groups. This information can then be used to establish baseline competences and develop bespoke interventions for specific groups and individuals – one size doesn’t fit all when addressing an issue that crosses gender and generational lines.

To establish a viable framework for your digital workplace you need clear goals and strategies and an oversight of the critical skills necessary to achieve them. Equipping your workforce with a broad range of skills will underpin digital transformation before you zone in on more specific areas of need.

Establishing a framework

Your skills assessment will have established the basic skills that are critical for your workforce to establish themselves in the digital workplace. These will almost certainly include an awareness of available tools and how to safely access and manage them within the workspace, and where to find help and support to achieve basic tasks. However, your basic skills framework should also enable employees to optimise their workspace for productivity and even leverage available tools to develop innovative ways of working.

Drilling down into processes and applications within the digital workplace identifies four critical skills that underpin the performance of day to day tasks:

• Formulating needs and accessing relevant resources
• Critical evaluation and interpretation of resources
• Processing data and information
• Leveraging information to complete day to day tasks

Aggregating critical data should be central to the architecture of the workplace, with key stakeholders equipped to understand, analyse and share data to positively impact business operations.

Key to the success of digital skills best practice is the user experience. It’s no longer enough for IT departments to upgrade to the newest version of a piece of software. Users need the ability to work flexibly and effectively within the digital workplace and make the most of any learning opportunities through working methods that are intuitive and appealing and that match real life experience of easy to use digital tools. Engaging users with a digital workplace that allows them to work, learn and reflect promotes best practice and opportunities to identify and enhance specialised skills.

Finally, your workforce need the digital skills to make the most of opportunities to create and connect for collaborative working that unifies taskflows across the organisation and beyond. Communication tools are critical and should be selected to suit the end user not for their complexity or rich feature set, while social intranet software tools should allow colleagues to communicate and collaborate across the networks that they build. If we accept that digital workplace users have transferable skills including content creation and relationship building from their lived experience of social media, then it makes sense to equip the workforce with collaborative tools that match real world experiences for interoperability, usability and functionality.

Do you have a digital skills gap in your workplace? Get in touch with Claromentis for some expert advice
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