As businesses increasingly rely on new technology to drive innovation and productivity (opens in new tab), the demand for digitally skilled employees (opens in new tab) grows too.
However, many organisations are struggling to find employees with the necessary technical expertise, leading to a digital skills shortage across many industries. In fact, the lack of digital skills has cost the UK economy more than £12 billion. This is, in part, due to the disruption brought about if a business is unable to leverage new technologies in a way that allows it to effectively adjust to rapidly shifting market conditions and customer (opens in new tab) needs.
In basic terms, if the rate of technological advancements is faster than the rate at which average workers are able to acquire the necessary skills to use these new services, there lies a significant barrier to growth.
How can a company develop the digital skills of its staff?
In today's fast-paced, technology-driven business environment, having a workforce with strong digital skills is essential for success. There are several ways that businesses can improve their workforce's digital skills, but companies will see the best results by combining HR (opens in new tab) initiatives with technical support.
Nick Offin is Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations at dynabook Northern Europe.
Invest in better IT infrastructure
Investing in IT is a critical component of managing the digital transformation of businesses as it helps to ensure employees have the tools and resources they need to effectively perform their roles, and innovate to keep up with evolving technologies. If organizations maintain legacy technologies, employees will not be able to develop skills in line with the most up to date digital tools, which means the digital skills gap will only widen. This is why, it is critical to continue to invest in IT and embrace next generation technology to close the gap.
Beyond equipping employees with these tools, companies must also provide adequate training opportunities to help their staff fully understand and make best use of these new technologies. This includes online training courses to enable employees to take their careers into their own hands, grow within their business and again prevent an increasing digital skills gap. Not only that, IT investments can help businesses stay competitive in the digital economy, and attract and retain the best talent because it is so intrinsically linked to employee experience.
It may seem simple, but equipping employees with the right hardware devices and software functionalities, can make all the difference in employees’ satisfaction, and in turn their ability and willingness to upskill. This could include providing lightweight laptops (opens in new tab) for hybrid (opens in new tab) workers as well as accessories such as a comfortable keyboard, mouse, and video call headset to ensure they have a good set up and feel supported to learn.
This can all go a long way toward narrowing the digital skills gap, overall job engagement and improving performance.
Offer more tailored training sessions
Another way businesses can address the digital skills shortage is through IT training and development programs. By providing employees with the opportunity to learn new emerging technologies and enhance their existing skills, companies can develop a more digitally savvy workforce.
McKinsey research states the time spent using advanced technological skills will increase by up to 50% in the next decade. This statistic underscores the importance of businesses investing in IT training and development programs ensuring they attract necessary talent, as well as growing their existing talent, to compete in the digital economy.
There are two main approaches companies can take to provide IT training to their employees. One option is to offer in-house training programs, which can be customized to meet the specific needs of the organization. This can be a cost-effective solution as it leverages existing resources and expertise in order to provide training.
Another option would be to partner with external training providers or pay for specific courses which can bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience to the table but will come at a higher cost.
In both cases, tailoring training sessions with content relevant to individual skills is important to ensure it addresses the requirements of both the business and the employee.
Introduce graduate schemes
In addition to IT training, companies could consider implementing graduate recruitment programs to help address the digital skills shortage, to encourage new workers into the tech sector. Given that younger employees have been exposed in their early lives to the digital world, there’s an argument that they can adapt quickly and be more proficient with new technology.
Not only this, graduate schemes offer the opportunity to introduce fresh perspectives to your workforce that might improve particular processes and/or products. Businesses can bring in new talent and fresh perspectives to help develop the next generation of digital professionals and introduce more diverse talent to drive innovation throughout the business.
Optimize hybrid working
Another strategy that companies can use to manage the digital skills shortage is to formally adopt or improve their hybrid working models. With hybrid working, employees have the flexibility to work both in the office and remotely, depending on their needs and preferences, which will expand the pool of talent available.
Accenture’s Future of Work study found that 85% of those who believe they can be productive from ‘anywhere’ also plan to remain loyal to their current employer and stay there long term, showing a clear level of loyalty for those who consider their employee's working preferences.
Furthermore, if you guide employees on how to take advantage of external online learning resources that specifically help them to grow and progress in their own roles, hybrid working can actually support digital skills development and demonstrate to employees their employers are investing in personal development.
In conclusion, businesses can effectively manage the digital skills shortage through a combination of IT training, graduate recruitment programs, and hybrid working, as well as equipping them with the latest technologies to bolster training. Through investing in their employees' digital skills, companies can build a more competent, effective and adaptable workforce which will help drive overall performance in the long term.
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