CEO Bengu
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The battle for digital skills

7th May 2017
CEO Bengu
Blogger
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The digital skills gap is humongous. The demand for digital expertise has exploded over the last few years but the supply is startlingly scarce. 

Ninety percent of jobs in the UK now require digital skills and an estimated 12.6 million adults lack basic digital acumen. These numbers paint a bleak picture for growth, education and opportunity. 

What are digital skills?

The topic of digital skills refers to a general knowledge and understanding of information technologies and the internet. It is officially defined by the Cornell University as “The ability to find, evaluate, utilise, share, and create content using information technologies and the internet”. 

There are 8 core digital skills that form the foundation of a digitally savvy worker: 

  1. Working with documents - the ability to efficiently create and navigate digital documents using a chosen set of programs.
  2. Project collaboration and management - the ability to efficiently navigate and use a business' chosen workflow and project management tools.
  3. Attention management - soft skills required to focus on highest priority tasks and avoid distractions. 
  4. Communication - required for time-efficient management of inbound and outbound communication and to effectively relay desired information. 
  5. Digital etiquette - the do's and don'ts of online communication, covering common digital courtesy and rules of cyberspace. 
  6. Search and research - skills required to effectively harness the wealth of digital information available online. 
  7. Platform flexibility - the ability to be comfortable using a growing range of digital devices and operating systems. 
  8. Security and privacy - knowledge and awareness of best practice processes involving access to sensitive information.

The battle for digital expertise

One of the biggest challenges businesses face is the ever-changing digital landscape. It’s such a dynamic beast. The fast-paced nature of the digital world makes it difficult for people to keep up. 

The digital skills gap highlights a fundamental flaw in the way we approach learning and education. 

Most of us approach education as a temporary thing. Something that will be completed after a set period of time. 

This is what I call the fixed education mindset. 

But if we take something like digital marketing. We quickly realise that it's a field of expertise that requires continual learning in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Being a successful digital marketer requires high-level agility, versatility and consistent education.

Learning from the best

The most successful people in the world of business are serial learners. They’re always talking about how they’re learning all the time. These people know that specialist knowledge is the thing that separates them from their competition.  

The current landscape not only exposes the lack of digital knowledge that pervades society, but it reveals a problem that cuts deeper. It shows us that our attitudes towards learning need to change. 

The digital age is a catalyst for a change in our perception of education. 

For people that want to be at the top of their game, education doesn’t stop after you finish university. It's a life-long relationship. 

How it kills productivity 

Productive people know exactly what they need to do for any given task, and more importantly, how to do it. They’re super efficient with their time because they don’t need to spend any of their energy figuring out how to do things.  

There are millions of workers that are extremely good at what they do but their lack of digital skills bottlenecks their value because can’t achieve high levels of productivity. 

Proof in the stats

A classic example of this is the tools and software applications that are used by workers on daily basis. A Harris poll commissioned by cloud-based learning platform, Grovo was conducted to quantify how much the digital skills gap was costing US businesses. It found that one in three US workers say they simply aren’t proficient in the tools they use on a daily basis. What’s more, only one in ten workers consider themselves to be experts.

Productivity is money. The lack of productivity that directly results from lacklustre digital skills is predicted to cost US companies an eye-watering $1.3 trillion. 

If workers aren’t proficient in the tools they use every single day, how can we expect them to stay agile and quickly master new technologies and processes? 

Missing out on opportunity

The battle for digital skills isn’t just affecting businesses. It has an impact on opportunities for individuals. 

Over the last decade or so, the internet has transformed the way we conduct business. This movement towards the digital world has created tremendous opportunities for people to start their own online businesses. Billion dollar business models are being exploited by digitally savvy people. A gargantuan array of online business opportunities exist that most people don’t even know about.  

This lack of knowledge on opportunity creates an unhealthy reliance on traditional methods of working that are slowly dying out. 

For example, 35% of the entire American workforce are freelancers. A fact that never fails to generate reactions of shock and awe. 

The world is changing, and it’s changing fast. A similar shift is required in the way we think if we want to benefit from all these changes.

A shift in attitude towards knowledge

You’ve probably heard the saying “knowledge is power” thousands of times in the past. A commonly touted saying because it's totally true. 

Employers already spend millions of pounds upskilling their workers. But the process of learning and absorbing new information is always going to be up to the individual. You can put someone through the best training in the world but if they’re not focusing on the learning material, they won’t get much out of it. 

What really needs to happen is a shift in how we view learning and development. A shift to a proactive approach towards learning and taking on new things. 

This is something that needs to happen at an individual level. We need to change the way we approach knowledge, from something fixed and rigid to something flexible, malleable and digestible.

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