Head of Executive Education Edinburgh Business School
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2021 will be the year of online digital upskilling

17th Dec 2020
Head of Executive Education Edinburgh Business School
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On 30th January 2020 the world changed; literally overnight. Over the course of what was to be one of the most turbulent years in living memory many thousands of people across the world have found themselves out of work. In the UK, before the Covid-19 crisis, the unemployment rate was below four per cent – its lowest level since the mid-1970s – however, it is now estimated to have risen almost one percentage point to 4.8 per cent leaving headcounts 782,000 lower than they were in March. And with the recent spate of retail collapses this is set to increase even further.

As the threat of lockdown continues to loom overhead, the economies and job markets globally paint a bleak picture. However, despite this there are still pockets of opportunity. Digital probably being the most important one. Recently I saw a meme doing the rounds which asks the question – who is driving your digital transformation? Tick box answers are CEO and Chief Digital Officer. Both of these have been crossed out and Covid-19 has been written in on top. It’s undeniable that the pandemic has fast tracked the digital agenda. For many companies the only option has been to pivot and accelerate their digital transformation. This has led to the emergence of new business models requiring a shift in the skills needed in the workplace.

A recent report by McKinsey has identified digital as one of four key skills that employees will need to thrive in a post-Covid era. The consultancy believes that a degree of technological skills will be essential for every employee. Upskilling each person in a business with basic digital skills will enable them to feel comfortable and maintain seamless contact with their organisation's ecosystem – clients, partners, suppliers, and public authorities. Not to mention the ability to better enable personal online socialising with friends and family, which is also proving important for health and wellness during periods of restricted social mobility.

At a more advanced level having an understanding of digital also raises awareness of critical technology, data concepts, and processes including data visualisation, applied machine learning, advanced analytics, and emerging technologies such as blockchain which are shaping the new business environment.

And of course digital marketing is also critical for many organisations as the whole world becomes more Internet reliant. Understanding how to achieve cut-through online in an increasingly fragmented but congested marketplace is critical and upskilling in areas such as SEO, email marketing, content development and analytics have been identified by marketers as key requirements for new hires – yet according to the Digital Marketing Institute currently only four per cent of organisations are currently aligning their skills training for existing employees with their digital strategy.

Moreover, Reed.co.uk, one of the largest job sites and recruiters in the UK, reports that candidates who are willing to develop their digital abilities in order to keep business thriving are now the top picks for employers post-COVID19. They are actively encouraging job seekers (and indeed all employees) to bolster CVs with certified digital qualifications.

Unsurprisingly therefore, in response many professional bodies and membership organisations such as The CDO Club, OMCA, and NCFE are reporting increased demand for upskilling in these areas – online of course! 

What is clear is that 2020 is the biggest workplace shift since WW2 and as we move into the New Year digital upskilling should be high on the agenda for job seekers and HR/training and development departments, alike. 

 

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