Let’s be brutally honest here – If your digital skills are not on point for your profession, you are going to lose your job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a roofer, retailer, or corporate CEO—your job requires some level of digital skill.
If you don’t stay current, your competitors will pass you by. As Humphrey Bogart notes in Casablanca, “It might not be today or tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” Don’t let a lack of digital skills become a great regret.
Sounds scary… But it doesn’t have to be
Everybody learns at their own pace, and technology often develops at a rate faster than any one person can keep up with. Frankly, improving your digital skills can be scary to some employees. It is easy to get overwhelmed by new software applications, marketing platforms, and the ever-creepy Internet Of Things.
But if you keep a tight focus, employees at every level of business can improve their digital skills. After all, technology exists to assist us and make our jobs easier. Don’t fear technology—embrace it and let it work for you.
Ways to improve your team’s digital skills
1. Start with the management
True leaders lead by example. Adopt a digital-first mentality in your workplace that starts at the top and flows from the boardroom to the mailroom.
According to MIT Sloan Management Review, companies with digitally competent upper management experienced a 48% increase in revenue growth and market valuation. Yet only 7% of the approximately 2,000 companies surveyed felt they had executive decision-makers in place that understand emerging technology and how it will impact their business in the future.
Get your executive board up to speed with their digital skills, then help your managers become new tech leaders. Once the top tier has gone digital, the effect will trickle down the workforce line. Before long, you will have a streamlined, digital workplace!
2. Assess the team’s digital needs (discuss it with them directly)
What kind of software and applications will make your lives easier and more productive? Chart software? Time tracking? Drill down into daily tasks and workflow.
ISM outlines the six steps of assessing your team’s digital needs, starting with a review of where you are and where you want to be with your digital assets.
How can you improve your digital marketing, sales, and customer service? Do you have the right people in place to implement the technology? Find your team’s digital needs and formulate a step-by-step plan to transform your workplace.
3. Gather the right tools
Once you assess your needs, you can find the right tool for the job. You might need customer relations management (CRM) software to help organize customer information. Resource management or resource scheduling software might be your company’s digital savior.
Team Scheduling Module in Paymo
According to a Forrester survey, 93% of businesses believe innovation technologies are essential to success. Maybe you need an automated email response system or a customer service chatbot. Sometimes, the best digital solution is the simplest, like Microsoft or Google suite of office apps.
To streamline communication, especially now that many employees are remote, you may want to prepare yourself and consider purchasing a webinar platform to facilitate the meetings across your company. The right tool makes the job go right; digital skills require software-based applications. The best way to work remotely is to employ tools and services that adapt to your remote needs
4. Organize a sensitization meeting with the team
Explain to your staff why you’re introducing new technologies and how they will benefit them. Make the first impression of technology a friendly one. Some employees will dive right in, while others may be reluctant. Let everyone learn at their own pace, comfortably. An empowered employee is a powerful and great asset to your business!
5. Do a proper onboarding
This is an often overlooked step crucial to improving your team’s digital skills. Onboarding is getting everyone welcomed into the organization and familiarized with your company’s rules and expectations.
Research by Brandon Hall Group 2015 showed that good onboarding increases employee retention by 82%. Unfortunately, this poll from Gallup 2017 revealed that only 88% of organizations have proper onboarding procedures in place.
New employees must feel comfortable performing their jobs and using new technology. It can be overwhelming. Don’t rush new hires. Instead, give them the tools they need to succeed. One of those tools is a proper welcome to the company through comprehensive onboarding.
This video can be helpful in designing a new employee onboarding process:
6. Prepare for continuous learning
Digital transformation is a work in progress. Once you’ve mastered one piece of software, a new one comes up, or a better way is found. Be ready to keep learning to stay on the cutting edge of digital technology.
Sometimes the best way to learn new technology is with old-school paper and pencil. Printouts can be a very effective learning tool for your budding digital workforce. The print has power and can literally get your team “on the same page” when developing new digital skills and workflows.
A joint study (2015) between the US Postal Service and Temple University found that printouts of text and graphics yield a stronger emotional response and are better remembered. Most successful businesses still use hard copy printouts for planning and team building, and using multi-functional printers helps them save space, money, and energy in the workplace.
Learning is a gift, not something to fear. Life is one long lesson! Embrace it—keep your digital skills up to snuff!
The most in-demand workplace digital skills
Don’t worry if you can’t build a website from scratch or write computer code. Like learning anything, digital skills are mostly a series of steps that get stored in your memory through repetition. Do something often enough, and it will stick.
The important thing about digital skills is that once you understand the basics of word processing, file sharing, and spreadsheet navigation, it’s easy to build out specific digital skills like marketing, inventory, and accounting. You’ll be a digital guru in no time!
Digital skills can be highly specialized. Here are the top digital skills employers are searching for in today’s workforce:
Programming web and app development
Writing code for new software applications and products is the heart of most digital businesses. Plus, developing AI software that “learns” and gets smarter over time is reshaping the modern business landscape.
According to EDC, there were 14 million mobile app developers in 2020. Those numbers have been rising since then. Good programmers who know their code can take your business into the future and face emerging technologies head-on. Developing machine learning and artificial intelligence skills is a major benefit in today’s marketplace.
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte in 7 countries, more than half of companies prefer to conduct training for employees to use AI in their jobs.
Cyber security skills
Consumers need to feel as safe shopping online as they do inside a brick-and-mortar storefront. Your customers need to know the information they share with you is safe. Cyber-security skills are in high demand because e-commerce has to instill that sense of safety.
Training your entire staff in the basics of cyber security is a skill that will never go to waste. But before training, you should get feedback from your team to make it more enjoyable.
For example, according to a survey conducted by TalentLMS, more than half of respondents said they would prefer cybersecurity training with less technical language.
Digital business analysis
We live in the age of big data, and interpreting that data into a business plan is a coveted skill. Business analysts and project managers can organize your data into an actionable plan. Business analysis involves data visualization, which is a skill that visualizes complex data to help guide future business decisions.
An experienced digital designer can bring a classic sense of visual design to your digital platform. It is not simply designing a cool logo or a functional website but about creating a seamless user experience for your customers.
The US Bureau Of Labor Statistics predicts demand for digital designers will grow 3 percent between 2020 and 2030, slower than some digital-based professions but still a very in-demand skill.
Project and product management
Digital product management creates unique software to meet the growing needs of your business and clients. Developing a project from the planning stages to prototypes to full-scale production requires a unique set of organizational skills. A digital project manager brings together various elements — from discovering a market need to developing and launching new products — on time and on budget.
Strong leadership and business strategy
This isn’t a digital skill — in fact, it’s a business talent as old as the hills — but it’s still an essential skill that can often get overlooked in a fast-paced digital workplace. Young people entering the marketplace often have fine digital skills but lack the leadership needed to bring their ideas to fruition.
Good leaders who make quick, incisive decisions are always in demand in both digital and analog work environments. Equally important skills include business strategy and planning. Your ideas are good, but how will you implement them? What’s your plan?
This is more than sending out email blasts and social media posts—though that’s certainly part of the job. According to the University of Vermont, digital marketing skills encompass display ads, paid ads, and email marketing, as well as SEO, web analytics, mobile marketing, and social media.
Great digital marketing analyzes data from social media, online stores, and customer feedback to shape a unified user experience.
If you want to get your message out to the public, you’ll need someone with top-notch digital marketing skills. Market research and consumer insights are essential parts of your marketing team. So is social media.
Source: Sprout Social
According to Sprout Social, over 90% of marketers say social media accelerates competition in their industry. About 31% of consumers prefer to leave feedback about a product on social media, while 18% via email and 16% review sites.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow you to engage with customers in a unique and meaningful way, whether you’re introducing a new product or extending a special sales offer. And don’t forget the power and reach of LinkedIn, which is the world’s largest professional network, with over 180 million users in the US.
Social media skills training is essential for marketing teams who want to use social platforms. For example, giving your employees the know-how on creating appealing design with beginner-friendly tools like Canva (and other similar software) will increase engagement across all of these channels!
Digital transformation and automation
Today, both large and small businesses need digital transformation and global digital transformation spending is expected to reach around 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars by 2025.
Taking an old-school business into the digital age takes time, patience, and a unique set of skills. Employees well versed in digital transformation and automation can use new tech — like AI and machine learning — to streamline business with robotics and software applications.
Digital transformation and automation skills are hard to come by but invaluable to possess.
The Cloud isn’t just a bunch of offsite hard drives. It’s where many businesses are moving their base of operations to streamline workflow and broaden their workforce reach. The pandemic “work from home” crunch forced many companies to shift operations to the Cloud, and some have found it a perfect fit.
Unfortunately, there is a dearth of talent when it comes to cloud computing skills. 86% of IT leaders surveyed in the Challenges in Cloud Transformation report say cloud-based projects stalled in 2020 due to a lack of IT talent. Entering the workforce with clouding computing skills makes you the right candidate for so many jobs.
Critical thinkers, creative thinkers, and problem solvers
These are also age-old, non-digital skills that are still in high demand by employers. These “soft skills” often make the difference between business success and failure. Critical thinking means analyzing information, and using reasoning and reflection to make informed, logical business decisions.
A good problem solver can analyze cause and effect and develop sound ways to fix a troublesome situation. On the other hand, creativity often involves letting go of tradition and exploring new ideas. A blend of all three skills — critical and creative thinking and problem-solving — is needed for every successful business.
Why learn digital skills?
Though it can be intimidating at first, developing your digital skills is not too difficult.
Many online courses—most offer free enrollment—can teach you the basics of email, data entry, online research, and general software applications, like creating spreadsheets and documents.
You could go all-in and get an official training certification. Or you can take your time and learn at your own pace via Internet videos—YouTube is a great teacher!
According to The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, nearly a third of the workforce lacks the digital skills employers need. Learning digital skills is vital for both you and your employees for the following reasons:
- It boosts employee motivation. Learning a new skill is never a bad thing. Nearly 95% of business leaders say that they expect their employees to learn new skills on the job. Employees feel empowered with acquired knowledge under their belts. So, enhancing your professional growth will help both your bottom line and the self-esteem of your workforce.
- It helps to develop and maintain a competitive edge. Age is only a number when it comes to the digital realm, and knowledge is power. It helps to establish and maintain a competitive advantage. Employees who have digital skills can compete head-to-head with the workforce’s best. Employees who know their digital skills can develop and maintain a competitive edge.
- It increases revenue. A team with sharp digital skills will not only save money on your bottom line but will also increase your revenue. From marketing to warehousing, having a workforce with digital skills makes your business more efficient and productive. Watch profit increase as your staff becomes more digitally proficient.
- It saves costs. A competent employee is an efficient employee, and knowing the basics of digital workflow can optimize your workforce into a lean, mean, money-making machine.
Increasing the knowledge of your staff is one of the best investments you can make in your business. Providing your employee with essential digital marketing skills would be mutually beneficial. It will ultimately save money over the long run through improved efficiency and increased productivity.
To sum up, improving your team’s digital skills takes time, but it’s worth the effort and investment.
The learning curve isn’t as intimidating as it seems, and the time and money you put into training and equipment will pay off with a better-educated and highly-skilled workforce.
That is a precious asset that will grow with you as your company grows.
Content & SEO specialist
Nick Huss is a digital entrepreneur and business enthusiast who constantly seeks and tests new ways of doing business better. When not doing business, Nick plays soccer, travels the world, and writes books.