Increased connectedness, emerging digital products, and a booming tech industry are all examples of the rapid changes occurring within the UK’s growing digital economy – all of which were accentuated by the pandemic.
The innovation shown during this period has played a key role in facilitating the move to hybrid working patterns and the development of important communication and productivity products. Such is the case that 92% of employers say that having a basic level of digital skills is important for employees at their organisation. Worryingly, however, these shifts in business practices have left many employees playing catch up, as the UK’s digital skills gap continues to widen.
Over three-quarters of the global workforce do not believe they are prepared to function in a digital-first economy, according to Salesforce’s Global Digital Skills Index. In the UK, this takes a jump to 80%, with 45% of respondents saying they feel overwhelmed by the pace of technological progress.
Skills gaps can be found across sectors, and while it’s important that more software engineer, cybersecurity expert, and AI specialist positions are filled, we must address talent shortages within non-advanced tech roles. For example, in order for businesses to thrive, it’s key that employees are competent in digital support skills – which means successfully utilising software and productivity tools such as Teams or CRM software.
Bridging skills gaps will only become more of a necessity as more processes digitise. So, it is imperative that reskilling and upskilling opportunities are made available to the workforce.
Why are digital support skills important?
As mentioned, products and business operations are becoming increasingly digitalised, which means people need to learn how to use them. But what are the consequences if they don’t?
First off, without the sufficient know-how, employees cannot take full advantage of digital office technologies, such as productivity software and digital communication platforms. Promoting products on social media, securely processing information; these technologies function as the foundation for the successful running of a business – they drive growth, innovation, and productivity.
Indeed, it’s easy to see why 76% of businesses believe that a lack of digital skills would hit their profitability, according to Wordskills UK. This leaves SMEs in a particularly vulnerable position as they are more sensitive to the financial impacts of productivity leaks. As such, it’s crucial that these kinds of organisations assemble a workforce equipped to utilise products and software required to maintain competitive.
Sales professionals, for instance, use CRM software as an essential tool to understand client trends. However, data entry processes involved in this can become incredibly time-consuming, inflicting a significant dent in productivity. So, effectively using software that can facilitate data transfer from websites to CRM systems, such as automated processes and speech recognition technology, is vital for efficiency.
Furthermore, disregarding the full potential of office technologies is a costly waste of an organization’s resources. According to one report, businesses squander 37% of their software budgets annually by purchasing the incorrect tools or failing to deploy programmes correctly, usually because they don’t know how to do so.
Evidently, roles that require digital support skills are in need of an injection of talent. Organisations should look for this first among their employees through opportunities to reskill and upskill.
Access to training is key
Where, then, should we look to provide a solution to the skills crisis? Traditional education systems must play their part in producing the next generation of tech talent, but they cannot carry the burden themselves, nor does it address the issues within the current workforce – many of whom still have decades of employment ahead.
Likewise, it is unfair to assume that all businesses have the means to address the skills gaps within their own teams. The International Labour Organization found that in 2021, 70% of large enterprises actively provided training, while only 23% of SMEs did so, highlighting a lack of available resources among smaller businesses to reskill and upskill staff.
Consequently, it’s important that local government, businesses, and training providers work together to ensure that individuals who want to acquire new digital skills know where to go.
For example, The Development Manager has partnered with West Midlands Combined Authority to run free digital support bootcamps targeted at individuals looking to become tech-savvy in workplace software and applications. As well as grasping new knowledge of the systems they operate with, learners can gain certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist.
Also, the transferable skills acquired through reskilling and upskilling programmes can assist in boosting social mobility. A better grasp of tech and certificates to match can lead to increase economic inclusion, and positions with a focus on technology usually come with higher earning power.
Programmes such as digital support skills bootcamps will act as an important stepping stone for current employees looking to catch up with digitised products and processes. For this reason, I would encourage businesses and individuals to seek out training providers in their area that offer people the opportunity to reskill and upskill in order to become competent in new and emerging tech. This will lead to an uptick in productivity for businesses, a more secure future for SMEs, and a stronger digital economy all together.
By Derrin Kent, Managing Director, The Development Manager
Derrin Kent is Managing Director at The Development Manager, a UK-based organisation that coaches and trains employees to develop tech and digital skills in order to address the workforce productivity gap.
The West Midlands Digital Skills Partnership brings together the region’s leading tech employers, digital entrepreneurs, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Department of Culture Media and Sport, as well as universities, colleges and other training providers. Their aim is to identify what digital skills provision is needed across the West Midlands and encourage partners to work together to address these and emerging needs, and to attract and retain investment and talent in the region.
Training in digital support skills is a must for UK businesses was published on FE News by Derrin Kent