Digital skills are not a static set of skills that apply to an individual in a particular job, but skills that are continuously changing to meet technological advances and are transferable to meet the needs of different situations. They are more than learning about a digital process or sequence to get a desired result, and more about the context; why, when and how. Then individuals are digitally confident to tackle different digital situations and tasks, because they have the necessary understanding and skills.
With awareness that technology helps a business increase capability and productivity the majority of employers now require staff that have the confidence and understanding to embrace technology. However, we are still hearing that education is not adequately preparing students with the appropriate digital skills for today’s workplace, or the workplace of the future. But, it isn’t just about how schools are developing the skills of students, but also that employers are often not aware of the digital skills staff require to get the most out of current technology and technology they may implement in the future.
There are many predictions that training will be of the upmost importance to businesses in 2019 due to skills shortages and digital transformation being driven by maintaining a competitive edge. We will always have the innovators and the followers; those that look at how technology can bring efficiencies to their business and keep them ahead of the competition, and those that implement technology because they fear losing out to the competition.
As a company that depends totally on technology and is continually looking at how technology can improve not only our own business, but those of our customers too, we have put together our top ten necessary workplace digital skills. These will change over time as technology evolves:
1. Cyber and data security
Data is changing the way people and organisations work across the world. It is digitally stored, manipulated and read information which is critical to most organisations, whether research, personal, transactional, web or sensor data (e.g. digital measurement of heart rate or temperature). Loss of data through a cyber-attack or non-compliance of data regulations can be hugely damaging and can mean the end of a business. Cybercrime is increasing year on year with almost 50% of businesses now experiencing a cyber-attack. So it is critically important that employees have a good understanding of how to minimise the risks of a cyber-attack, maintain the safeguarding of their employer’s data and ensure data compliance.
2. Software as a service (SAAS) often known as ‘cloud software’
Over the last few years Software as a Service, a method of software delivery and licensing in which software is accessed online via a subscription, has grown hugely in popularity. With complete businesses being run ‘in the cloud’ it is really important that employees have a good understanding of how it works and the impact of the service on their job role and that of their colleagues.
3. Storage and management of data
Linked with cyber and data security, and SAAS, a good understanding of storage and management of data is imperative. Nowadays all employees are likely to be saving, moving and deleting files, and sharing files with colleagues and customers. Loss of data, hacked data, unstructured storage of data, and a lack of understanding of file sharing and version control can be very costly for a business. Having trained staff in all aspects of data storage and management is invaluable in reducing costly risks.
4. Communication and collaborative digital tools
Many organisations now conduct all their internal, supplier and customer communication and collaboration online, including meetings, task and project management, customer relationship management and email. Staff should be trained in why, when and how these tools are used so that they understand not just how to use the tools, but why they are used and in what context.
5. Presentation of data
The presentation of data using applications such as Microsoft Office tends to be the digital skills that are developed at school, but not always in the context of the workplace. For example, Microsoft Word for writing a report or meeting minutes, Microsoft Excel for calculating expenditure or sales, Microsoft Powerpoint for delivery of a presentation.
6. Mobile devices
Mobile devices in the workplace are increasingly popular, particularly in businesses with mobile workers where mobile devices increase productivity and reduce costs. However, they do present security risks to business and are why many employers have adopted strict usage policies to reduce these risks. The main risks are that if the employee is using their own phone for work they may not be sufficiently maintaining the security settings to ensure data safety. It only takes seconds for a hacker near a device to view its contents or contaminate it with malware. Employees who aren’t supplied with a work mobile which has been made secure, and are using their own, should be given training on how to configure the required security settings.
All employees using a mobile device, whether a work mobile device or their own, should receive training on configuring secure access, anti-virus software, use of wifi, storage of company data and use in line with company policy.
7. Social media for business
Many people think that as students use social media extensively in their private lives that these skills and understanding of using the digital channels are transferable to the workplace. However, using social media for business requires a different set of skills and understanding of why, when and how it’s used. Any business that uses social media should provide basic training for all staff to ensure that their reputation online is not damaged.
8. Digital problem solving
Digital problem solving skills are generic skills required in the workplace to use digital evidence to solve problems and to answer questions. This skill can only be developed if employees have a good understanding of the why, when and how relating to the technology being used in the organisation. If an employee has only learnt a process and doesn’t understand the wider context they won’t be able to problem solve. Data is often at the heart of digital problem solving and how to manipulate the data to answer a question or resolve a problem.
9. Creative content creation
Creative content creation is about engaging stakeholders, mainly customers, through online content. The skills are required in the content marketing job role, but nowadays employees in many different roles require these skills. They may be writing and sharing an e-newsletter, reporting on an event, writing a blog etc. Having employees with the skills to create content and have a good understanding of why and when content is used, and the applicable legislation, is very valuable to today’s digitally connected organisation.
Internet skills are again skills that students tend to come out of school with, however older employees may not have developed the range of digital skills to be able to efficiently utilise the internet for research. A good understanding is required of how to identify fake websites and fake news, as well as utilising a range of search techniques to obtain the information required.
Article written by Carolyn Lewis, Managing Director, eLearning Marketplace Ltd