If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re pretty competent when it comes to using technology at work.
An average day might involve checking your automated alerts, switching between multiple applications, hosting and attending online meetings or maybe getting stuck into some in-depth spreadsheet analysis.
As organisations have shifted to hybrid work, the expectation for employees to demonstrate these digital capabilities has only increased.
An RMIT report by Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that by 2025, there will be 156,000 more technology workers in the Australian workforce than there were in 2019 and that 87% of jobs in Australia will require digital literacy skills.
Unfortunately, according to Salesforce’s 2022 Global Digital Skills Index, most employees (76%) do not feel prepared for working in a digital-first world.
This is unsurprising given the accelerated transformation organisations have had to undergo as a result of the pandemic and the gaps that may have been created.
Many employees are feeling this pressure, with one third of RMIT report respondents saying they felt their job requirements had changed.
Interestingly, of the Australians surveyed by Deloitte, data science and analytics, web application and software development were considered the most ‘in demand’ knowledge areas.
It’s not ideal that employees are struggling.
Smart organisations will step up and provide opportunities for learning and development to support their workforce.
By doing so, organisations should see an improvement in employee wellbeing, a reduction in staff turnover and greater productivity and innovation.
But how would you even know if there’s a problem or the specifics of the skill gap?
Organisations need to regularly survey and assess their staff to identify what skills they currently have, which skills are in development and which skills are needed for the years ahead.
This can be done via surveys through a centralised platform, like an intranet, that all employees have access to.
Digital skills can be categorised by the level of difficulty from entry-level to advanced, and employees should also be asked open-ended questions on which skills they’d like to develop.
Once an organisation has a clearer picture of the landscape, it can then look at what initiatives and resources are currently in place to support internal and external learning and development.
Are learning modules on a range of digital topics easily accessible to staff (including frontline workers)? RMIT says only half of working surveyed Australians can access employer-provided training.
Does your organisation offer financial support for those wishing to undertake study? Are employees aware of this?
These are the types of questions that you need to be asking in order to determine whether your organisation promotes a culture of learning.
There’s a number of initiatives that your organisation can implement in order to start closing the digital skills gap:
1. Form a learning and development taskforce to be will be responsible for the roadmap ahead. This can include representatives from key departments including Human Resources and IT.
2. Ensure your executive leadership team are part of this upskilling – don’t forget that change happens from the top down. The more technologically savvy your leadership team appear to be, the more likely this is to shape how employees behave.
3. Enhance learning and development technology capabilities to ensure that all employees are able to easily access information at any time and from any device. Even if your organisation is not offering internal training on a particular topic, try to point employees in the right direction, whether it’s recommending a free university course or connecting them with an internal mentor.
4. Regularly communicate to employees on why there is a need to be investing their time into skill development. Research overwhelmingly indicates that employees are keen to learn new skills.
The road ahead looks incredibly exciting, with advancements in artificial intelligence, blockchain and the metaverse, all on the near horizon.
Furthermore, citizen development is creating a real opportunity for any technology-savvy member of an organisation to step up and make a real difference to the way we work.
As technology continues to evolve, let’s keep empowering employees to be better and to do more.
Chloe Dervin is the co-founder and managing director of WebVine, a digital transformation and Microsoft 365 consultancy.
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