New and evolving digital technologies are constantly altering our approach to work and how businesses conduct their operations, but never before has their disruptive potential been so apparent than in the wake of the pandemic.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, tech and digital economic developments have come to the forefront of central and local government agendas of late. For example, during London Tech Week, the government pledged a combined £743.5m across a variety of innovative projects.
However, this spotlight on emerging tech and its key role in facilitating hybrid working practices has also highlighted the UK’s growing digital skills gap.
According to Salesforce’s Global Digital Skills Index, over three-quarters of the global workforce does not feel ready to operate in a digital-first world. Worryingly, this rises to 80% in the UK, with 45% stating they feel overwhelmed by the rate of technological change.
A prime example of this is the need to boost digital support skills, which focuses on using tools such as Microsoft Teams or customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Indeed, as the digital economy grows, narrowing the skills gaps will only become more critical. Therefore, it is crucial that reskilling and upskilling opportunities are made available to professionals across all sectors.
Digital support skills: Effects on productivity
The demand for employees with high-tech skills such as coders, programmers, and cybersecurity specialists, of course, must be addressed – but it is equally important that gaps among those in non-advanced tech roles are also bridged.
Take marketing for example. This is an area that has become increasingly reliant on digital platforms that can help optimise campaigns, drive revenue and reduce the risk of human error. More products and services within all sectors are becoming digitalised, and people need to learn how to use them.
Failing to do so could mean that businesses cannot take full advantage of digital office technologies. This could mean an inability to use productivity software and digital communication platforms or effectively using online and social media platforms to drive customer sales.
According to a report by the Learning & Work Institute, 92% of organisations state that digital skills are key to success, helping to drive growth, innovation and productivity. Being able to use these tools properly and effectively is key to company performance, and in some cases, survival.
For SMEs, this is particularly pertinent as the effects of leaking productivity are felt more harshly. That’s why it’s critical that these types of organisations build a team that is proficient in the digital and tech systems used within company operations.
For instance, CRM is vital for sales representatives looking to gain insight into customer trends. Yet, the data entry that comes with this can be a major productivity pitfall if the available tech hasn’t been taken advantage of. Getting to grips with services that improve data flow from websites to CRM systems, such as automated functions and voice recognition technology, can make all the difference between slick and efficient or time-consuming and unproductive.
Additionally, failing to use digital products to their full potential is a costly waste of an organisation’s resources. One survey found that on average, companies waste 37% of their software budget due to either investing in the wrong tools or failing to properly deploy applications, often due to a lack of understanding of how to use them.
Failing to address technology skills gaps could stifle carer progression for many and pose serious risks to businesses’ growth prospects and, in turn, the digital economy as a whole.
Reskilling and upskilling opportunities needed
As the pace of technological change accelerates, it will become harder for businesses to overlook gaps among their employees. As such, opportunities must be provided to the current workforce to reskill and upskill in digital support.
However, providing in-house skills training isn’t a realistic option for many businesses. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), small firms say the main barriers to training are time constraints (25%) and costs (21%). For this reason, 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 skills 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.
Additionally, the transferable skills gained through training courses directly link to social mobility and earning power. Digital support skills open gateways to more technical, high-paying roles that can even lead to a career in a more advanced tech position.
A shortage of skills that enable professionals to fully utilise workplace technologies is a genuine concern for businesses and will only worsen as products and processes continue to digitalise.
As such, it is vital that businesses and individuals seek out training opportunities that offer the chance to upskill and reskill in digital support. Doing so will ensure that businesses are making best use of performance and productivity-boosting technologies while opening gateways for employees toward higher paying and more advanced roles.
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.