Fixing the digital skills gap

Fixing the digital skills gap

As technological change sweeps through organisations small and large, it’s creating a digital skill gap that many SMEs struggle to fill. Even large organisations, faced with the same problem but armed with considerable IT and training departments, can find closing their digital skill gap a complicated task.

A survey by Fujitsu of 1,400 employees shows that 77% believe their organisation’s future success hinges on the effective use of digital technology. Yet a separate survey shows that 49% of SMEs face a digital skills gap.

From moving to cloud storage to utilising conference calling apps, being cybersecurity aware and analysing and drawing usable insights from data, SMEs need employees to possess digital skills and capability to perform their core job function effectively.

On top of these general digital skills, certain employees may require additional skills to complete specific duties and add value to your business. For example, your accountant could learn IT programming skills in order to contribute to system improvement projects as the organisation becomes more automated. Or your sales manager could learn to write blogs that engage your customers.

Identify digital skill gaps

Firstly though, you need to identify your SME’s digital skills gaps. This starts with ensuring you have an accurate picture of the skills of your existing employees. You or your people managers will already have a good understanding of their skills, but you can also have open and honest one-on-one conversations with staff to delve more deeply. Discuss not only any digital skills you or they feel they may be lacking but any that could help them do their job more effectively.

Next consider your SME’s objectives and the digital skills your team requires to achieve them. Don’t forget to consider the planned introduction of any new digital tools that necessitate the upskilling of staff.

You can then compare the digital skills you need with those your existing employees possess in order to identify any gaps.

By linking to your organisation’s objectives you’ll also identify the most time-sensitive gap you need to concentrate on closing first.

Support your existing workforce

Once you’ve identified your digital skill gaps, it’s time to work on resolving them. Unfortunately this is something that SMEs can struggle with. Yes, existing employees can be offered training, but with an OECD study showing that SMEs are involved in up to 50% less training than larger firms a better solution may be to employ IT contractors as a resource to quickly fill technical skill gaps while simultaneously upskilling your existing team.

This ensures you support your existing workforce needs while increasing the digital capabilities of your own team. This also has engagement and retention advantages, since learning and development is increasingly important to employees.

Utilise ‘hidden’ digital capabilities

You can also tap into digital capabilities that staff may use outside their everyday job. For instance, Deloitte’s Lessons from Digital Leaders report reveals how a major airline asked their existing workforce about their digital capabilities. It turned out that several staff ran websites in their spare time and were keen to do the same at work. Perhaps one of your employees possesses relevant digital know-how that could be shared with colleagues? It’s worth finding out.

There’s no denying that SMEs face a digital skills gap. Identifying and resolving yours will prepare your organisation to take advantage of new and innovative digital technologies and stay ahead of competitors in our rapidly advancing world of work.

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