Why are digital skills so important?

This is a guest blog from Denise McLaughlin – star Microsoft Instructor and expert in all things digital!

As a trainer who specialises in digital (IT) skills, this is a little bit like asking me “why is oxygen so important?” The thing is, nearly everything we do these days involves a level of digital skill. Furthermore, this is only going to become more prevalent as technology continues to advance, integrate with our lives and be part and parcel of our everyday work lives.

I don’t know about you, but I love technology.  From the power of my mobile, to the benefits of systems like Alexa or Google, technology makes life simpler.  The internet of things is just on the horizon. *Technical Term Alert*. The Internet of Things (got to love the use of the word “things” – you know “things”, thingy-ma-jings.  Sorry!) is already happening and it’s connecting our devices together. It’s one of those things that is complex, underneath the surface, but also surprisingly easy to see around us.  In short, we are becoming more connected. These days you can control your heating, lighting, even your washing machine, from your phone. Manufacturers today are undertaking tests with fridges that message you when you’re running out of key items and “Dash” buttons (from the likes of Amazon) allow you to re-order your favourite items in a flash.

But what does this mean in the world of work?

Fundamentally, it boils down to an ever-increasing need for the right digital skills. It’s also unwise to assume that everyone has the right level of digital skills. It’s all too easy to let common misconceptions or even unconscious biases make you think that your people have all the tools they need in their digital toolbox.  Recent surveys, of which there are many, show that in most cases less than 25% of businesses believe they are where they need to be in relation to digital skills. WOW! Plus, within the next few decades, it’s reported that 90% of all jobs will require some level of digital proficiency. DOUBLE WOW!

So, what should we do about it I hear you cry? (Maybe – I hope so!)

The key really is investment.  Invest now and invest in digital skills.  Teach people about the importance of digital skills, open their eyes to the digital world (even down to doing something different like running a course on ‘how to code’) and empower them to gain these skills for themselves.  There are some really simple steps you can take: –

  1. Don’t be afraid to start with the basics – it’s all too easy to assume that everyone is digitally literate.  However, if you create that strong framework, adding new skills on top becomes so much easier.
  2. Showcase what’s happening – get your people excited about things like big data, the internet of things, virtual reality, the Cloud.  Again, do they all understand these terms and how it might impact them? More importantly, it will get them energised by the art of the possible.
  3. Offer people choice – offer people different ways to learn.  Off-the-shelf libraries, in particular, are great ways to give people access to the knowledge they need, when they need it.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s just something that everyone knows, or they can ‘Google’ it if they need it. Truly understand your skills and your skill gaps, but never underestimate the power of true digital literacy.

Start your digital journey today – take the leap.

Denise McLaughlin is the Managing Director of ByteSize Training & Consultancy.  She’s a Master Instructor in Microsoft Office and a general all round good egg!  She’s done everything there is to do in the training world and has also produced IT training for Kids. Just like us, she wants to make the world a better place for those who use technology!

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