Here in the UK, we have an acknowledged digital skills gap between the haves and the have-nots.
A survey of 1,400 businesses back in April by the British Chambers of Commerce found 52% of their respondents reported a slight shortage in digital competencies, 21% said the shortage was “significant” and 3% described it as “critical”. More than half of the businesses said that the issue is increasing staff workloads and 29% reported that the skills shortage is leading to higher operating costs.
A recent Government report said that 90% of jobs already require digital skills to some degree, and concludes that the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy £63billion a year in lost GDP.
Add to this the rise of automation, social and digital technology, artificial intelligence – all coming to a workplace near you soon – and we see why the digital skills gap will be an increasing problem. Without action, the gap will only widen. Those who are already struggling with technology will continue to be left behind; perhaps permanently.
It is time for HR to get involved. What can we and our organisations do to close the gap?
There are three important considerations.
Number one is making the case for technology. Sometimes, this does actually mean making a business case – checking out suppliers, carrying out an analysis of costs and benefits and writing a paper for the Board. But there is something more fundamental. You have to explain to employees and managers why they need to care about technology. Innovations in technology can take time to spread. Until they become commonplace or mainstream, many will struggle to see what is in it for them, which of their problems technology can solve or where it adds to their lives. So it is worth investing some time in articulating the bigger picture. In much the same way some people didn’t see the need for a mobile phone or an internet connection but now use them every day, some people will need help exploring new technology.
Next is training. This needs to be all-encompassing. It isn’t just about training people on the technology they need to use at work, right now, but providing a whole range of skills about a whole lot of technology. Remember that there may be some people struggling with the basics like email or the internet – it isn’t just about emerging technology. Meet people where they are at that moment.
Finally, and too often overlooked, is the need for leaders and HR to act as role models and lead the way. If we want the benefits of technology in the workplace, leaders and HR need to put their money where their latest tweet is. Organisations need everyone to have technology skills. And this doesn’t just mean writing an acceptable use policy! When leaders and HR understand the landscape they will be best place to take their organisations into the future.
When it comes to technology, you have only two choices: hang back or get ahead.
Tim Scott describes himself as a People Director, Social media enthusiast, HR writer and speaker. Prior to founding The Work Consultancy, he spent 20 years in HR roles across a variety of sectors, successfully leading People and OD teams to work with senior management teams and Boards to transform our organisations’ people practices.
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