In today’s working era, digital skills are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but, rather, a ‘must have’. Organisations that refuse to adapt to new technologies risk falling behind, generating the so-called digital skills gap.
And it is precisely this topic that we will discuss in this article.
What is the digital skills gap?
Digital Skills Gap is a terminology used to describe the discrepancy between the digital skills required by the labour market and those actually possessed by the current workforce.
It highlights the lack of digital skills among workers in relation to those needed to do their jobs effectively in the digital age. This gap can relate to technical skills, such as programming and data analysis, but can also extend to more general skills such as digital literacy, online safety and the ability to use digital tools to work more efficiently.
The digital skills gap can have serious implications for businesses and the economy. Companies may find it difficult to recruit staff with the necessary digital skills, which can hinder innovation and growth. At the same time, workers who do not possess these skills may find themselves excluded from job opportunities.
Addressing the digital skills gap requires a joint effort by companies, training providers and governments. This may include training and retraining existing workers, integrating digital skills into school education and promoting career paths in the digital sector.
What is meant by digital skills?
Digital skills are all those competences that enable a person to use digital technology with awareness and criticality. These skills cover a wide range of abilities: from the most basic, such as knowing how to use a computer or surf the Internet, to the most advanced, such as programming, data analysis or managing complex systems.
Digital skills can be grouped into several categories.
- Basic digital literacy: using commonly used digital devices and software, such as knowing how to use a computer, surf the Internet, use a word processing programme or send an e-mail.
- Digital communication and collaboration: communicating effectively through digital tools (such as e-mail, social media, forums, video calls, etc.). It also includes the ability to work collaboratively using digital tools, such as project management platforms or document sharing software.
- Digital information management: searching, evaluating and organising digital information. For example, knowing how to use search engines effectively, how to assess the credibility of online sources and how to organise digital information so that it can be easily found.
- Digital content creation: creating and editing digital content, such as text documents, presentations, images, videos and websites.
- Computational thinking: solving problems using computer concepts and tools, such as programming or data analysis
- Digital safety and problem solving: using digital technology safely and ethically, as well as the ability to solve technical problems.
- Data literacy: understanding, interpreting, creating and communicating data as meaningful information.
What are digital hard skills?
Digital Hard Skills are the specific technical skills required to work effectively in a digital environment. These skills are often measurable and teachable, unlike soft skills, which are more related to interpersonal skills and personality. Here are some examples of digital hard skills.
- Programming and web development: knowledge of programming languages is a key skill for many technology roles.
- Data analysis: collecting, analysing and interpreting large amounts of data to help a business make informed decisions.
- Cybersecurity: with the increasing amount of sensitive data being stored digitally, the ability to protect this information from external threats is critical. This includes understanding the various types of security threats, the ability to implement protective measures and knowledge of cybersecurity best practices.
- Cloud Computing: the ability to work with and within cloud computing platforms such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure has become a key skill in many organisations.
- SEO and SEM: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are key digital skills for online marketing. These skills cover the ability to optimise websites and content for search engines and to use tools such as Google Ads to create effective advertising campaigns.
- Social media management: this concerns the ability to use social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to achieve desired goals.
It is clear that a professional does not necessarily need to possess all the Digital Hard Skills mentioned. It all depends on one’s job specialisation which digital skills it requires. It is different, however, for Soft Skills, which are generally welcome regardless of the role held in the company.
What are Digital Soft Skills?
Digital Soft Skills represent the interpersonal and behavioural skills that help the individual to succeed in the digital environment. Although these skills are not as specific and technical as Digital Hard Skills, they are just as important. Here are some examples of digital soft skills:
- Digital communication: communicate effectively through various digital channels, such as e-mail, instant messaging, social media and video conferencing. Understanding the differences between these channels and knowing how to choose the most appropriate one for each situation is crucial.
- Netiquette: these are the rules of courtesy and behaviour to follow when communicating on the Internet. Understanding netiquette is important for maintaining professional and respectful interactions in a digital context.
- Digital time management: with the increase of remote work and the amount of digital information at our disposal, it is crucial to be able to manage one’s time and digital activities efficiently.
- Digital critical thinking: the ability to critically evaluate online information, distinguishing between reliable and unreliable sources, is a key competence in the information age.
- Basic digital security: having a basic understanding of digital security best practices (such as using strong passwords and being cautious about opening suspicious attachments) is important for all web users.
- Autonomous digital learning: with ever-changing technologies and digital trends, the ability to learn autonomously and keep one’s digital skills up-to-date is a good requirement.
What are the causes of the skills gap?
The skills gap is a problem that still plagues many companies in a variety of sectors. We asked ourselves about it and tried to identify the most obvious factors that cause it:
- Rapid technological evolution: the speed at which technology is advancing is unprecedented. New tools, platforms and technologies are constantly emerging, making it difficult for individuals and organisations to keep up.
- Changes in the labour market: demographic changes, such as the retirement of older generations and the entry of younger ones into the labour market, can lead to a skills gap. Current generations may have stronger digital skills.
- Inadequate education and training: sometimes education programmes fail to keep pace with the changing labour market, leaving graduates without the skills required by employers.
- Lack of on-the-job training: organisations may not invest enough in training and development or the training provided may not be aligned with the skills employees need to acquire.
- Lack of awareness of the skills needed: in some cases employees may not be aware of the type of skills required to progress in their career or to move to a new role.
- Regional differences: sometimes the skills gap may be amplified by regional differences. For example, some areas may have a surplus of workers with certain skills while other areas may have a shortage.
How to overcome the Skills Gap?
The skills gap represents a significant challenge for many companies in this era of rapid digitisation.
As new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and blockchain continue to evolve, companies are trying to keep up, investing in the training and development of their employees to close this skills gap.
But how can employees be retained, engaged and motivated in a rapidly changing labour market? In this section, we will explore strategies that organisations can adopt to combat the skills gap, offering targeted training, establishing strategic partnerships, recruiting carefully and investing in advanced technology. Each of these approaches has the potential to increase not only the individual skills of employees, but also the organisation’s overall productivity and competitiveness.
Training and Development
The role of training and development in bridging the digital skills gap is essential. These programmes help employees to stay up-to-date and competitive in the changing labour market.
An effective training programme should be targeted at a company’s specific skills needs and should provide a combination of theoretical and practical learning. This may include training on new software or technologies, learning new programming languages, data management training and so on.
To be effective, training programmes should be continuously updated to reflect changes in the technological landscape. They should also be flexible to adapt to individual learning styles. Some employees may benefit from more self-directed learning, while others may prefer a more structured approach.
Training and development should always be seen as a long-term investment.
Partnerships with other companies or training institutions
Partnerships with other companies or training institutions can be a key strategy to overcome the digital skills gap. Collaborating with external parties offers a number of advantages.
Firstly, it gives companies access to specialised skills and resources that may not be available internally.
Secondly, partnerships can enable faster learning. Companies can learn from the experiences of their partner organisations, avoiding common mistakes and accelerating the implementation of new initiatives.
In addition, partnerships can help create a broader ecosystem of digital competencies. Companies can work together to define competence standards, develop joint training programmes and share best practices. This can help raise the level of digital competence across the entire industry sector.
Finally, partnerships can foster innovation. Collaboration with external companies or training institutions can lead to new ideas, new solutions and new ways of doing things. This can be especially important in a rapidly changing field like digital.
Of course, creating effective partnerships requires time, resources and commitment. Companies need to be clear about the objectives of the partnership, ensure strategic alignment with the partner and carefully manage the relationship to ensure that both parties benefit from the collaboration.
Targeted recruitment is an effective way to overcome the digital skills gap, particularly when there are specialised skills that the company needs to acquire in a relatively short timeframe.
The first step in targeted recruitment requires a clear understanding of the digital skills the company needs. This may require a thorough analysis of the company’s current capabilities, its digital ambitions and areas where gaps exist. This can be done, for example, with our digital solution ‘Digital readiness’. This tool understands strengths and weaknesses of the team to guide training strategies and targeted headhunting.
Once these skills have been identified, the company can then develop a recruitment strategy to attract and hire people with the desired requirements. This could include posting job vacancies on specialised platforms, attending job fairs or networking events related to digital but also using specialised recruitment agencies.
During this process, it is important not only to assess the technical skills of candidates, but also their adaptability and desire to learn.
Targeted recruitment should be integrated with other strategies to address the digital skills gap, such as training and developing existing staff and creating a work environment that fosters continuous learning and innovation.
Investing in technology
Investment in technology is a crucial aspect in overcoming the digital skills gap. Not only does it provide employees with the tools they need to work effectively in a digital environment, but it can also help develop and improve digital skills within the organisation.
Investing in technology can take many forms: every company will have different technology needs and priorities. Therefore, it is important to identify the investments that will offer the greatest return in terms of digital skills development.
In addition to purchasing or upgrading technology, it is crucial to ensure that employees have the necessary skills to use it effectively. This may require on-the-job training or other forms of learning.
Finally, while investment in technology requires a significant upfront expenditure, it can also offer a significant return on investment in terms of productivity, efficiency and business competitiveness.
The Role of Government and Institutions in Reducing the Digital Skills Gap
Government and institutions play a central role in bridging the digital skills gap. Education and training are indeed key areas where they can intervene to ensure that people are ready to live in a digital economy.
Awareness-raising campaigns are a powerful tool that would help people understand the importance of digital skills and motivate entrepreneurs to develop them.
The government could develop educational and training programmes that include a strong focus on digital skills. These could be implemented at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels, as well as through vocational training programmes. Ensuring that curricula are up-to-date and aligned with the needs of the labour market is crucial.
It would also be appropriate to invest in digital infrastructure such as broadband and mobile, which are all means to ensure that as many people as possible have access to digital technologies. This can be especially important in rural areas or those with poor or non-existent Internet connections.
If you would like to find out how to manage and reduce the digital skills gap, please contact us.