Why digital skills are important for career and business success
It would be hard to think of a role that exists today that doesn’t require the use of technology in some form.
The evolution of the digital realm has been so rapid that it has become all-consuming in some areas. But the reality of this expansion is that it has occurred so quickly that many people struggle to keep up.
Only those working at the very forefront of technology could really be said to be fully competent in the use of many of the business-critical tools we employ today. For the vast majority, it is more commonly a case of ‘knowing what I need to in order to get by’.
Fortunately many of us are not expected to be experts in all of the latest technology being disseminated on a near-daily basis. But what we do need to focus on, both at an individual and business-wide level, is ensuring confidence and competence in the key tools used within a business.
Ensuring your employees are comfortable in both the use of the technology, and the manipulation of data within it, is essential
While the ‘I know what I need to’ strategy is sufficient in order to get by, it doesn’t facilitate an environment that utilises the full potential of either the tools or the individuals using them, resulting in significant wastage in terms of lost productivity, and under-utilisation of resources. Equipping employees with the appropriate knowledge and skills to use these tools more effectively is both beneficial to them and the outcome of the business in a variety of areas.
Productivity & efficiency
Technology is designed to make our lives easier, improve efficiency and facilitate higher levels of productivity, but this can only occur if those using it know how to do so properly. Having this knowledge allows an individual to be more productive and efficient, and if enabled across the workforce, will quickly translate to higher productivity and more efficient working for the wider organisation.
It is far easier for employees to switch between roles if they know how to properly use a wide range of tools; this enables more scope for internal mobility within an organisation. This in turn engenders higher levels of engagement and loyalty, and reduces turnover – all positive things for a business to achieve, and a positive outcome for employees looking to develop too.
Digital tools are invaluable for speedy communication with customers and colleagues, empowering quicker decisions to be made, fewer errors, and better outcomes.
Smarter decision making
Technical skills are becoming increasingly in demand across all businesses
Data is a big thing, and it allows better decisions to be made at all levels, but in order to have the data, you need to be able to create and manage it, which will typically involve technology.
Ensuring your employees are comfortable in both the use of the technology, and the manipulation of data within it, is therefore essential in order to allow more informed decisions to be made at all levels of the business.
Keeping business and personal data safe
Those who have a better understanding of the technology they use tend to be more in-sync with cyber security best practice allowing them to keep their own and the business’ data more secure.
Flexibility of working
If you are confident in using a wide range of digital tools within your work, it offers a much greater degree of flexibility in how and where you work, and as flexible working is one of the highest desired perks in work, it makes sense to up-skill yourself to a point where this is feasible.
From a business perspective offering flexible working is not only good for employee engagement, but is also helpful in reducing redundant spending, such as overhead costs and travel expenses, leading to significant savings to be made.
As an employee, not only will you have a wider range of tools at your disposal to solve problems, but being able to communicate with ease with a wide variety of colleagues, and peers across the business means you will be able to answer pressing questions more easily. For the organisation, if you have a workforce who are capable and confident problem solvers, it again allows for improved productivity and efficiency.
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Technical skills are becoming increasingly in demand across all businesses, and will likely continue to do so as we progress further into this digitally focussed ecosystem. Therefore having these skills will help ensure you are able to remain relevant as things continue to evolve, and even if you don’t have the skills right now in one tool, if you have a good basic grounding in digital, picking up new methods will typically be far easier.
Within the organisation, having a team of digitally-savvy employees means that again, when new technologies are released, you will hopefully face less resistance during implementation, and also a quicker on-boarding time, meaning less disruption and the improved ability to be more agile in this domain.
Learning is becoming increasingly mobile and digitally based, making it more important than ever to be able to use these tools to access it.
Whether this is just learning how to use your organisation’s LMS properly, downloading apps onto your phone to learn on the go, or making the most of YouTube to learn a new skill, technology is one of the best tools available to facilitate and promote effective learning, so it’s wise to get make the most of it.
Furthermore, from a business perspective, enabling learning that is truly anywhere, anytime will help establish and embed the idea of a learning culture; leading to a more knowledgeable, confident and capable community of workers, and better outcomes as a result.
How can we use digital tools more effectively?
If it’s a relatively simple thing you’re trying to do within a piece of software, odds are that someone in the business will know how to do it, so the first step is always to ask around.
But it’s important not to just stick to your immediate department or team, as often it’s people outside of your area that can shed the most light on such challenges.
Get formal training
The role of technology in business is only going to expand in the coming years
In the event that someone in your business doesn’t have the answer, it can be extremely useful to get formal training on specific software. You may benefit from a simple online tutorial focussing on specific areas of need, you may wish to attend a classroom course covering a bit more, or you may need to have a bespoke programme written focussing purely on your key priorities.
Regardless, having the support of someone external can be extremely helpful.
Get support from the manufacturer
In most cases you can find answers to issues on common software relatively easy, whether that’s via a colleague or formal training. But some organisations are required to use highly specialised software that doesn’t lend itself to formal or peer training.
In this instance you may decide to ask for in-depth tuition from the creators to enable employees to use it more effectively.
Last, but definitely not least; if you want to learn how to do something using certain software, but don’t have anyone to learn from directly, then find out through trial and error. This may not be the most efficient or effective way if you need to learn something quickly, or that is business critical, but it can often be a very powerful way to learn a tool as it involves learning via experience, which typically results in better recall.
The role of technology in business is only going to expand in the coming years, and as an employee, having the skills and basic grounding to readily pick these up and use them effectively is paramount to career success in today’s digitally focussed environment. It is equally as important for businesses to encourage and support this confidence in the use of technology within their workforce, to allow both the technology and the people within your organisation to work at their optimum level and achieve the best outcomes for all involved.
This article was originally featured in Issue 17 of Enhance Magazine