The pandemic accelerated an already-accelerating rate of digital transformation, forcing more people to work remotely than ever before. As a result, there has never been a greater global demand for professionals, particularly those with advanced digital skills.
By Zuko Mdwaba, area vice-president of Salesforce South Africa
Addressing the digital skills gap is critical not only for improving business competitiveness and employee performance, but also for ensuring that everyone in our new digital-first world has the skills to participate, and investing in the necessary tools to do so is vital.
In fact, the International Finance Corporation estimates that 230 million jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills by 2030. Addressing the digital skills gap isn’t just important to increase business competitiveness and employee performance, our new digital-first world revolves around everyone having the skills to participate and investment in the right tools to achieve this is vital.
Businesses and individuals must first identify which skills to invest In
Digital literacy is increasingly a requirement in every part of our lives. Similarly to how email was once a novel concept that has since become second nature to billions of people, blockchain and artificial intelligence have moved from the niche to the mainstream.
Businesses that prioritise digital readiness will be best positioned to prosper in this ever-changing digital world. By auditing their present workforce’s abilities and those required for the future, businesses may position themselves for success and resilience in the future.
The first approach is to evaluate the skills in which to invest. The five most critical digital skills that businesses need to invest in today and over the next five years, according to all survey respondents, are collaboration technology skills, digital administrative skills, encryption and cybersecurity skills, e-commerce and digital trade skills, and project management technology skills.
These skills are different from those normally taught in traditional school settings, such as coding and data science, and highlight the importance of ongoing professional development in the workplace.
However, as with any educational task, treating learners as a homogeneous group is not a winning method. Businesses must invest time in understanding their current and potential workforces, while also empowering individuals to self-identify their workplace and everyday digital skills readiness.
Bespoke Is best when It comes to digital upskilling
Using the data from its Global Digital Skills index, Salesforce have identified six distinct learner profiles, each with varying digital skills readiness and learning styles. The profiles were created to help learners and businesses understand common traits and characteristics between groups, whilst also giving information about how best to approach upskilling each one.
The profiles are separated by those who have strong digital skills readiness and a keenness to learn: Proactive Learners and Established Skill Seekers. Those who are prepared for today’s digital skills, but lack future planning: Unprepared “Prepareds” and Living In The Now. And those who have the lowest workplace digital skills readiness but have hesitations around upskilling: “Everyday Skills” Seekers and Timid Learners.
The differences highlighted by these groups further emphasises the importance of multi-dimensional training.
For example, of the profiles that had below-average digital skills readiness, those in the ‘Timid Learner’ group felt the most overwhelmed in regard to upskilling, needing a more firm guidance and encouragement to participate in learning new digital skills.
Conversely, those in the ‘Unprepared Prepared’ group, who also had below-average workplace digital skills, felt very prepared and were the most likely not to engage in any training to grow their skill level because they felt they didn’t need to. According to their profile, learners in this group engaged mostly with visual and interactive tools, as they encourage active participation.
Through delving deeper into learning styles, businesses can understand how educating one group requires a completely different approach from those in another, even though the ultimate aim – upskilling – remains the same.
In order for companies to make real progress in upskilling their workforce in a digital-first world of work, it’s important to recognise that everyone learns differently. Taking time to understand the people who make up a company’s workforce can ensure businesses work with individuals to build tailored learning journeys and make real strides in bridging the digital skills gap.
Targeted training is vital to success
Businesses have a critical role to play in closing the skills gap. This includes helping employees understand and identify their own strengths and creating opportunities in how they learn these new digital skills.
By building tailored training programmes based not on what they think workers should know but on what workers actually want, and need to know, companies can create a working culture that empowers all employees to connect, learn and progress from anywhere.