Many companies today find themselves drowning in a digital skills gap.
A study by tech research company International Data Corporation (IDC) has found that people waste almost a quarter of their working day just trying to figure out IT tools they’re supposed to already be using to do their jobs.
In other words, not only are many of us using technology badly, we’re wasting company time trying to come up to speed in the hope we’ll eventually get something right.
Apart from the monetary cost to organisations, the psychological toll on workers can be debilitating.
Professional services firm Deloitte says the rapid pace of technological change in the workplace is leading to a skills half-life of only 2.5 years, and that organisations are failing to adapt their training programs quickly enough.
In terms of workplace productivity, this is potentially disastrous.
Eight is great: today’s core digital skills
Just one out of 10 employees in the US is proficient with the digital tools they use, and the cost to the economy is a whopping US$1.3 trillion every year.
According to Grovo, a US-based training company, there are eight core skill areas workers need.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), we now spend an incredible 28 per cent of our workweeks reading, writing or responding to email. Grovo states the obvious: Even modest efficiency gains would free up substantial resources for other tasks.
“The only thing that takes more time is role-specific tasks, otherwise known as doing our actual job,” McKinsey adds.
To get the email beast under control, consider picking three times during the day to check and respond to them. Allow 20 minutes for this – totalling one hour per day – rather than allowing yourself to be constantly interrupted by incoming emails, which makes it harder to get back into the task you were working on.
Working with documents
Although creating and navigating digital documents has become a backbone of the modern workplace, failure to master them is leading to lost time, poor communication and errors in analysis, Grovo maintains.
Ultimately, it’s having a big impact on business profitability and outcomes.
“Wasted time [from dealing with document challenges] costs organisations US$20K per information worker per year in compensation costs alone,” IDC says in a study titled “Bridging the information worker productivity gap: New challenges and opportunities for IT”.
Security and privacy
Human error has been repeatedly shown as the weak link in corporate security. Even so, organisations worldwide continue to pay the price for a lack of training in security and privacy awareness, Grovo says.
“Time is lost repairing computers affected by viruses, proprietary data is leaked to competitors and, in severe cases, reputational damage results in lost customers,” it states.
According to SafeNet’s Breach Level Index, in the first quarter of this year 93,000 records per hour were compromised around the globe – a 233 per cent increase over the same quarter in 2013.
Related: Do your skills measure up? Assess yourself with CPA Australia's Career Guidance System
Other areas negatively impacting worker productivity are:
Attention management: The soft skills employees need to focus on high-priority tasks. In 2008, the average person had an estimated attention span of only five minutes, down from 12 minutes in 1998.
Search and research: Skills required to effectively harness online information and via a company’s internal databases. According to one MGI study, high-skill knowledge workers spend 19 per cent of their average workweek searching for and gathering information.
Platform flexibility: Necessary for fully utilising the growing range of devices, operating systems and platforms now integral to business. Grovo says these are “tools that if properly mastered should add to productivity, not act as drag as is commonly the case today”.
Digital etiquette: Sometimes referred to as “netiquette”. As social media grows, it is imperative employees have at least a basic understanding of digital copyright laws and their organisation’s compliance policies to avoid risk of litigation.
Project collaboration and management: The digitised workplace can enhance collaboration across departments and colleagues working remotely, but skills shortfalls can also result in delays, higher costs and inferior business outcomes.
Solutions to the skills gap
Understand business needs and related skill requirements
- Within the framework of the eight core digital skills, define the professional skills and technologies required for each department to achieve its goals.
Assess the skills gap
- Test competency against the professional and technical skills integral to your business, and identify priority areas.
- Design training programs to close the skills gap – workers aren’t going to acquire what they need to know through osmosis.
- Establish a repeatable model to keep workplace skills up-to-date.
Source: Grovo whitepaper – How the Digital Skills Gap Is Killing Productivity and What You Can Do About It