Nearly four employees out of 10 lack essential digital workplace skills, and roughly 11.8 million people do not master even one of Lloyds’ 17 Essential Digital Skills for Work — the UK’s benchmark for digital skills created by market research firm Ipsos MORI on behalf of Lloyds Bank.
These are mind-boggling statistics considering how much the digital world has grown since the onset of the pandemic, now more than two years ago. Digital workplace skills such as the use of collaboration tools, the ability to interpret spreadsheet data, accessing digital pay slips or updating software are fundamental today, for both employees and companies alike.
Ensuring that all employees — technical and non-technical — have these skills can be pivotal to the success of a business.
“It is invaluable if an employee can troubleshoot problems themselves up to a certain level," said Tracey Beveridge, head of HR at Blackburn, UK-based Personnel Checks, emphasizing the importance of digitally savvy employees. "For an employee to be able to overcome these without distracting team members or calling IT support is a beneficial skill.”
4 Essential Digital Workplace Skills
According to Lloyd's list, there are 17 skills that are essential for the digital workplace. Here are four important ones:
1. Basic Computer Literacy
Basic computer skills are a necessity in today’s world. Companies rely on multiple software tools to get the work done and must, therefore, have a computer-literate workforce.
“Everyone should have basic computer literacy skills, including the ability to use a mouse, navigate menus and type on a keyboard,” said Omer Usanmaz, CEO and co-founder of Chicago-based Qooper.
Lacking basic computer skills leads to immense productivity losses. For instance, imagine an IT team investing precious time helping employees with basic tasks and troubleshooting every issue. Such a model would be highly inefficient and unsustainable.
2. Familiarity with Common Apps and Collaboration Software
In a digital working environment, companies use multiple applications, from Slack, Zoom and Teams, to Notion, Jira, Trello and Discord, to name just a few. Having employees with basic to advanced proficiency in these cloud-based apps supports greater productivity.
“Most processes now happen in the cloud. Thus, skills like uploading, downloading and sharing files, creating and editing documents, and using spreadsheets to interpret data have become essential workplace skills,” said Linda Shaffer, the chief people and operations officer at San Francisco-based Checkr.
While most of these collaboration platforms are intuitive and common in the workplace, employers may still want to offer training sessions to help employees improve their skills and perform additional tasks using these apps.
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3. Conducting Online Research
Google's search engine is now so engrained in every fabric of our lives, it has long become an official verb. According to marketing platform Skai, Google handles 3.8 million searches per minute on average across the globe.
“Googling” is an essential part of day-to-day work, and employees should be able to sort through massive amounts of information on the internet to find relevant data. This critical skill can be the difference between making poor decisions based on misinformation or accelerating a process by tapping into available data and insights.
4. Data Analysis
It doesn't matter how much data you have if you can't interpret or gain insight from it. The use of spreadsheets is one of those essential skills that’s a must-have for every employee.
According to the Essential Digital Skills report, 23% of UK employees have trouble using spreadsheets to interpret data. For businesses to make better-informed decisions that will drive growth or improve revenue, having employees with this skill is vital.
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Building a Digitally Savvy Workforce
The best companies have a workforce that is proficient and adept in a range of digital skills. They stay current on new developments, continually seek to improve employees’ existing skills and acquire new ones. They also conduct assessments to identify skills shortages.
“This assessment can help you identify areas where your team needs improvement and identify employees who are digital experts," said Usanmaz.
Companies can improve their skills arsenal through ongoing training and development. In the digital workplace, there are multiple ways to deploy training to yield results:
1. Video Resources
Employees can learn faster and complete essential workplace tasks through video guides and demonstrations. Organizations that do not have the resources to invest in video training can create their own videos through pre-recorded sessions with in-house experts.
“Watching videos demonstrating how to improve digital skills has been advantageous, and we promote employees spending time watching YouTube to advance their skills,” said Beveridge.
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2. Mentorship or Companion Learning
By pairing up members of a team based on complementary skillsets, employees can learn directly from one another. In a digital workplace, this means watching an employee perform a task live and having the ability to ask questions in real time.
3. Dedicated Training
Digital workplaces use many different software tools. To ensure staff is proficient in using the tools made available to them, leaders may need to provide tool-specific training tailored to the company’s needs.
“This is where training and onboarding come in," said Shaffer. "It’s important that employers provide employees with the resources they need to learn how to use new tools and software. You can also allow them to experiment with these tools under low-risk conditions to assess their progress."
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4. Online Courses
If there's any lesson taken from the Great Resignation, it's that employees are looking to grow and develop. Companies can boost employee satisfaction by providing online courses that help workers improve their skills in areas of interest to them — and are beneficial to the organization's growth.
“These courses can be taken at the employee's own pace and on their own time," said Usanmaz. "Employers can encourage employees to take these courses by offering incentives such as paid time off or a bonus.”