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Digital skills for the workplace

Recruitment | 10 Min Read

Digital skills for the workplace

Preface

We have witnessed a monumental digital transformation in the past decade as social media, smart devices, 4G and 5G internet, advanced analytics, cloud, artificial intelligence, among others, have seeped into the very fabric of how organizations conduct their business and drive their outreach. Businesses that progressively upgraded their systems, outlook and processes to embrace digital transformation, displaying agility in adapting to the digital ways, are already in a pole position, enjoying an advantage over their competitors.

While digital transformation was steadily making its way into our personal and professional lives, along came the pandemic and changed the world in more ways than one. Its impact on health, economy and society are alarmingly evident. However, one cannot subsume its role in bringing digital technologies to the forefront. Digital skills and tools emerged as indispensable components of the workplace as a vast populace remained confined to their homes for prolonged periods, owing to lockdowns of varying degrees, some sweeping and others localized.

Every aspect of human life moved from the physical world to the virtual world – work, education, essentials shopping, socializing, etc. Resultantly, technology companies, such as Amazon, Zoom, Instagram, TikTok, and Netflix, witnessed a never-before boom as people sought avenues to shop, stay entertained and connected – all from the comfort of their homes.

Many businesses moved to a remote work setting and used digital technologies to collaborate and maintain productivity. In turn, this made companies realize that they could only ensure employee productivity in a remote work environment if they possessed at least a rudimentary understanding of digital skills to easily adapt to digital tools.

Even though countries the world over have started vaccination drives to inoculate their populace, businesses are considering extending the remote work arrangements for the foreseeable future. This realization that the remote work setting is likely to continue for some more time brings us to the present-day status-quo where digital tools remain closely knit into our lives. The future looks bright only for those with the zeal to learn, upskill and reskill themselves with digital skills.

Digital skills are rapidly translating from “good to have” to “must have,” especially in the corporate world, just as soft skills emerged as a priority for companies a few years ago. The rapid digitization of skills has, on the one hand, opened new job opportunities. But, on the other hand, it has widened the chasm in the skill gaps, resulting in unfulfilled job openings and a glaring mismatch between aspirants and companies seeking employees.

The accelerated pace at which we are rushing toward digitization of businesses has primarily established that digital skill is an enabler. And that this enabler will help organizations undertake the digital transformation journey successfully, helping them emerge victoriously.

It is also evident that there is:

 

In today’s digital age, the flow of data and content is increasingly becoming rapid by the day and brands have to keep up. This is why maximizing digital skills in the workplace is not just merely an advantage, it is a necessity.

Michelle Davies
Co-Founder & Editor-In-Chief, The Best Ever Guide To Life

In this blog, we will delve deeper into the fundamentals of digital skills, the need for digitally competent employees, how to bridge the digital skills gap, and the role of digital skills assessment tools. Digital skills affect not only organizations but also educational institutions and policymakers. Hence, organizations do not acquire them in silos but through collective efforts, resulting in a trickledown.

Digital skills fuel the digital economy. Earlier, digital skills were needed by only a handful of people working in niche domains such as IT. But that perception is changing rapidly.

The pace of digital development has been steadily gathering momentum for many years. Each advancement feeds into the next and so increases the rate of change. Digital technology is the reality of the world we live in. It touches every aspect of our lives in a way. In the modern workplace, digital skills are highly valued and, in the future, digital skills will be vital.

Harriet Chan
Co-founder, CocoFinder

What are digital skills?

Digital skills are various skills and abilities that cumulatively enable an individual to communicate effectively, collaborate and solve problems using digital devices, applications, and tools for personal and professional fulfillment.

According to Cornell University, digital skills can be defined as “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”

Digital skill is any skill that qualifies a person to become digitally literate. From using the Uber app to call a cab to ordering food from a food delivery app, from responding to an email to accessing your files on Google Drive, digital skills are ubiquitous. Digital skills are no longer confined to white-collar jobs and have percolated into the blue-collar job market. However, there are varying stages of digital skills, starting with basic skills, intermediate, and then advanced.

  • Basic digital skills, commonly known as digital literacy, are confined to functional abilities, such as using digital devices, accessing the apps on your phone, etc. Basic digital skills are ingrained in millennials and Gen Y. These digital skills are now considered non-negotiable for any job role, whether for on-call taxi service or app-based food delivery service and are considered an essential skill, much like basic numeracy and literacy. The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” Governments usually take up digital literacy on a mass level to create awareness around digital skills, provide upskilling opportunities, and enhance employment opportunities.

PMGDISHA (Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan), a GoI initiative, aims to bridge the digital divide by reaching around 40% of India’s rural households. Likewise, the US Digital Literacy program empowers teachers and other education sector stakeholders to effectively integrate technology into their teaching. Similarly, every country has their programs, which are intended to make their citizens digitally literate.

  • Intermediate digital skills are role and industry-specific skills that may include certain software and tools to help you perform better in your job role. For instance, it could entail using a specific CRM software in an organization. Your salesperson may not perform well without its knowledge. There’s no blanket definition or list of intermediate digital skills as they are unique to every organization and job role. For a particular organization, the knowledge of a specific CRM, such as Zoho, may be a prerequisite. However, expertise in Salesforce could be an intermediate skill for another organization. Also, intermediate digital skills are not limited to individual performance but also impact company performance. For example, selling a digital solution to a client requires an employee to know its workings, which directly impacts a company’s bottom line. Intermediate digital skills are a combination of generic skills, such as MS Office tools, and role-specific skills, such as CRM software, specific to a sales role.
  • Advanced digital skills refer to highly specific skills required for particular job roles, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, big data analytics, etc., that are transforming how organizations operate and perceive their businesses. Advanced digital skills require proficiency in intermediate digital skills and should ideally be taught as part of the curriculum in higher education institutions. Since advanced digital skills are relatively new to the world of work, acquiring them mandates formal training interventions. Currently, organizations are providing them to the existing workforce through digital upskilling training programs.Every vertical has its own set of advanced digital skills, depending on what is trending. For example, digital data visualization, SEO, analytics tools, UX Design, etc., are some of the advanced digital skills for marketing. On the contrary, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, cloud computing, etc., are the buzzwords for technology.

 

 

However, digital skills are the future of employment, and thus necessary measures need to be taken to ensure relevance. The demand for digitally skilled workers is increasing continually, and acquiring these skills is critical for excelling in a digital economy.

 


The growing importance of digital skills in the modern workplace

While I can enumerate the importance of digital skills in many ways, let me corroborate by citing a great example. Dr. Lal PathLabs is a leading pathology lab and diagnostic healthcare service provider in India. Dr. Lal PathLabs has digitized its services by applying insights and cutting-edge technology to create value for all stakeholders while yielding greater economies of scale.

The company started like any other pathology lab, providing a host of medical tests at its labs and onsite and report collection after that. Then came the era of home sample collection, toward which the company pivoted quickly. While the organization was an established service provider, stiff competition necessitated setting itself apart through innovation. So, Dr. Lal PathLabs digitized its entire process using a centralized information technology platform that fully integrated all its networks and provided all the necessary information in one place. Right from the time when a sample was collected, the process was recorded on its app for the customer to track. It offered digital reports on the app, offering an additional feature. The app also kept records of the customers’ test results, enabling hassle-free tracking of their health indices.

Dr. Lal PathLabs automated its processes, analyzed and provided better data insights to the customer, thus guaranteeing competitive advantage and customer retention. In the process, Dr. Lal PathLabs ensured digital upskilling of all its employees, right from the sample collectors who would create the customers’ profiles and start the digital process to the technicians who processed the samples and gave the go-ahead to generate the reports. And, lastly, the app team that used data analysis to offer cohesive insights to the customer.

Dr. Lal PathLabs’s example encompasses all levels of digital skills, from basic skills, in which a sample collector was trained to advance digital skills that the app backend team used.

There are many examples of digital transformation – where businesses have acquired digital skills through recruitment or training.

Digital skills are important in the digital transformation process of a modern workplace for the following reasons:

Boost in business productivity

Updating an employee's digital skills assures that there are no unproductive gaps in their line of work and that work occurs most effectively and efficiently. Besides, digital skills are closely linked to business productivity, which means the digital skills of every employee push businesses closer to achieving their productivity goals.

Ahead in the race

Look around, and you will see a world of technological advancements. Global businesses are operating digitally, a trend that has gained further momentum owing to the pandemic. So, any company that takes the initiative to upgrade its employees’ digital skills has an advantage over its competitors.

Innovation

"Working smart” is the motto of digital skills. Increasing productivity in the workplace has little to do with putting in long work hours. It's employees’ creativity that counts. The digital world is exploding with opportunities for improvisation and innovation. It is a watershed moment for organizations to use digital transformation as a platform and boost their growth.

Better customer satisfaction

Imagine you operate an e-commerce business. Now, a customer bought something from your online store, but you don’t have integrated tracking mechanisms for customers to track their products, which means they have to call you or mail you for a status update. In the digital age, do you think the customer wants to make an effort to procure a product? Digital transformation and digital skills are not just about better productivity, competitive advantage and innovation. They are equally about delivering better customer services. Since digital transformation is not limited to the workplace, customers, too, expect superior services.

What digital skills are important? 

 

Digital skills are the linchpin of modern workplaces. An increasing number of sub-skills are now becoming a part of the digital skills umbrella. So much so that it is getting difficult to figure out the skills that may or may not be required for a job. For instance, you may feel that researchers, social media managers, public relations experts do not need to know MS Excel. However, it is used in most modern workplaces irrespective of the employees’ job profiles.

Digital skills are considered next to other necessary skills, such as effective communication, collaboration, etc., to thrive in the present-day marketplace. At first, only tech organizations realized the importance of digital skills. However, now organizations of all hues are pacing toward a digitally skilled workforce.

In modern workplaces, it is impossible to function without digital skills because all or most work employs the internet, which means that all employees should possess fundamental digital skills. However, employees can’t stop at basic digital skills for most organizations, as they will not suffice. They need to have role-specific digital skills that organizations can further develop into advance digital skills.

The pandemic has already forced many businesses to shift to the digital mode, which is leading to the demand for digitally skilled workers. With the digital economy taking center stage, the demand for digital skills will continue to grow. This change will result in the automation of some professions, simultaneously creating a greater demand for professionals with advanced digital skills.

The World Economic Forum in 2019 noted that “133 million new roles generated as a result of the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms may emerge globally by 2022.”

With digital skills being the buzzword, we have compiled an exhaustive list of advanced digital skills that are gaining momentum and demand as the world pivots toward the digital age.

 


Top 15 in-demand digital skills

According to the World Economic Forum, the most in-demand digital skills include big data analytics, app and web-enabled markets, the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and cloud computing, etc.

Advanced digital skills for the workplace are taking businesses by storm. Here’s a digital skills list of the top 15 digital skills for work in technology, marketing, big data & product management domains:

Technology

  • Next-gen coding languages
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Cryptocurrency & blockchain
  • Cloud and distributed computing
  • IoT
  • Network and security

Marketing

  • Digital marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • SEO analytics
  • Social media & content marketing
  • UI/UX Design & data visualization
  • Marketing automation

Big data

  • Data science and data analytics

Product management

  • Digital product management

 

Technology

 

Technology is at the heart of many new-age businesses. It is a vast universe with an endless list of advanced digital skills trending currently.

Next-gen coding

Coding is one of the foundations for many next-gen technologies. Hence is a vital digital skill. Coding is at the core of machine learning and virtual reality, among others. In fact, coding adds value to many other roles, such as digital marketing, compliance and risk management, quality assurance, etc. Coding is not just an in-demand digital skill but also teaches you problem-solving skills.

Artificial intelligence & machine learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are impacting every aspect of the business. One of the most innovative and trailblazing additions to technology, they are the future. Also, their usage isn’t restricted to tech companies. But they have several applications, covering healthcare, finance, education, etc. AI & ML can be used for anything- from improving customer service to increasing sales, among others.

Infrastructure support & development

Businesses are shifting from the traditional framework to cloud-enabled infrastructure to promote better connectivity and provide a suitable environment for remote working and collaboration. Additionally, it enables watertight data security.

Cloud service providers, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud, are changing how businesses operate in the digital age. Thus, employees with advanced digital skills in cloud and distributed computing are becoming necessary for new-age organizations.

Network & security

Network and information security are becoming critical to conducting business, with increasing access to technology. Large organizations are at greater risk of cybersecurity attacks and data breaches, especially with increased flexibility in the place of work. While organizations often provide basic training in information security to all their employees, network security is a larger domain where the demand outweighs the supply.

 

Marketing

 

Every organization has a marketing team that drives various marketing and awareness campaigns to draw potential customers. While it may look like an all-creative field, marketing has digitized swiftly due to the omnipresence and all-pervasiveness of the internet and social media.

Marketing has advanced from newspaper ads and now aims to enhance the user experience through meaningful and engaging content, data visualization, email and social media campaigns, etc. Digital marketing uses digital skills such as search engine optimization, social media promotions, Google analytics, and other marketing automation software packages.

People have easy access to technology, which has increased awareness and created more sophisticated customers. This development means that digital marketing, too, needs to use technology to become more visible to customers. It is natural for customers to go through an organization’s social media handle or do a quick Google search before considering its products or services or interacting with it. These customer nuances underline the importance of various digital marketing skills.

The customer experience has evolved. The buyer’s journey has evolved, which is one of the key elements driving the growing relevance of digital skills. Traditionally, disruptive ad messaging was delivered to customers by television, radio, or print advertising. They now wield power, searching the internet for knowledge to assist them in solving their problems, identifying answers, and selecting the best one. This trend has put a premium on businesses’ ability to sell themselves online in order to reach this new generation of customers. Of course, to do so, your company will require a diverse set of digital talents, ranging from the ability to submit material to your website and social media to a working knowledge of SEO.” – Jill Sandy, Founder, Constant Delights.

Big data

Data science & data analytics

Data science and data analytics is another upcoming digital skill due to its viability in a range of industries, from banking or software to professional services or finance.

With the focus on efficiency, companies across the board use data science and analytics to make smarter decisions and offer their customers more innovative solutions by preempting their needs.

With digital transformation already picking up pace, digital business skills like data analysis and data science are a few of the most in-demand digital skills. In fact, data science and data analysis are at the core of enabling your organization to undertake digital transformation by creating a digital ecosystem of technologies to fuel the growth in the digital economy.

With multiple digital touchpoints gathering data, data analysts and scientists can help your business through rich insights. Right from digital marketing to supply chain management, data analytics and data science are the future of ‘digital.’

Analytics powers the economy. From advertising to the app you use for directions, everything now runs by massive data gathering and analysis. Participating in the workplace with basic skills is possible, but those that are thriving and will continue to thrive in the economy are analytics experts. They understand the tools used to analyze data. They can measure the output of their work and of their businesses services. Most importantly they can use the data to predict a future need or solution.

Matt Lally
Founder, TheGiftYak

 

Product management

 

Digital product management

If a product is at the core of your business, then it will also need to pivot with other business functions. The digital economy needs products that can survive in the digital world, borrow from the digital milieu, and thrive in the digital environment. Organizations may need digital product managers that liaison between multiple teams to ensure a successful digital product.

Unlike a traditional project manager, the digital counterpart requires a thorough understanding of programming, design, and the associated technological interfaces.” – Jeroen Van Gils, Managing Director, Lifi.co.

 


Digital skills gap & digital upskilling

What is the digital skills gap?

 

The digital skills gap is the gap in the skills of the workforce and the skills needed to thrive in the future of work. The digital skills gap occurs, especially in developing countries, because of the education sector’s inability to keep up with technological advancements. Resultantly, students are unable to find jobs or keep up with the changing demands of the job market.

The digital skills gap can be further classified into gaps pertaining to basic, intermediate and advanced digital skills. The lack of basic digital skills can be accorded to the quality of education – all education stakeholders, learners or educators, face a significant digital skills gap because of archaic pedagogies. The skills gap in intermediate digital skills is because of a lack of timely training and intervention at the higher education and work level. The digital skills gap in advanced digital skills can be due to the lack of initiatives at an individual and organizational level.

Rapid advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and other emerging technologies are happening in ever shorter cycles, changing the very nature of the jobs that need to be done and the skills needed to do them faster than ever before leading to a skill gap. A short-term solution to filling these digital skills gaps would be for companies to pay a premium to acquire talent with the digital skills in demand. But even if they can find people with the right digital skills and are happy to bear the cost, it will not help in a few years when those skills are no longer needed. The point is that as new roles emerge and skills requirements change, the size of the existing pool of skilled workers just isn’t going to be big enough to meet demand. Digital upskilling is a two-way responsibility, employees and companies both should put on their efforts in upskilling themselves digitally in this fast-growing digital era.

Harriet Chan
Co-founder, CocoFinder

The pandemic has, in some ways, increased the digital skills gap, egging people to think whether this ongoing disruption will create more jobs or destroy them. However, the answer to it is ‘maybe neither.’

The rise of technology bringing about the future of work and responsible for the digital skills gap might redefine jobs and offer everyone an opportunity to learn, unlearn and relearn for better economic prospects.

Digital reskilling and upskilling are the only solutions to the digital skills gap conundrum. So, digital upskilling and reskilling are great opportunities for employees to reinvent themselves. However, the scale at which it is required puts the onus on organizations to invest in training and save a large part of the workforce from becoming obsolete.

The pandemic may have slowed down organizations’ hiring efforts. However, jobs in digital skills continue to grow. So, organizations’ primary choice is between recruiting or reskilling. But even if you hire a new workforce today, there is no guarantee that the workforce’s skills will stay relevant 5 years later. Essentially, digital upskilling and reskilling are initiatives that organizations need to undertake on priority to stay ahead of the curve while there’s still time.

Digital skills can be imparted through different means; however, for any organization to take up the digital upskilling initiative, it needs access to specialized digital skills assessment to understand the employees’ standing, where their gaps lie, and the quantum of training needed.

The world now has started talking about issue of the digital skills gap. There are two main factors in the digital skills gap that affect different sectors and economies in different proportions. The first and possibly most pressing factor is the lack of digital skills amongst existing workforces. The second factor is the lack of properly trained graduates to fill digital posts in growing technological industries. Both factors can massively inhibit the growth of individual businesses and whole economies even to the point of causing contractions.

Mike Thompson
Marketing Strategist & Direct Lender, Hyperlend

 


Digital skills assessment

 

What is a digital skills assessment? 

 

A digital skills assessment is a specialized assessment designed to measure a particular digital competency or sub-skill. No one assessment can measure all digital skills given its vastness. Digital skills assessment can be role or skill-based. For example, there can be a digital skills assessment for a sales manager or a digital skill assessment to assess a candidate’s knowledge of Zoho.

Digital skills assessments can be used in three ways:

  • Recruitment: To determine whether the candidate possesses the necessary digital skills to excel in the role for which he/she is being considered.
  • Pre-training digital skills assessment: To determine your employees’ present level of digital skills, based on which you can create individual training and development plans.
  • Post-training digital skills assessment: To determine how successful the training was and how much the training has impacted the employee knowledge.

 

The role of digital skills assessment in determining & developing digital skill gaps

 

Digital skills gaps require organizations to understand employees’ current standing. After your organization has a digital transformation plan, assessing the employees’ digital readiness is the next step. Are they ready to be upskilled or reskilled or facing some resistance? Based on the results, each team can have a digital upskilling or digital reskilling plan that considers their digital readiness levels.

 

 

How Mercer | Mettl’s digital skills assessments can help

 

Mercer | Mettl’s digital skills assessments span over 500 skills, 1500 job roles and 40 industries, with a pool of subject matter experts to create assessments as per your organizational needs.

Mercer | Mettl’s digital skills assessments cover sales, marketing, HR, operations, accounting, finance, and administrative functions in industries ranging from retail, BPO, media and advertising, banking and finance, blue-collared jobs, etc. From general skills, such as knowledge of Microsoft Office, to role-specific skills, such as Facebook marketing and Google analytics, etc., Mercer | Mettl’s digital skills assessments go beyond MCQs and help your organization gauge functional knowledge of employees.

Mercer | Mettl closely studies organizational objectives, the roles under consideration, then creates assessments that cater to those specific roles and generic competencies. Mercer | Mettl has a team of experts and a library of tests that easily cater to a broad spectrum of intermediate and advanced digital skills. Mercer | Mettl has also played an instrumental role in partnering with the Government of India for digital reskilling through the PMGDISHA initiative, thus helping augment digital literacy in the country.

With its ready framework of digital competencies, you can choose from our existing library of digital skills tests or customize it to your specific needs.

 

How to conduct digital skills assessment: the Mercer | Mettl way

 

  1. Understand the digital competencies based on the job role, industry and organization-specific context.
  2. Create digital skills assessment blueprints that list digital skills and subskills.
  3. Competency-wise content creation from our repository or with the help of our subject matter experts.
  4. Design digital skills assessments and reports from a combination of question types and as per customization requests.

Mercer | Mettl has always helped bridge the digital skills gap, whether on an organizational level or as part of the government initiative. Mercer | Mettl’s prowess and expertise lie in conducting complex and large-scale digital assessments that have had a transformational impact.

Mercer | Mettl recently partnered with Telkom Indonesia to determine the digital skills gap of over 10,000 employees and align them with the organization’s digital vision. The digital skills assessments helped Telkom Indonesia create a future-ready talent strategy and workforce. Mercer | Mettl’s customized digital skills assessment enabled Telkom Indonesia to assess employees on more than 75 skills and competencies. The partnership enabled an in-depth and holistic understanding of every employee’s standing on the competencies, especially on the required digital skills. Telkom Indonesia was able to identify skill gaps for every employee and focus on digital reskilling using digital skills assessments.

 


The way forward

A digital skill gap is a major cause for concern. It comes with a high cost, inflecting serious economic losses to any business. The challenge of not finding people with the right skills in the digital world is serious and has the potential to hinder a company’s progressive transformation. The future is already here and with a lack of digital skills, many companies have started facing tough roadblocks. It is a matter of low supply, yet high demand of digitally talented employees. Those who are prepared and have the facilities for imbibing digital advancements and know-how can only survive in this new digital world. Once again, it is survival of the fittest!

Arvind Patil
Country Manager, Selectra

Modern workplaces are designed to be responsive to market trends. Thus, it is impossible to ignore digital technologies. However, since education has still not caught up with workplace skills, employees need secondary training to acquire digital skills and fully utilize related technologies for better productivity.

The rapid advancement in technology needs to be emulated in the initiatives for digital upskilling and reskilling. With the changing nature of work and consumers, organizations need to embrace the digital ecosystem to ensure their offerings remain relevant.

Since digital skills is an umbrella term, every organization’s digital skills gap will be unique and need a customized digital upskilling strategy.

To get started, organizations must first accept that digital transformation is not a vague and futuristic concept. It is here and now, and you cannot address it only by hiring a new workforce. It mandates continuous development efforts. While digital upskilling is a challenging task, the first step is to employ digital skills assessment tools to gauge the present level of digital skills and create a development path.

Addressing the digital skills gap today can benefit your organization immensely in the long run and separate you from your competitors. The most significant aspect of conducting a digital skills gap is not the execution but determining the missing digital skills or the required ones. For that, your organization needs to conduct a training need analysis and create a digital competency framework that provides you with all the answers.

 


Frequently asked questions

What are examples of digital skills?

How many jobs need digital skills?

How do you measure digital skills?

Originally published August 12 2021, Updated August 20 2021

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

Digital skills

Digital Skills Assessments to Gauge Digital Skills Gaps

The accelerated pace at which businesses are rushing toward digitization has primarily established that digital skills are an enabler. It has also established the ever-changing nature of digital skills, and created a need for continuous digital upskilling and reskilling to protect the workforce from becoming obsolete.

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