Digital technology has vastly changed the workplace for all types of business, not just those in IT or the tech sector. The North East Growth Hub takes a look at how to capitalise on this.
Ensuring that all members of your team at all levels have the right digital skills is vital on your route to growth.
Why are digital skills so important?
It’s becoming harder in the workplace to get by with limited digital knowledge. Within 20 years, 90% of all jobs will require some element of digital skill, according to the Skills Funding Agency.
Technology has become part of most people’s job already, as staff are generally expected to have a certain level of comfort with basic digital processes and tools such as email, Microsoft Office programs and social media.
Millennials have, for the most part, grown up with technology so working with digital tools can come naturally to your younger employees. However, it’s important that you actively train your whole workforce so that those less comfortable with tech aren’t left behind. Don’t take digital literacy for granted!
Digital skills are now so important to the country that the UK government have published a digital strategy, working with businesses and charities to launch a Digital Skills Partnership that aims to ensure that people have the right skills for jobs in their area and are aware of all the digital training opportunities on offer.
An estimated 1.2m new technical and digitally skilled people are needed by 2022 to satisfy future skills needs, and workforce development will be a crucial part of this number.
What digital competencies are required?
If you’re reasonably comfortable dealing with technology yourself, some of the skills listed may seem obvious, but their very nature means that if a member of your team isn’t comfortable with any of the competencies listed then that could cause problems for your business as you scale up.
The manufacturers’ organisation, EEF, says companies that train their staff in advanced automation, robotics, intelligent manufacturing, virtual reality and areas such as 3D printing, cyber-security and big data will thrive in the future.
For businesses in other sectors, is your workforce aware of the different forms of digital technologies that exist, and do they have the opportunity to make suggestions about how technology can be used in your business?
Tools and techniques
All your employees should feel confident in fully utilising the equipment and programs you provide them with. There’s no point in supplying the latest expensive smartphones to your whole team if most of the features aren’t being used.
Similarly, your workforce should understand what to do when tools aren’t working as expected. You shouldn’t rely on your team to correct every technical issue but they should be comfortable with basic problem solving to start working again as quickly as possible in situations that only require minor fixes.
All staff should be aware of the tools and software that could be available, both generally and for your particular sector. As a scaleup you’ll need everyone to be considering tools that could help you to be more efficient and effective in your operations.
Consider whether everyone in your business has a level of skill appropriate to the use of technology in their specific job. For example, a basic knowledge of calendar operations will suffice for most employees, but personal assistants/those who work in logistics would benefit from more advanced training on the same tools.
Something that again may seem obvious if you’re comfortable with technology is the skill of researching. Finding information online can involve using the right terms to search, using filters and advanced criteria, and understanding how to verify that the information you’re seeing is genuine and sites are safe to visit.
Research shows that for office workers, almost 50% of work time is spent managing emails, so support for your employees around standards for email length and protocols on copying people in to emails will help the whole team.
As you scale up, your team is likely to be spread across the country, or even the world, and so video conferencing apps like Skype become crucial to avoid endless hours travelling to meetings. As they’re simple and low cost to use, it’s important that your whole team utilises this type of tool to save your business time and money.
Your customers expect you to be online too, with the company’s presence relying on your whole organisation rather than just your marketing team. Make sure that all customer facing staff are trained on the use of social media, including understanding cultural and social sensitivities and what’s relevant to share.
Introducing a social media policy and training on both the technical aspects of using the system and appropriate messaging will ensure that your team reflect your business in the best light.
Security and regulations
With this year’s cyber-attacks on the likes of the NHS and British Airways, it’s easy to see that even the largest of organisations is at risk in terms of their data, systems and processes.
Cyber security is a huge issue for all businesses, and it starts at a very basic level, so training your staff on password protection and spotting suspect emails is a great first step.
It’s also vital to inform your staff about sharing information within and outside of your organisation. In addition to potentially giving away company secrets, there are very strict data protection laws that you must adhere to when using personal data, with new, even stricter, laws coming into force from May 2018.
The use of digital technologies in the workplace is a primary source of efficiencies in a business. Your workforce are the ones who can tell you which tasks or jobs seem to take a long time or happen inefficiently, and the better they understand technology, the more imaginative they can become with their suggestions.
Check out the North East Growth Hub's business support pages for information on current programmes, or contact the Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565 for details of specific schemes available in your area.