How to ensure your workforce has the digital skills to succeed

Today 90 per cent of jobs require digital skills. As such, employers are rightly demanding more from prospective employees, with 72 per cent stating that they are unwilling to interview candidates who do not have basic IT skills (Science and Technology Committee Report, 2016). Unfortunately, the supply of digital skills is not meeting demand and almost 50 per cent of employers say they are experiencing a digital skills gap. In a skills-short environment, how can you ensure you have the digital skills to succeed? 

Firstly, you need to consider what skills you need now and in the future. What parts of your IT infrastructure need improving? Where can you enhance the efficiency of your internal processes? And how can you add value to your customers through digital services? Below, I’ve highlighted some common business objectives and suggested what skills you will need to achieve them.  

Enhancing the online customer experience

In our increasingly online world, customers demand a convenient and quick service. If a webpage takes longer than 2 seconds to load, many customers will abandon the page and look elsewhere for a similar product or service. When the Financial Times was redesigning its website earlier this year, their Product and Information team conducted research to find out the effects of different website attributes on user behaviours. 

The FT’s research showed that website speed impacts a user’s session depth, so generally a slow site speed will discourage users from staying on the page or visiting any other pages on the site. Over time, a slow site speed could cause significant financial loss based on the unsuccessful conversion rate. In addition to being fast, your website also has to be engaging and user friendly creating a smooth, enjoyable journey for the customer. UI Designers, UI Developers and UX Consultants can help you to achieve this.

Converting more sales online

As well as offering your website visitors an engaging and convenient online journey, from a business perspective you also need to ensure that you continue to convert these visitors into customers. There are many examples of websites which have created a compelling web strategy to do this. 

Take Amazon for example, which uses development techniques to personalise the user journey with recommended products that other customers also liked or Booking.com which provides real-time information on who else is viewing the same hotel and when someone last booked a room there. If you want your website to be effective in converting sales, you will need web developers on board who are up to date with the latest UX techniques. 

Improving your data storage

More and more businesses are turning to cloud services to enable them to be more mobile, more scalable and store more data. On top of this, cloud allows you to access data more quickly. For businesses, it’s about more than simply benefitting from these advantages. As more businesses take advantage of what the cloud has to offer, it is becoming increasingly important to keep up with the competition. If you are considering using the cloud, you will no doubt need someone in your business who understands the benefits it has to offer, how to implement it and how to put in place reliable security measures. 

Cloud Architects, infrastructure engineers, principal, technical and functional consultants, and information & data architects are the kind of people who can bring the benefits of cloud to your business. Adopting a DevOps approach will enable you to align infrastructure and development teams to innovate or iterate more rapidly.

Safeguarding your data

Any business which processes customer data or holds sensitive information should have measures in place to secure that data. Not only is protecting your customers’ data both an ethical and legal obligation but the consequences of not securing their data could cause irreparable damage to your reputation as a business. Consider the recent case at Three mobile, when hackers were able to infiltrate the mobile network’s upgrade system in an attempt to intercept new handsets. In the process of hacking the system, the hackers were able to obtain information from over 130,000 customer accounts. Only time will tell the long-term effect on reputation of the telecommunications giant.   

A successful security strategy covers prevention and recovery following a data breach, based on scenarios of both internal and external incidents. A recent study by Intel Security showed that internal actors (employees, contractors and third-party suppliers) were responsible for 43 per cent of data loss incidents. Whilst half of this figure was down to accidental loss, the other half was classified as intentional, highlighting the importance for businesses to have robust security measures in place to counteract the effects of both external and internal threats.    

To safeguard your data, security has to be front of mind for everyone in your business; all employees should be educated on how to recognise and respond to potential threats, not just your IT team. 

Of course, if you don’t already have security expertise within your business, you will need to consider hiring some experts. Be prepared for some competition though as recruitment of security risk analysts, IT security analysts and cyber architects are particularly in demand.   

Making your business more cost effective

At a time when customers demand a speedy service and budgets are continually dwindling, investing in automation technology is key. When you hear ‘automation’, you may think of a line of robots ascending upon the human workforce waiting to remove them from their hard-earned jobs. Fortunately, the reality is very different. Automation is used most effectively when it assists people in their jobs. It is a matter of complementing the skills of the workforce rather than replacing them. 

One example where this might happen is in policing where data analytics could help inform decisions on demand for their services.   It is the public sector which is particularly likely to benefit from this technology. According to a report by business advisory firm Deloitte (The State of the State 2016), approximately 16 per cent of public sector jobs in the UK could be automated by 2030. They predict that the highest level of automation will be seen in the transportation and storage sector (74 per cent of jobs), followed by wholesale and retail (59 per cent) and manufacturing (56 per cent).  

Efforts are already being made in the NHS to transform digital services and save costs by going ‘paperless’. To implement this kind of automation, organisations in both the public and private sector will rely on many new skills and technologies including; ERP systems, self-serve support technologies assisted with the likes of ServiceNow and Remedy; cloud platforms to make documents easier to access on any device anywhere and security skills to keep data and systems secure.   

Digital skills for success

Many believe we are now experiencing a fourth industrial revolution, otherwise known as Industry 4.0, which is centred around digital innovation, particularly within manufacturing. Whilst gradual, the trend to digitalise, automate and connect is not going to disappear so businesses need to invest in digital skills to remain competitive. 

Ultimately, in a business landscape where cyber security and cloud computing skills are increasingly fundamental for operations and increasingly in short supply, it will be a challenge to find the talent you need but an awareness of the skills needed and a commitment to secure those skills is the first step to success.

Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional
James Smith is Managing Director of
Networkers, Technology Recruitment