The emergence of virtual learning environments over the past two years has led to unprecedented advances in organizational processes, collaboration, and business development. Many organizations have found that virtual workspaces allow for greater employee engagement, task management, and scalability. Unfortunately, this sudden boom in digital work has also come with new challenges, the most important of which is the emergence of digital skills gaps. Employees across nearly all demographics, departments, and industries are finding new challenges when working exclusively in digital environments, and this is for the most part because many organizations have failed to develop their employees’ digital proficiency.
So how big of a problem is the skills gap? Salesforce estimates that 14 G20 companies could be missing out on nearly $11.5 trillion in GDP growth if they are employing workers who are not adequately skilled for the digital age. If you add that to the fact that nearly 82% of middle-skill jobs in 2021 require digital skills, organizations have reason to worry that their salesforce is under skilled. If you’re an employee in 2021, keep in mind that digital middle-skill jobs pay more than their non-digital counterparts, and nearly 38% of all new job postings are requiring extensive proficiency in digital processes.
The reality of the current business landscape is simply that there are not enough people who have the digital skills required to drive business in virtual environments. This issue is not specific to any one industry or role and must be addressed for business to grow in the future. Fortunately, with great change comes great opportunity, and addressing the digital skills gap is a great way to create a culture in which employees feel valued, educated, and prepared for their future in their roles. Here’s how we suggest going about creating an effective L&D program that addresses digital skills gaps.
Conduct a needs assessment
Training needs assessments are important for every learning and development program. They are designed to provide your organization with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions on what training and development opportunities your employees need. When it comes to a digital skills gap training needs assessment, there are a few particular areas that you should focus on. For the purpose of aligning with current industry trends, these areas will be focused on organizations that are in the process of transitioning their workforce to hybrid and virtual environments.
- What new digital processes have you implemented recently?
- Are there new tasks your employees are being asked to perform for the first time?
- What new resources have you developed to assist employees in their transition?
- Are you seeing a drop in productivity, efficiency, or performance in a particular area of your organization?
Starting with high-level brainstorming questions like this can help you and your employees understand exactly where gaps have formed and how they can be addressed through L&D programs. There are a variety of ways in which you can gather information on learning needs, but the most common are through surveys, raw data (performance, sales metrics, etc.), and interviews.
A tried-and-true method of gathering data, surveys allow you to gain more information on how employees feel about their digital literacy and comfort in their increasingly digital role. Surveys allow you to obtain qualitative data that can help you understand employees’ needs and wants for digital skills.
Raw data can help your organization understand trends in performance in relation to changes in digital processes. This is a great starting point for most digital skills gaps initiatives because data trends and their relation to employee skilling can often be displayed in a way that garners organization-wide buy in.
Much like surveys, interviews allow you to gather qualitative data on skills gaps within your organization. Unlike surveys, however, interviews offer you a chance to have personal interactions with employees and ask unique questions.
As your organization and others continue to invest in digital and remote work environments, there are a variety of different learning solutions you can leverage to improve efficiency and processes. Once you have a better understanding of what skills your employees may need to stay effective in their role, you can begin to develop learning solutions, performance support materials, and strategic plans to keep your workforce effective.
Much like every learning and development program, there is no one size fits all solution for your employees and their digital skills gaps. Some companies are choosing to take a reactive approach to employee support, which focuses on creating and distributing resources for particularly new and challenging tasks. This is great for organizations that want to target specific short-term needs. Known as performance support resources, these tools can also help employees feel more comfortable in their role, and can be used when onboarding new hires.
Your organization can also take a more constructive approach that targets employees through specific, tailored learning programs. These programs can be used to educate employees on broad organizational expectations, compliance, and specific skills that will be used in their roles.
If you’re looking for the most comprehensive and effective solution to digital skills gaps, your organization can opt to develop a full-scale learning and development program accompanied by performance support resources. This will ensure that employees’ development takes place both on the job and in dedicated learning spaces. It will also allow you to build a workforce that enters their role with the skills they need and has access to the tools they want when confronting new challenges and processes.
Of your organization is moving into the digital workplace without a clear plan for employee support and development, we strongly suggest you invest time and money into your development programs now, to save issues later. Closing the digital skills gap is the an issue that will continue to disrupt the workplace for years to come, but your organization has the power to limit negative impacts through the development of effective learning and development programs.