There's a need for organisations to digitise the way in which they work ... this requires basic digital skills.

Recognising the importance of digital skills

There is a lot of conversation about the need for organisations to upgrade their systems, overhaul their processes and digitise the way in which they work. This dialogue is important but sometimes it overshadows another equally important and related shortfall - basic digital skills.

The digital revolution seems to have happened so fast that today, in its high-tech, uber-connected aftermath, we’re still adjusting to the fact that something new pops up and instantly becomes part of the norm. We’re constantly having to adapt and figure things out.

You can see this in the development of tech like smartphones and tablets, as well as social networks like Facebook and Twitter. For a brief period, they seemed so unusual. Now they are part and parcel of our everyday lives.

Yet that ease of comfort and familiarity isn’t necessarily universal. For example, a BBC study titled Media Literacy: Understanding Digital Capabilities, noted that “biases still exist among internet users”. Consider the fact that seven per cent of adults in 2014 came online within the last two years, and you can begin to appreciate that there is much to do be done to upskill individuals.

The charity Go ON UK, founded by Baroness Lane-Fox three years ago, notes that one in five UK adults don’t currently have basic digital skills, meaning that, in effect, most organisations, small, medium and large, will have at least one employee in such a position.

Even more likely is the scenario that there will be more than one worker without even the most rudimentary of digital skills. Appreciating that this is a reality goes to show how and why many enterprises struggle to go modernise the way they work. In some instances, it’s the very chief executives who run these businesses that are themselves missing key digital skills.

Things are changing though, as demonstrated by the promotion of digital skills in schools and the efforts made by the UK government to invest in this area. Soon enough, it will be the case that digital skills will be as important as literacy and numeracy skills - it will become a fundamental part of the curriculum.

For now though, for the rest of society and everyone else beyond education, it’s a matter of recognising where digital gaps exist in the community and in the world of work. In doing so, you can begin to address these issues and ensure that members of the public can feel empowered in all areas of life.

As for employees, boosting their digital skills will not only improve their experience of work, but also transform the fortunes and knowledge of the organisation they work for. Everyone has something to gain from people being more digitally versatile.

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