Build your digital skills to stay competitive in future  - and to adapt right now

Contagious Ambition

We’ve shown remarkable adaptability to digitalise our business processes due to the pandemic. But this is no temporary shift: it’s the catalyst for what’s been a long time coming. Cloud-based collaboration tools — in a nutshell, online apps that you can access from anywhere — are being utilised, changing the way we work.

Yet while businesses may have had fine-tuned strategies for digital transformation in place for years, this overnight implementation means we may not be taking full advantage of the tools at hand, not to mention navigating this new world can feel overwhelming. But we need to keep the momentum going because, in short, we’re not going back to the old way of working.

I’d like to fascinate you for a moment: 65% of children starting school today will have jobs that don’t yet exist. 

So, where does that leave those of us already in the workplace in fifteen years time? We must be prepared to adapt to stay competitive, as having at least a baseline level of digital skills will soon be a near-universal requirement.

Already, digital skills are required for the majority of roles across the workforce, not just specifically for tech-based jobs. 

Even in traditionally labour-intensive industries such as construction or hospitality, roles demand digital comprehension for checking inventories, managing booking systems and keeping on top of essential behind-the-scenes processes that keep our businesses functioning.

It’s not just about the trajectory, it’s about the opportunity. 

Embracing tech makes us more productive and allows us to work together remotely in ways we didn’t think possible only ten years ago.

Cloud-based collaboration tools act as a hub for productivity by seamlessly integrating all your favourite apps, software and programmes. We know that your people want to keep the flexibility of working from home, and with everything in one centralised location, you can access and manage your projects remotely.

A friend of mine aired her frustrations over a previous employer’s impressive commitment to resisting cloud-based tools. She lamented:

“We all had various versions of the same spreadsheet saved in personal drives, on an email thread or on the server. It was an utter hotbed for errors and I couldn’t access my projects from home — I’d have to call a colleague to edit critical documents for me”. 

It’s safe to say this lack of cohesion benefits no one (…and made me break out in a mini sweat).

Features like instant messenger also reflect the shift in how we work. You can communicate with your teams wherever you are, in a manner far more reflective of real-life collaboration: conversational, fluid, and with real-time responses.

We know this is successful in social media: stripping back the formalities allows for effective communication. By contrast, email can feel constrictive, stagnant.

Plus, tasks are rarely linear, as many of you who have worked on projects will know. They involve a lot of back and forth of conversations and content with your co-workers, consultants and, critically, your clients. 

Integrating and investing in digital technologies — even if initially only small developments — will improve the user experience.

When I sold my house, the conveyancers had an online portal where I could send messages or upload confidential files, without the need for face-to-face consultations. I could check progress when it was convenient for me, and the conveyancers needn’t be disrupted to give me updates. I had control as a customer. So why build your skills? Because your clients are going to be looking for them!

Therefore, consider where your digital skills are. Even if you’re employed, it’s useful to reflect on what you can offer. Businesses are outsourcing work to consultants and freelancers more than ever, both for efficiency and to hone-in on those areas of expertise.

Alongside your industry-specific skills, consider what digital skills you need to develop to put you in a position to work with, and offer your services to, other organisations on project-based work — which is set to see a big increase.

Learning the full capabilities of your digital tools at hand is a great place to start, as this’ll allow you to apply them effectively to your work. It may feel like a mammoth task, but knowing how to take advantage of the opportunities your tools offer means you can start to improve productivity and collaboration. But that’s only half the story.

The other part is building the digital confidence and know-how in yourself and for every member of your organisation. Knowing when an instant message can replace a video call — which, trust me, is not a panacea for effective digital communication — may initially feel unclear in a rapidly changing world. And that’s okay!

But confidence is key to allowing users to grow and work together in more innovative and creative ways. I actually run a course on Microsoft Teams which guides you through exactly how to do this, which you can find out more about here.

Developing your digital skills allows you to stay competitive, adaptive and collaborative — plus you get the bonus benefit of removing the headache that a lack of integration incites!