Closing the digital competence gap? Smart and successful companies focus on learning profiles

There is a lot to say about the profile system in the programmes. But what is definitely positive, and from which business can learn something, is that there are different profiles of students and their interests and opportunities. Yes, but business also has profiles, I hear you say. Yes, job profiles. In other words, overviews of how a person’s tasks and responsibilities look at the moment. But no job will be the same in the future. In business, it requires profiles of a completely different order.

It is more important than ever for employees to learn new skills; and I’m talking about digital skills in particular. The urgency is further exacerbated by surveys showing that many people indicate they are not ready to meet the demand for digital skills. In the workplace, the gap between generations and individual groups is also very large. It is therefore essential for companies to adapt the training to different learning profiles.

Basic digital skills are now as important as reading and writing. Just as email to employees and the wider public was once something new, we are now seeing concepts like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) find their way into our professional and everyday lives. In addition to everyone having access to education from an early age, the responsibility for bringing today’s and future’s digital skills to employees lies largely in the hands of our companies. Not only to increase our competitiveness, but also to create more agility by ensuring that everyone in society can participate in our digital society and economy.

We are facing a unique opportunity to reinvent the way we work. And our experience that functions such as sales, service delivery or execution of marketing campaigns also continue via Zoom, Hangout, Slack or other digital means makes the matter of digital skills redundant. With each advanced or new technology, the demand for skills to handle that technology continues to increase. Technological development is going fast. So is the demand for digital skills. 1+1=2, we already learned that in mathematics in kindergarten. Companies that are rapidly consolidating and want to remain successful are seizing this moment to cultivate a cultural mindset of continuous learning.

Which digital skills are important?

In a first step, companies must identify the most important digital skills for their employees. Think skills in collaboration, encryption and cyber security, e-commerce and digital commerce, or technology to manage projects. Unfortunately, these skills are hardly addressed in a traditional school environment, so business has to offer and refine them through learning programs.

As in teaching, one should not consider ‘students’ as a homogenous group. We often see big differences between the generations, especially in the workplace. While younger employees need training to shape the new digital roles in the business, their older colleagues face an even bigger challenge in developing the right skills to keep them going. But we also see individual differences between employees that require a different approach.

Individual learning paths for employees

We can divide learning profiles in the workplace into three categories. For example, you have employees who already have strong digital skills and who want to learn more. In addition, there are those who are prepared for today’s skills, but who lack foresight. Finally, there is a group whose digital skills are at a low level and who hesitate to further their education. The differences show why multidimensional learning in companies is so important.

For example, employees who have few digital skills often feel overwhelmed by their new work environment and need more guidance and recognition as well as motivation to learn skills. Those who feel they are well prepared may be more likely to believe they do not need any training. To make progress in this digital world, organizations will need to recognize that everyone learns differently. So spend enough time to find out which employees are on the shop floor and to develop individual learning paths.

Also train tomorrow’s employees

To develop a successful digital strategy, you must first evaluate the existing skills in the organization and then identify the skills that people will need in the near future. In the hybrid work environment, it is also important to think about how people can develop these skills. Ideally, training programs should not be based on what you think someone should know, but rather on what employees want to know and what they need to be successful. In this way, companies can create a work culture that allows employees across all generations to connect, learn and grow.

In addition, it is a good idea not only to encourage people in your own organization to participate in training programs, but also the potential future employees in the company’s environment. More than ever before, organizations need to work with governments and other stakeholders in the surrounding community to ensure that training and employment are better aligned and that all sections of society are reached.

By focusing together on tomorrow’s digital skills, we will create growth opportunities for ourselves, our ecosystem and our entire economy.

The author Lien Ceulemans is country manager Salesforce BeLux.

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