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Can eLearning Help You Win the Digital Skills Race?

We’re living in an era where business is becoming primarily digital. As that continues, we face a bigger and bigger gap between those who use digital technology and those who understand digital technology. As this field continues to grow, companies that improve their employees’ digital skills will increase their productivity, be more innovative, and ultimately, enjoy long-term stability and increased profitability. 


What's the Evidence for the Digital Skills Gap?

Well, let’s start with a report put together by Capgemini Consulting and MIT: “The Digital Talent Gap: Developing Skills for Today’s Digital Organizations.[1] ”In this paper, the consulting giant and one of the world’s most reputable universities made the following points:

  • “The impact of digital technologies is now felt not only in the IT department but across the entire organization, creating a huge demand for digital skills.”
  • 90% of companies lack digital skills.
  • 77% of enterprises believe that a lack of digital skills is the key hurdle to their ‘Digital Transformation.'
  • Only 4% of businesses interviewed are aligning corporate training efforts with their digital strategy.
  • Despite this skills shortage, a minority of just 46% of companies are investing in developing digital skills.

But wait, there’s more. A recent book entitled ‘Leading Digital’ confirmed the DSS. Leading Digital argues that there are approximately a million vacancies for IT-related roles as of last year. Globally, out of 4.4 million available big-data jobs last year, only a third were eventually filled. [2]

And it doesn’t end there. According to Business Collective, out of over 200 million adults in the United States, a fragment of just ten percent consider themselves to be ‘very proficient’ in the digital tools they use; that doesn’t just mean advanced digital tools, we’re talking about the software that they use daily! [3]

Let’s get down to brass tax. Why does the Digital Skills Gap matter?  

Let’s look at it this way: if you don’t have the appropriate skills in your workforce, you’re quickly going to find that productivity suffers, client relations suffer, and ultimately, your bottom line suffers. Speaking of profits, one study by McKinsey [4] suggests that because of a shortage of skills, over a fifth of the average working week can be written off as unproductive. So if your company is ill-equipped in digital skills, then take a fifth (that’s 20%, by the way) of your profit, and throw it out the window. 

The question is then, in light of this evidence, how do you level-up your workforce’s digital skills and make sure that your company isn’t burning away your hard-earned profits and frustrating your employees?

Well, we believe that the answer is to begin training, and being training fast. You need to start by assessing your workforce, and complete a full needs analysis. You should then outline what’s missing from your workforce, and who is missing from your workforce. It may be that you need to step up recruitment using a high-quality digital recruitment consultant, or if possible, avoid external fees by using extensive training to fill the skills shortage.  If you don’t, then you may be one of the unlucky companies that fall into ‘digital obsolescence’ in the next few years. Phew. 

Digital skills call for digital training 

So now we’ve established that training is going to be one of the cornerstones of beating the Digital Skills Shortage. But what kind of training? Digital! You wouldn’t teach someone about the future by using ancient history textbooks, and you can’t just rely on traditional face-to-face training to teach digital skills.

But aside from the fact that digital training matches the subject matter more closely, another thing to consider is the frequency of training. One of the big four accounting firms, Deloitte, suggested that half of all digital skills become obsolete within about 30 months, due to technological change and development [5]. So that means constant updates are needed. Now, you could call in an external trainer and organize a workshop on a large scale every couple of years, but we could be talking about costs of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost working time, organizational time, and hiring trainers.

The idea is that if you have an online training program, then it’s simple enough to update the content as frequently as necessary. On a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly basis; all that’s needed to keep training up to date is to stay abreast of any changes in the industry. Overall, this makes a lot more financial sense than offline training.

Besides this, a survey by Brandon Hall titled the “State of Learning” study, showed that employees expect continuous learning opportunities; for instance:

  • 61% expect learning activity at least weekly,
  • 90% expect learning activity at least monthly

Instead of an ‘every-time-we-require-it’ offline training program, digital learning allows for constant, ongoing learning. [6]

eLearning: the savior?

Just as we mentioned above, there are a bunch of great reasons that eLearning could well save us from the threat of the Digital Skills Shortage. Ultimately, this rests on two things eLearning does that traditional ILT programs don’t: it’s updateable, and it’s scalable.

Where traditional learning meant sitting in a classroom or meeting or conference with no hands-on practice, and no learner autonomy, eLearning allows us to take charge of our training, select the time, place, and amount of training we undertake. This not only builds the flexible mindset that we require in today’s organizations, but it has tangible benefits on the effectiveness of our learning, and studies show that learner uptake is increased through eLearning methods.

From an economic standpoint, as mentioned earlier in the article, eLearning is easy to update. It’s updateable. It takes much less time to find new content and put it into a pre-packaged eLearning course. It doesn’t require the same set of resources to develop a new program for each and every piece of new information.

And eLearning is scalable. When you organize traditional training, variable costs are a much bigger part of the budget. To cater for 100 people is expensive. But what if you have to up it to 200? 1000? 10,000? This is where we see costs skyrocket. But with eLearning, all that you need is the ability to access a device; and this might be the learners own device too! (so you don’t have to buy 10,000 iPads). We also think if you tell your learners that they can stay and take the training from home, rather than travel three hours to a venue, they’ll be pretty happy with that too. Less time travelling, more productive time learning.  

Enough talking, more doing

Alright, so now we know that eLearning is the best way to beat the DSS, but what are the practical steps you can take to hit the ground running?

We suggest a Capgemini's suggested Roadmap for Successful Skills Development: 

  • D –  Define your goals. Define your streghts and weaknesses. Define your future skill requirements.
  • I – Undertake skills gap assessment. Identify what your learners know. Identify what they need to know. Identify your budget.
  • I – Initiate a strategy. How are you going to bridge the gap? Is training an option? If yes, would online training help? Hold meetings. Contact consultants. Contact suppliers. Get the process moving.
  • D – Do it again! Constantly monitor and assess whether you’re staying ahead of the DSS. 

Check the complete graphic here (page 9)

We feel that this is a simple enough way to approach the task of analyzing what you are, what you need, and then going out and getting it. It’s hard to pack everything into this acronym, but it’s a useful enough guide.

Also read: 

In closing, the digital skills shortage (DSS) that we’ve outlined is a very real phenomenon, and it’s not surprising if you look at it logically. Humans love routine, and we love the status quo. Digitalization and the development of new technology have meant that a lot of us stick with our old ways when we need to fundamentally shift our mindset into the digital age, where things come and go in an instant.

We firmly believe that eLearning is one of the tools in our arsenal to beat the challenge of digital skills shortages, owing to its scalability and the flexibility it allows for learners. If you’ve been shying away from eLearning and the DSS, it’s time for a reality check. Take action today.

 Winning eLearning


[1] The Digital Talent Gap Developing Skills for Today’s Digital Organizations by Capgemini Consulting

[2] Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation By George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, Andrew McAfee

[3] Fernandez, Jeff. Improve Productivity by Fixing the Digital Skills Gap

[4] Webster, Martin. Warning: Your Business Could Be Losing One Day a Week Because of Insufficient Digital Skills

[5] Levine, Avi. Digitize or Die: Why Training in Digital Gives Your Company the Advantage This Year. Huffington Post

[6] Identify Your Skills Gap and Create the Learning Environment to Address Them

Other sources:

Global Human Capital Trends 2014. Engaging the 21st-century workforce. A report by Deloitte Consulting LLP and Bersin by Deloitte

Karla Gutierrez

Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

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