How to Address Your Digital Skills Shortage – A Guide for Professionals

Author Ian Dodson
Topic Careers

If you’re worried that your digital skillset is suffering, now is the time to take positive action. The digital economy is expanding unstoppably, and holds an ever-growing influence over organizations across every industry. In order to survive, companies with more traditional business models have found themselves having to adapt, as digital tools and techniques are employed by their competitors.

Yet with such a high level of digital growth to contend with, the prospect of maintaining a strong skillset that incorporates every industry innovation can be intimidating! If you feel this way, you wouldn’t be alone – an increased need for skilled digital professionals is highlighting an unavoidable skills shortage that is affecting organizations at a global level. In the UK alone, this skills gap is costing the economy around £63 billion a year in lost income.

Daunting as it may seem, overcoming your own digital skills shortage can be a relatively easy, and painless process. To help you upskill as seamlessly as possible, we’ve composed a list of four essential steps to take in order to close the gap:

1. Conduct a digital skills audit

The first step in addressing your digital skills shortage is being able to determine to what extent the shortage exists. In digital marketing, analysis and measurement are the cornerstones upon which any successful strategy is built, as they allow you to identify both strengths and weaknesses, and refine your approach accordingly. When it comes to conducting a digital skills audit, your direction should be much the same.

A skills audit will help to inform any plans you may have to digitally upskill by prioritizing your areas of focus. It may even reveal certain skills you weren’t even aware you had!

First, you should make a note of your current role, be it a business owner, an employee within a large organization, or a manager. List the key requirements of your role, and the areas in which you think a digital skillset is essential or will enhance your job performance.

Next, you should cite your perceived areas of digital expertise, as well as the specialisms in which you don’t feel particularly well equipped.

Finally, you should outline the benefits to be gained, both for yourself and for your business, from addressing your digital skills gap. The Digital Marketing Institute’s Digital Diagnostic is a free tool that will allow you to test and benchmark your skills against your professional competition in only 15 minutes.

It’s interesting to note that while the majority of marketing professionals in the USA, UK and Ireland believe they are very or fairly competent in digital marketing, the reality is that skills levels are equally low across all three countries - 38% on average. That’s why it’s important to gain an accurate indication of where you are, and how you can improve.

2. Keep on top of industry updates

The digital industry evolves at such a lightning fast pace that staying informed of industry news, algorithm updates, product releases and everything in between is absolutely paramount. If you fall behind on developments within the industry, you seriously risk a declining or outdated skillset.

Populate an RSS feed such as Feedly, which will aggregate and organize the latest blog articles from renowned industry experts. This will make it easier for you to consume the latest news, be it on your lunch break or the commute to work. If you’re unsure of which blogs you should be following, you can check out our list of the top industry blogs to bookmark here

Webinars are another engaging way to find out more about digital developments from authoritative sources.

Many are free and on-demand, some are developed in-house by industry figureheads, and others can take the form of insightful interviews with influencers. Whether it’s HubSpot, Econsultancy or the Content Marketing Institute, you’ll find that many of the same industry blogs you choose to follow will offer this as an additional content format from which you can learn. Better yet, they’re similarly easy to watch on the go, which means you can address your skills shortage efficiently in between other commitments.

Finally, a lot of the most valuable insights and information can come in the form of downloadable eBooks – another content format whose primary purpose is to educate. You should always keep an eye out for the latest eBook releases from industry sources – whether they’re composed of case studies or helpful how-to guides, you can guarantee that their creators have gone to great efforts to make sure they’re high quality.

3. Practice makes perfect

Digital skills training should always strike that fine balance between theoretical learning and practical application. As your job performance and effectiveness is largely measured by what you do rather than what you know, it’s important to find ways to exercise your existing abilities and seek to improve them.

You can sharpen your practical skills in a number of ways:

  • Create your own website: using a simple CMS like WordPress, you can practise a variety of specialisms, from creating webpage copy for SEO, to creating an AdWords campaign (with a small budget), to measuring traffic with an analytics account. Maybe you have a hobby you’d like to showcase, such as photography. Maybe you collect coins. Whatever it is, try to use your website for an authentic, meaningful purpose, as this will incentivize you to maintain it. How regularly you manage and update it is entirely up to you!
  • Take on a project: maybe a local coffee shop needs help building their online presence via social media, or a charity needs to improve their website. If possible, leveraging opportunities such as these will help someone in need and allow you to exercise your digital abilities at the same time.
  • Ask for new tasks at work: sometimes, asking to broaden your remit will enable you to enhance aspects of your digital skillset. Whether it’s community managing a social media account or dipping your toe in SEO, taking on a few extra tasks can help you to work towards addressing your personal skills shortage. 

4. Consider essential skills training

One of the most effective, and necessary steps that can be taken in order to close the digital skills gap, is digital skills training. This essential education can help both individuals and businesses alike, and prevent them from falling behind the competition.

The findings of our 2016 Digital Skills Report revealed that the USA (63%), UK (52%) and Ireland (72%) believe that becoming more digitally focused will be critical to their organization in the next two years. Despite this assertion, all three countries stated that the greatest barrier to effectively adopting digital was a lack of resources, including skilled personnel.

Increasingly, a lack of digital skills, and an accompanying lack of the requisite training are being referenced as serious issues that will impact performance at both individual and organizational level. By embracing digital skills training, you have the potential to feel more stimulated, more confident and more productive.

You may be self-funded, or your company may have a training budget you can avail of. Either way, digital education is a worthwhile investment whose ROI will clearly demonstrate itself over time. There are a number of flexible training options available, both classroom-based and online, so you can easily find a solution to suit your schedule. The most important thing is to conduct thorough research and compare a number of options, to ensure you make an informed selection that fulfills all your needs.

You can view our range of available courses here, to try and find the perfect match. 

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Ian Dodson
Co-Founder @ Digital Marketing Institute