6 Digital Skills that will Future-Proof a Workforce

Once a niche skillset, digital skills are now a workplace essential.

Within Europe and across sectors, at least 80% of managers and professionals need basic digital abilities. In larger workplaces, as many as 50% are required to have specialist digital skills.

Digital technologies are now commonplace in daily life and becoming embedded into working culture. Having a workforce that knows how to use them efficiently is key to a company’s success.

But which digital skills will be essential in the coming years? Each year, new technologies are developed, many gaining media attention. With so many buzzwords to keep track of from VR to AI to cryptocurrency, how can companies know what’s prudent to invest time and money into?

1. Expert Data Analysis

Expert Data Analysis

In this era of big data, many companies are sitting on a mountain of untapped information about their customers, process and workforce.

As digital transformation advances, the data recorded will continue to increase. Knowing how to harness this data is crucial to understanding your business and its future. Employees who can extract, analyze and translate useful information from your company’s data set will be essential, and the skill will integrate into more and more roles within teams.

Done effectively, data analysis can give you essential business and customer insights. It can also be used to inform campaigns and content.

Currently, there are four main types of data analysis used by businesses.

  • Descriptive analytics - often combined with other analytics, this practice brings together raw data from multiple sources to give valuable insights into the past.
  • Diagnostic analytics - requires more detailed data to identify patterns and provide insights into specific problems.
  • Predictive analytics - uses the findings of descriptive and diagnostic analytics to detect tendencies, clusters and exceptions, and to predict future trends.
  • Prescriptive analytics - requires historical data plus external information, and uses machine learning, business rules and algorithms to prescribe what action to take.

The current trend, as highlighted by a recent BARC survey, is recognized by executives as the growing importance of predictive analysis and data mining. As sophisticated technologies and tools are further developed, the more important the role of the advanced analytics of predictive and prescriptive will be.

2. Advanced Social Selling

Advanced Social Selling

As the social media boom of the 2000s settles and matures, so have its users. This means that sales teams of the future will need to adapt too. According to today’s most successful social sellers, the trend is moving away from the cold call and the hard sell, towards value-based selling.

At the heart of value-based selling is trust. To create this, advanced social sellers need to equip themselves with content and conversation, so that they can build more meaningful relationships with their customers. 

A recent State of Sales Report by LinkedIn showed that 77% of buyers won’t engage with a seller without reading up about their company first. If you consider this with the fact that 80% of buyers reviewed 5 or more pieces of content before their purchase, it is clear that quality online content around your company and about your product will be essential for all future sales teams.

Good content can assist social sellers in starting conversations and building relationships. “Put relationships first,” advises Phil Gerbyshank to ambitious social sellers. 

It is crucial to make a connection with your audience and then maintain it by adding value in the way of sharing content. Social media is much more an opportunity to educate and become a resource for your potential customers, rather than to sell directly - that’s for further down the customer journey.

3. Mobile Expertise

Mobile Expertise

Smartphones are now more common for online use than a desktop (51% vs 42%). And, with the digital native Generation Z set to make up 40% of all consumers by 2020, organizations will need to adjust their own expertise to survive in the coming years.

The rise of mobile means that businesses must adapt their strategy accordingly. This means adopting a mobile-first approach, in which comms, content and customer journey are optimized for mobile. 

Leverage mobile-optimized video communications throughout the sales process and add video-building abilities to your sales teams to better engage the next generation of consumers. This will prove essential to all communications through native apps, such as Snapchat and Instagram.

The predominance of apps also means that businesses will need to stay abreast of the trends to make sure that their app remains relevant - and more importantly - discoverable. Intelligent, AI-powered marketing platforms can translate the vast troves of daily created user data into actionable updates to how your app is marketed. 

The information is out there, future-proofing your workforce will simply be a matter of developing the right skills to be able to harness it effectively.

4. Multi-platform UX design

Multi-platform UX design

As more of your customer base spend time online, moving between different devices, your company’s digital presence will need to take centre stage.

The key to this is to ensure your app or website is easily navigable is at the heart of UX (user experience) design. And, with 79% of internet users admitting to searching for another site if they can’t easily use one they landed on, it’s essential to invest in this digital skill.

Importantly, websites and apps will need to be responsive to give users a consistent feel across different devices. Not doing so will create an impasse between brand and user, that will encourage consumers to look elsewhere.

Consider how to make design teams agiler. To speed up the process and to allow creativity to flow, divide up the work for different features. If individuals have more independence, they will have clear ownership of their section and are more likely to feel creatively satisfied. This agile framework will lead to more productive workers and more flexible design necessary to keep up with tomorrow’s digitization.

5. Network and information security

Network and information security

This skill, while on the surface seems the least glamorous, is one of the most important.

Cybersecurity is one of the biggest issues of today and will continue to be as digital transformation advances. With recent controversies about cyber security in high profile cases like Yahoo, Sage and Hilary Clinton's email, ensuring business data is kept secure has emerged as a top priority.

As security methods evolve and develop, so do the threats against it. And the more connected your workforce, the more the whole company is at risk from one employee’s oversight. Even something as simple as using social media at work can be a risk.

Having a workforce that understands the basics of online security – and the steps they can take to defend it – will keep your company, and its sensitive information, away from prying eyes and breach scandals.

6. Creative thinking

Creative thinking

Arguably the most important digital skill for the future doesn’t relate to a specific device or software.

For 6 in 10 occupations, 30% of tasks are automatable. As technology rapidly evolves, previously revered breakthroughs are quickly forgotten, and specialized skillsets become obsolete.

Therefore the most important skill for any employee in the face of automation is creative thinking. To ensure the longevity of a workforce, they must be able to do what machines are unable to.

For example, VR and AI are fascinating developments, but may not yet be relevant for your company. It is important to invest in creative, versatile workers that are keen to learn and will be flexible through each technological advance.

As machines become more involved with daily tasks, the more we will need to have creative, versatile workers whose skills transcend what the machines can offer.

When it comes to digital transformation, it’s crucial to have a workforce that has a grasp of the complexity of the digital world, and the new stages of a customer journey. 

From making the most of big data to staying on top of how consumers are using technology are all essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce. Making sure they have the right expertise to adapt as the technology evolves will help to future-proof teams as time marches on.