What are Digital Skills and how they foster digital transformation

Digital Skills

Digital skills are essential for companies’ digital transformation, as they enable businesses to seize the opportunities behind digitization and to adapt quickly to change.

What is corporate digital transformation? It is the process of transforming a company through the integration of digital technology to gain a competitive advantage. It includes the implementation of technologies and processes that may be relatively simple, such as electronic signatures or digital identity, or complex, such as IoT (Internet of Things), Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.

What are the digital skills?

In 2006, the European Parliament published the document “Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council” in which we find a definition of digital competence as “the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication.

Digital skills can be divided into two categories:

  •     Soft skills
    They concern the ability to relate and communicate, they are not learned in school, and are not quantifiable. They include technical problem solving, the ability to use information available online, communication via digital devices, netiquette, and leadership.
  •     Hard skills
    They are basic technical skills acquired through schooling, profession or training courses, and they are quantifiable. Some examples are: the use of software, knowledge of programming languages, and the use of machinery or tools. Skills related to the SMAC area (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud), as well as Artificial Intelligence, IoT, and cybersecurity are part of it.

Digital skills can then be divided into:

  •     Basic: these are skills related to everyday activities, such as knowing how to use an email program, do a search online, juggle the use of touch screen devices.
  •     Intermediate: they are related mainly to job tasks, for example, knowing how to use management software or how to publish content on the Web.
  •     Advanced: these are knowledge and skills required of technical specialists, such as computer programming, IT systems management, cyber security, big data, app development, etc.

The Digital Mismatch

According to the European Commission, as many as 1 in 3 workers lack basic digital skills, and this undermines business performance both in terms of productivity and customer retention.

However, the weight of digital skills is growing in all business areas and in all sectors, as reported by the Italian Osservatorio delle Competenze Digitali (Digital Skills Observatory)

The underlying problem is that there is a gap between what companies need and the preparation of the workforce. Suffice it to say that as many as 76 percent of organizations cannot find graduates with sound digital skills. This gap is called the Digital Mismatch and it especially affects those industries where the digital transformation has been faster than the evolution of the workforce.

Nevertheless, while finding new trained resources is difficult, companies can always invest in training internal ones.

The first step is to identify what digital skills are needed to meet business challenges. After that, it is important to ensure that resources can acquire these skills through informal and formal learning paths. Informal learning includes listening to podcasts, reading books, and participating in online courses. Formal learning can be achieved through enrollment in university programs or specific professional certifications.

Why a company should invest in digitalis skills development

Digital skills help facilitate the digital transformation of businesses in several ways:

  •     First, they help save time and money: Technology can automate certain processes, reducing lead times and lowering costs.
  •     Second, digital skills can reduce errors: technology provides the ability to control business processes more easily.
  •     Third, they enable organizations to streamline management and make processes more efficient.

In all three cases, there must always be someone who can program and manage the technology, analyze both incoming and outgoing data, and make different tools and departments communicate. This is the point in which the digital skills of a work team can make all the difference.

If that were not already enough, a work team with well-developed digital skills is also able to adapt to technological developments and market changes much faster, realizing a competitive advantage that is crucial to any company’s success.

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