8 Must-Have Digital Skills for Today’s Workforce

Inadequate tech skills cause workers to lose two hours every day, translating into 500 lost hours per year, or about $10 million per 1,000 employees. Organizations need to offer focused, continuous training in these areas.

From Slack to Salesforce to Google search, today’s teams have more powerful workplace technology at their fingertips than at any time in history. So why is productivity growth in the U.S. at an all-time low? While many companies offer their employees targeted, role-specific professional development, there’s a critical lack of digital skills training offered at most organizations. This kind of instruction can immediately affect performance and result in workers who do their jobs better, faster, and happier.

The biggest challenge for Learning and Development professionals is that rapid innovation means technological know-how is transforming faster than ever. In fact, a 2014 survey from consulting firm Deloitte showed that digital skills become obsolete in as few as 2.5 years without training.

These inadequate tech skills cause workers to lose two hours every day, translating into 500 lost hours per year, or about $10 million per 1,000 employees. Moreover, it’s costing our economy a whopping $1.3 trillion in lost annual productivity. The data are clear: The training workers currently receive isn’t keeping pace with the skills they really need.

What Do These Digital Skills Look Like?

Using a combination of analysis, applied research, and client experience, Grovo has identified eight core digital competencies essential for today’s workplace. Organizations that offer focused, continuous training in these areas will see gains in productivity, engagement, and most of all, performance.

  1. Document Creation, Collaboration, and Management: Being able to create, format, and collaborate on digital documents with teammates is key to unlocking a digitized workplace. Failure to do so can lead to lost time, poor communication, and errors in analysis, all of which can have a big impact on business profitability and outcomes.
  2. Project Collaboration and Management: The ability to start, work on, and complete projects in collaboration with coworkers—whether located across the cubicle or across the world—is an essential skill. That entails being able to navigate an organization’s digitized workflow system and deploy project management software tools such as Asana, Trello, and others.
  3. Focus and Attention Management: In today’s constantly connected world, workers are bombarded with stimuli from multiple devices, apps, and information services all demanding attention. Being able to rank tasks, manage time, and juggle distractions is essential to learning how to prioritize and hone focus.
  4. Communication: Workers spend an average of 28 percent of their workweek (or more) reading and answering e-mail. That makes efficient use of digital communications a must-have skill. Even modest gains in efficiency would free up substantial resources for other tasks.
  5. Digital Etiquette: Digital etiquette, sometimes referred to as “netiquette,” is the dos and don’ts of online communication. Employees need to learn how to maintain a smart social presence. This involves maximizing brand messaging without jeopardizing the company’s reputation.
  6. Search and Research: Knowledge of how to search the Internet and the vastness of digital archives is key to many business applications. Employees must be able to quickly and effectively search for relevant and accurate data, and distinguish fact from fantasy.
  7. Platform Flexibility: The ability to navigate across several devices and platforms (including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and wearable devices) is now a critically important skill. Failure to adapt can lead to lost time, compatibility issues, and the inability to leverage the tools available.
  8. Security and Privacy: Data and security breaches due to human error are ever-increasing in the digital realm. Employees must be well-trained in security and privacy awareness, and know how to use their businesses’ specific safeguard practices.

Each of these competencies will continue to evolve as new technologies emerge. To stay ahead, trainers must become increasingly nimble, training (or retraining) employees on new skills as they develop.

How Should We Train Employees?

First, it’s important for any business to assess its needs and determine the specific training objectives, such as boosting productivity. Then, analyze what processes, systems, and skills workers must be fluent in to achieve set goals. Finally, devise a short- and longer-term training program that will meet those goals and empower your employees.

For example, smaller organizations may want to identify in-house digital technology experts who can conduct short, in-person training sessions. Larger companies may find the solution in a learning technology partner. But with any digital skills-building program, organizations should make sure their training is comprehensive, relevant, and up to date.

This includes using science-based tools and methodologies for the 21st century brain. Examples include holistic learning, which “immerses” learners in a topic from various perspectives, and microlearning, which features short, focused lessons followed by quiz questions. Both are highly effective in increasing learning and retention, and powering performance.

Carefully curated video lessons—“micro” to keep up with today’s shrinking attention spans—are another such training tool. These can be built into self-directed learning tracks that allow beginning, mid-level, or more advanced learners to orient themselves in the subject matter. Knowledge is layered on, one lesson at a time.

These proven training techniques help trainers teach, learners learn, and job performance skyrocket. Keeping training current with today’s essential digital skills is not just a way to get a leg up in today’s business landscape—it’s a matter of competitive survival.

Jeff Fernandez is the cofounder and CEO of Grovo, a next-generation learning solution for the enterprise. Grovo’s microlearning method brings teams engaging 60-second video lessons on a flexible, user-friendly platform to affect performance. The venture-backed learning technology company is based in New York City and serves Fortune 500 companies, businesses, and universities in 190 countries.