Emerging digital skills

18 November 2021

Digital skills for work are changing. Many workforces have had to adapt the way they run their businesses, with more reliance on digital skills than ever before. There’s lot of technology available in the workplace to help businesses to grow if employers and employees know how to use it.

Most businesses have some reliance on basic digital skills across their workforce, from email skills to building a website, but what about emerging digital skills such as coding and expert data analysis?

Technology in the workplace and getting to grips with emerging digital skills could help you set yourself apart from the competition. In this blog, we’ll explain what the difference is between basic digital skills and emerging digital skills, and what you can do to get started making the most of them to learn the skills for the future of work.

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What are digital skills?

Digital skills vary vastly from person to person; some people are incredibly digitally minded, whilst others are quite happy with just the basics. Almost every industry has a ‘tech’ element to it now, so without digital skills you could be left behind.

Basic digital skills include:

  • Setting up and using email, including sending emails, and attaching documents
  • Using word processing applications to create documents
  • Using a browser to find websites
  • Using messaging apps to communicate digitally
  • Being able to post messages and photos on social media platforms.

You can learn about all of these basic skills and more right here in Digital Wings - just type the topic you're interested in into the search bar to see what's available.

What are future proof IT skills?

'Future proofing' is a term that you may have seen before. It means anticipating what might be coming next digitally, and preparing yourself for it.

According to research by Salesforce, nine out of ten workers will need to learn new skills to do their jobs by 2030. Yes, you read that right – 90% of workers will need to learn new digital skills to help them future proof themselves.

IT skills are continuously evolving with new technologies, meaning the skills learned today won’t necessarily be the future-proof skills of tomorrow.

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Skills for the Future of Work

According to The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) the UK economy suffers a loss of £1.5bn per year due to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills shortages. They’ve written this useful guide

Digital skills are required for lots of different roles in a business, from marketing and promotion, to administration and stock control. Some of the emerging digital skills required for the future of work are more complex than others, but they all have their part to play in supporting a digital future. A lot of emerging digital skills can be learned ‘on-the-job’ too.

Let’s take a look at some of the emerging digital skills you might come across:

1. Coding and software development

Coding and programming are key tools in all industries: from farming to sports and media. Most modern equipment and machines are controlled by built-in computers, and all of these are controlled with code. Coders and programmers help to create the world around us.

There’s a huge demand for employees with coding and programming skills, which is not being met.

A career in coding or programming can be very rewarding, both in terms of financial gain but also in work-life balance. Many coders work freelance, which allows them to set their own workday, including which jobs to choose and where they want to work. This gives them a certain independence from the traditional nine to five.  Of course, freelancing isn’t without its disadvantages, so be sure to do your research first.

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2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and translation between languages.

Essentially, Artificial Intelligence happens when a machine is programmed to mimic human intelligence. Their level of AI is measured by their ability to display human behaviours like decision-making, learning, or problem-solving.

Watch this short video for a short explanation of what AI is¹:

AI systems operate at all levels of economy and society. AI is used by police forces in their facial recognition systems, by HR teams to help them preselect the best candidates for a job, and by retailers to help personalise their offers to our preferences. Not only can this make certain processes a lot smoother for businesses, but it also frees up time to be working on things that only a human can do. These human skills are often referred to as “soft skills”.

Machine learning (ML) is a form of AI. It teaches computers to think in a similar way to humans. The machine learns from past experiences and improves its behaviour based on what it’s learned. It usually involves minimal human intervention.

The Royal Society have made this useful video which explains it.¹

Some people worry that the growth of AI and machine learning means that jobs will be lost in the future as the robots start to take over. This paper from the MIT Task Force argues that in fact the opposite is true, and that the future development of AI could actually increase jobs – maybe just slightly different ones as new industries appear.

3. Data Analysis

Businesses of all sizes are able to collate data in lots of different ways including, sales reports, social media, and online activity. Using clever data analysis technology, they can quickly establish what’s working well, what’s not, and maybe even predict what might happen next for their business, to help them stay ahead of the curve.

Data analysts need to keep up to date with the ever changing technology in this industry. Watch this video to find out more about the role of data analysts and data analytics.¹

4. Social Selling

Social selling is the process of finding and connecting to your potential customers through social media. It’s not quite the same as social media marketing, but has some similarities. With more and more consumers using the internet and social media, it makes sense that that’s where businesses should be trying to build relationships and engage with their customers.

Despite this being an emerging technology, it still needs the human touch. The social data gathering technology can help you understand what your customers might want or need, but it’s down to people to build genuine and lasting relationships with their clients.

Businesses who adapt to effective social selling are potentially more likely to perform better than those who don’t. According to LinkedIn 78% of businesses that use social selling outsell businesses that don’t use social selling.

You can use any of the social media platforms to engage with potential customers, but the best way to engage with your customers is to use the platform they’re using.

Take a look at this article by Hootsuite for some helpful hints and tips on social selling, including how to use some of the social media analytic tools available.

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5. Multi-Platform UX Design

User experience (UX) is really important if you want to keep your customers’ attention. If you’ve got a website, making sure that it works on different devices seamlessly is crucial. It’s easy for customers to find a competitor’s website at the touch of the button if your site isn’t user friendly. Having the tech skills to design user friendly applications that are compatible across different devices your customers might be using will improve their experience and build their trust in you and your business.

When creating a website, it’s worth remembering who your customers are, and how they’re likely to be logging on. According to research carried out by The Search Review, nearly 60% of all online searches were carried out on a mobile device.

Being able to watch programmes you’ve started on the television, and being able to pick up where you left it on your mobile device on the go, or drafting an email on your commute to the office and finishing it off on your desktop when you get there are both examples of cross-platform UX design.

Did you know, you can use Digital Wings on a tablet, mobile or desktop computer? Also, your progress is kept up to date regardless of the device you complete your training on, and the learning is adapted to the size of the screen automatically. Why not take a look on a different device next time you log on?

Again, there’s lot of technology at your disposal to help get to grips with UX design, but at the heart of it is your/the customer. It’s another example of how people applying the human touch and using digital skills are needed to work with emerging technology to help build a brand and its reputation. The Digital Marketing Institute have written this overview into the importance of digital UX.

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6. Cyber Security

Being cyber secure is something everyone should strive for. It’s of vital importance for a business to take cyber security very seriously, as a breach could have far reaching consequences beyond the loss of business funds and the cost of compensation and fines. If customer data is accessed, the reputational damage caused can be hard to bounce back from. ITPro explain the impact a data breach could have here.

By keeping on the front foot of emerging digital skills and implementing them across your workforce, you can help mitigate the risk of cyber-attacks. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has put together the 10 Steps to Cyber Security that organisations can use to help protect themselves in cyberspace.

Cyber criminals are constantly working on new ways to target businesses. Watch this video to see what cyber security risks you need to be aware of, and why it’s important to keep up to speed with tech skills that can help.¹

7.  Creative Problem Solving

It might seem that digital skills are only for people who are really ‘techy’, but actually there’s a need for both creative minds and technically able people to help with emerging technology in the workplace, as creative problem solving is something that machines just can’t yet do.

By using the data that’s created using specialist analytics, a creative mind can interpret that data by looking at it in a way that only humans can – asking ‘why?’ and ‘how can we change this?’

Vital knowledge and skills gained through experience are essential skills for the future of work, but when combined with emerging digital skills, you’ve got a recipe for success. Buddying up colleagues who have different skills sets can expand creative thinking too, opening up conversations and developing new ideas that might never have even been considered.

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According to Workingwise.co.uk, multigenerational teams are good for business. Remember, those who’ve been with a business the longest are usually the people who know your customers the best, they’ve seen what’s worked well, and what hasn’t worked in the past.

Helping older workers keep up to date with emerging technology in the work place is just as important as training up new employees. Have a look at this article from Working Wise about ageism in the tech industry to explore the benefits of employing older employees and see what else you can do to support diversity.

It takes a real mix of different abilities for a workplace to be successful. By combining a mixture of traditional skills and emerging digital skills together with ongoing digital development can support you and your business becoming future-proof.

If you’d like to find out more about cyber crime, check out this Digital Wings module by signing up to Digital Wings, for free, today.

Digital Wings can be used by businesses to help your workforce learn about technology at work. If you’d like tailored learning for your business e-mail us

¹ The content in these videos is independent and is neither affiliated with, nor authorised, sponsored, created or approved by Barclays. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. There are other services available and Barclays does not specifically endorse or recommend the use of any services mentioned in this video.

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