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Corporations and the digital skills gap: how to attract, retain and train the top digital talent

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Ninety percent of companies don’t have employees with the right skills in social media, mobile and data analysis to keep the company competitive in the digital sphere. Shocking? Here’s the real kicker: of those companies, only 46% are investing in developing these digital skills in employees. The rest are falling into the digital skills gap.

If you’re not taking proactive steps to attract, retain and train top digital talent with your company, you risk falling behind. Here’s how to get your workforce on the cutting edge of digital:

You need talent that is up-to-date on the latest tools to mine data, analyze results and optimize work. You have two choices: hire from outside the organization or train those already working for you.

If you are hiring from outside the organization, make it clear in your job postings that you require someone with a strong set of digital skills, including experience with Google Analytics, CRMs, such as Salesforce or Hubspot, and social media management. If you’re looking to develop your digital presence for the first time, you’ll need people with more specialized abilities to get you started, so check for those proficient in e-commerce, digital advertising, SEO or Web design, according to your needs.

It might be easier, however, to identify a few top employees and train them in the skills you’ve identified as important. They already know your business, how it works and what you value, and that institutional knowledge is beneficial. A training program can give employees the experience that otherwise would take them years to accrue.

By 2018, the US will lack about 1.5 million managers and analysts with the sufficient technical and digital skills to stay up to date. The problem isn’t limited to the US: similar predictions have been made about the digital skills gap in the UK. Big Data, Web analytics, content marketing and social media are all skills that underpin marketing and communication tactics across industries, but they’re also areas where employees sometimes fall short.

Why? Partly because the skills required of marketers and managers today are evolving faster than employees can adapt. But there’s something else at work, too. Those who do have these digital skills are moving away from large companies, either because they’ve been poached by a competitor with a strong commitment to digital, or because they are setting out on their own. A McKinsey study found that employees with unique skills and abilities are those most likely to leave an organization. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, employees are more likely to stick around if they see that their leaders as digitally savvy.

It’s important to take the time to train employees in digital. Employees will stick around because they see a chance to grow within a business. If you want to retain digitally savvy employees already in leadership roles, start by recognizing their potential to take your business to the next level and offer them opportunities to take on more management and personnel responsibilities. They’re your best asset in creating the kind of company that can compete in digital, so make sure they have the means to do so.

As we’ve already demonstrated, implementing a strong training program in digital skills is a prime way to get ahead in business. But training needs to be more than just a daylong seminar once a year: instead, it needs to be an engaging, customized and relevant course that keeps your employees on the cutting edge.

When developing trainings either within your organization or with an outside organization, keep in mind that, above all else, they should be relevant and timely. Make sure your employees are learning skills that will actually be of value to them as well as the organizations: you don’t need to bring the sales team in for a seminar on Web design, although an e-commerce session could be of use. There’s no one-size-fits-all training worth your time, so take the time to think about what you actually need to deliver — and then deliver it.

Moreover, keep your trainings timely. According to a study by Deloitte, digital skills now have a half-life of about 2.5 years due to the increasing pace of technological advancement, so you need to update trainings consistently. Don’t just use the same trainings year in and year out: update them at least every six months to keep your employees at the forefront.

If you’re looking to stay competitive in 2016 and beyond, now is the time to start thinking about bridging the digital skills gap and getting your employees up-to-date on the digital skills they need to keep you ahead.

Avi Levine is the executive director of the Digital Professional Institute (DPI), a Chicago-based programming and digital marketing school, affiliated with Tribeca Flashpoint College. He has more than 10 years of experience growing successful business, including PhilterIt.