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Surviving the Tech Revolution – ( Closing the Digital Skills Gap )

Previously in our blog, we met Slick-Steve and Seen-it-all-Si. They each had ideas how digital marketing could help their business, but ended up creating websites that didn’t really work. But why was that? What was the underlying issue?

Closing the Digital Skills Gap

Steve and Si are examples of the digital skills gap that we’ve all heard about when economists discuss the 4th Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, The Internet of Things. This issue of closing the digital skills gap has been raised by governments, economists and commentators across the world. They refer to the rapid change in manufacturing and business processes brought about by recent technological advances and raise concerns of how work-forces could be left behind.

In Steve and Si’s case, the digital gap is actually more of a gulf. Their perception of digital skills and the benefit to business is completely askew. They see their personal experience as only driver of business and don’t see the need to get with the programme. They don’t realise that the world is changing without them.

Re-Tweeting Other People’s Stuff

Seen-it-all-Si sees himself as one of life’s survivors; always on his toes – although ironically, he hasn’t been able to see them for some time now. He has prospered by using other people’s toes – specifically those of his exploited migrant workers, twirling neon signs for hours on end by the duel carriageway. He started using Twitter recently, but has nothing useful to say, so he just retweets other people’s stuff.

Posting staccato Tweets that say nothing

On the other hand, Slick-Steve is keen on tech. He uses Twitter as a sounding board for staccato tweets to share his amazing knowledge. But because you can rarely say anything useful with 8 words – nobody wastes time reading them. He hasn’t worked out that there is a very good reason for Twitter doubling their character allowance; longer, content filled Tweets get better engagement.

What neither realise is that Twitter offers the chance to engage on a real-time basis if you are informative, challenging or at least humorous. If not, there are plenty of other people out there who are.

Instagram Pages packed with fun photos

Steve is also big on Instagram; his site is packed with fab photos of his fun friends having a jolly time on his quite small speedboat. They all agree it gives a really fabulous impression and Steve thinks this will attract new customers. It won’t and never will – he is not a teenage fashion brand, he sells Widgets.

Grown-up people are repulsed by his bragging and are unimpressed by the posting of ‘fab lifestyle’ pictures – mainly because they are not 13-year-old Little Mix fans.

Misapplication of the digital marketing tools within the marketing mix    

Steve and Si haven’t worked out that digital marketing tools are just part of the marketing mix and need to be used as an integral part of a marketing strategy. In isolation, they just become sound and picture boards that achieve very little for their brand – or business.

The extra time both have gained through advances in tech is ironically being wasted – on tech. Unless Si and Steve understand the place of digital marketing tools and use them as part of a wider strategy, they will continue to waste their time.

Does closing the digital gap really matter?

Remember Wise-Wendy? Both kind and wise. People look to her for answers to questions. Like, does any of this really matter? She’s done some research and says that in the UK the gap has been estimated to cost the economy £63 billion a year. She says that 72% of large and 49% of SMEs are suffering a ‘large digital skills gap’. She also knows that tech job applications in the UK are down by 50% following the Brexit vote and that the UK is now unable to keep up with the skills demand.

Wise-Wendy would remind Seen-it-all-Si of this, following one his ‘foreigners take all our jobs’ rants – if she was the type. She also realises that it would be a pointless exercise – given that he once accidentally burned down his holiday home after trying to smoke out one small, harmless mouse…

Wendy says the economy will lose competitiveness without keeping a skilled workforce up with developments in tech. She says that the Chartered Institute for IT estimated that the UK needs half a million more children to gain a computing qualification each year, with ICT entries down 40%.

Are Millennials the solution to bridging the digital skills gap?

So how do we bridge the digital skills gap? Where lies the answer? Many would say that Millennials are the natural answer. After all they’ve grown up with tech haven’t they? Sure, they don’t run businesses yet, but when they do it will all be fine. Or will it? Wise Wendy has some guidance for us in this cautionary tale.

Merrill-the-Millennial

Merrill’s mum wanted to call him Malcolm, but his dad wanted a name that would give his son a boost in life. As a member of the yacht club, he said the name Merrill meant “shining sea”, or “famous”. Oh yes – really going places. In reality however, most people think he was actually named after a brand of trendy shoes…

His dad thinks that connections and life tips will help his son get ahead. Hi main one is “Get yourself a yacht…” unaware that deck shoes and garish sailing jackets don’t cut it in the new Millennium. To get ahead, he now needs real skills – to ride the tech revolution.

The Millennial skills gap

Unfortunately, Merrill-the-Millennium’s parents haven’t shown him his place in life – he’s never done his own washing or ironed his trousers. Unlike generations before him, neither has he ever worked on a milk/paper-round, or in his local supermarket, stacking shelves.

Merrill hasn’t yet learned that work is often toil – but it needs to be done if you want to eat. He doesn’t realise this because he still lives at home under mother’s watchful eye – waiting for his big chance in life, at 27 years of age.

He thinks that his degree from the University of Middle Wallop should qualify him for senior management – even though he has precious little actual work experience. Mundane tasks are not for him, he quickly becomes bored and wants to move on to something that will occupy his amazing intellect. Unfortunately, even if the company he works for did do any work like this, those with 20 years’ service would snaffle the choice tasks.

The Millennials’ confidence may be an illusion however. Wendy realises this and points out that research has shown that in reality, compared to Gen X, Millennials are “less confident in their effectiveness…perhaps because they lack overall experience in leading teams”.

Experience has real-life practicality. Business is still ultimately about people, about leading people to achieve an aim: about getting other people to make decisions about buying stuff. Your stuff.

So, what advice can Wise-Wendy offer? Get used to it Merrill? Suck it up for 20 years and wait for your chance? Tempting though it is, and thankfully for Merrill, that may not be the case.

Structural change brought by the tech revolution

Wise-Wendy points out that historically, throughout Si and Steve’s Baby Boomer years and Generation X, power and authority were afforded to the few and reinforced through organisational hierarchy and structure. The tech revolution has brought about social change however. Think of the Arab Spring, a revolution without an identifiable leader, brought about through instant communication via social media networks. Real power to the people…

She says that “social networks like Twitter and Facebook are usurping the power of some formal, hierarchical networks. Leadership in today’s world requires insight from more than one individual”.

So, what can we do?

Ever the pragmatist, Wise-Wendy comes up with practical solutions.

To businesses, she would suggest they get to grips with the business paradigm shift. Information is the new king, knowledge is power and no longer sits alone in a corner office, behind a mahogany desk. The old structures are falling and the best workers will flow naturally to those who change with the times.

To Merrill she would suggest he continues developing his tech skills, but combines this with patience, on learning that experience is a valuable asset – and to learn from people who have it.

To technophobes like Steve and Si, she would suggest a large slice of humble pie and a training course that can bridge the digital gap.

She suggests that if you are experiencing the digital skills gap, to act now and book yourself on a training course!

And who’s to argue? She’s wise – just like we’ve been saying.

 

If this blog has got you thinking about your own digital skills needs but are not sure where to begin, @Business_Wales offer FREE digital marketing and social media training aimed at closing the digital skills gap. Have a look here and #booknow! #SuperFastBiz.

If you need some help integrating your digital tools into an overall strategy, then: Get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you!