How wide is the digital skills gap?


Pretty much every job today bar the most menial means using technology, even more so if you’re a project manager or team leader. But what if we use technology really badly? Like terribly. Well, a recent infographic I came across on seems to confirm what many of us have long suspected.

People use technology really, really, horribly, unbelievably, badly.

The research shows a number of things, and I’m not going to comment on each one (seriously, check it out). But there are a few key data points that should give all managers, and the people who support them, cause for alarm.

First, only one in 10 adults rate themselves as proficient in the use of digital tools they use as part of their work. Keep in mind, these are tools they are supposed to already be using to do their jobs.

The same study shows that 21% of their time - almost a quarter of their working day - is wasted due to poor use of IT. This might mean using “work-arounds” instead of short cuts, having to look up how to do something that someone somewhere decided they should already know (and obviously don’t) and just hunting and pecking until they get something right.

There is also some extrapolation to exactly how much money this costs companies. I’m actually less concerned about the dollar figure because a good consultant can make anything look like a million dollar problem (I know, because I’ve done it). What worries me most is the psychological toll this takes on managers and workers.

This is not a new problem. That in itself is a problem: why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again? (Which was Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, incidentally.) My question would be, how long does it take to recognize that something is a problem, and then to address it in a way that gets you some of that wasted time and money back?

The people that did the infographic (a training outfit called Grovo, to give credit where it’s due) suggest eight core skills that everyone needs to utilize technology and digital tools in the modern workplace. Like any list, you can argue the specifics (personally, I think platform flexibility is less important than digital etiquette, but I’m comfortable across platforms and a bit of a jerk, so maybe I’m extrapolating).

  • Platform flexibility
  • Search and research
  • Digital etiquette
  • Security and privacy
  • Project collaboration and management
  • Attention management
  • Communication
  • Working with documents

As I say, you can argue about the specifics on the list, but take a good look at it. Then ask yourself some important questions:

When was the last time you and your organization helped people learn anything about those specific topics? Or are they just supposed to magically soak it up through osmosis?

How well are people using digital tools in your organization?

How well is your organization helping offer training, resources and assistance?

How do you know?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.