How wide is the digital skills gap?

Jul 29 2014 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Pretty much every job today bar the most menial means using technology, even more so if youíre 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 Iím 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 ďwork-aroundsĒ instead of short cuts, having to look up how to do something that someone somewhere decided they should already know (and obviously donít) and just hunting and pecking until they get something right.

There is also some extrapolation to exactly how much money this costs companies. Iím actually less concerned about the dollar figure because a good consultant can make anything look like a million dollar problem (I know, because Iíve 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 Einsteinís 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 itís 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 Iím comfortable across platforms and a bit of a jerk, so maybe Iím 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 has been writing about how to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments for more than 20 years. In 2016, he merged with The Kevin Eikenberry Group, to create The Remote Leadership Institute, and now serves as Master Trainer and Coach to the Kevin Eikenberry Group. Wayne is also is the author of more than 15 books, including The Long-Distance Teammate and The Long-Distance Team.