The importance of digitally upskilling employees

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Written by Dawn McGruer on 7 November 2017 in Opinion

Dawn McGruer underlines the importance of digital upskilling.

Whether you’re heading up a large corporate firm or managing your own small business, you will undoubtedly be faced with issues surrounding employee training from time to time.

Staff may expect annual refresher courses or may want to move into different areas of the business; whatever the demand from your team, or the company’s overall strategy, it’s important to have a firm hold on what you need to prioritise when it comes to training schedules.

It’s impossible to hide away from the impact digital know-how has on career progression, company growth and, of course, brand awareness, so it’s important to consider equipping employees with a level of digital knowledge that will help the business to flourish.

Delving into digital

It’s often (wrongly) assumed that if we manage to get to the bottom of our ever-growing to-do list by Friday afternoon, we’re doing more than enough and succeeding in our current role. Of course, ticking off important tasks and completing pieces of work is essential, but stepping outside of our comfort zone and picking up new skills should not be discounted.

Whether it’s an introductory course into social media strategy or an advanced qualification in email marketing, bringing people into the digital age is essential.

We’re living in a truly digital world – from shopping for groceries to booking a holiday to applying for a job, everything we do involves some form of online activity. And, when it comes to building brand loyalty among consumers or creating trust among business partners, digital has never been more important.

Offering the appropriate training to employees will not only boost efficiency but will also give them the motivation they need to achieve results. As a manager, you’ll want a team of highly engaged, enthusiastic, ambitious individuals who want to grow their skillset and play a key role within your business.

So, whether it’s an introductory course into social media strategy or an advanced qualification in email marketing, bringing people into the digital age is essential.

Of course, many business owners and directors will shy away from investing in such training and, instead, plough cash into other areas; however, setting budget aside for training can in fact save money in the long run.

For instance, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) found that, out of over 2,500 firms, those that offered comprehensive training had a 218% higher income per employee than those with less comprehensive training. 

Minding the digital skills gap

Digital is transformative. It has the power to enable us to target specific audiences and tap into what is likely to make them tick and respond to. However, according to a recent report from the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), there has been a decline in the level of digital skills since 2014 – dropping from 42% to 38%.

Unsurprisingly, the technology sector is the most competent at digital, with marketing and education industries also performing well. However, almost two thirds of marketers in the UK still feel they need to boost their digital skills to climb the career ladder.

Taking such stats into account, employers should consider what they can do to help boost skillsets across the business.

First, think about prioritising the skills that need to be improved upon. Consider the following areas carefully:

  • Social media strategy
  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Google Analytics

It’s extremely easy to dive straight into the deep end and bombard staff with calendar requests to training courses and instructions on researching qualifications. While this will show them that you’re serious about their progression and continued learning, it can also be overwhelming, so try to cherry pick the most appropriate training for each individual and/or team.

One way to ensure everyone gets a bit of everything – without breaking the training budget – is to introduce a ‘shared learning’ scheme. For example, create several ‘teams’ that are compiled vertically across the business and divide up training courses according to specialism, expertise and skills gaps.

After each individual or team has completed a course, they would be asked to present it to the rest of the business, sharing their new skills and insights and helping to bolster everyone else’s knowledge.

What now?

Training in the workplace should not be a vanity exercise; rather, it should be a valuable, well thought-out mechanism to help maintain growth and staff morale. Introducing a training programme shouldn’t be a guessing game, so the first step is to engage with staff to find out where they feel their skills gaps lie and what they believe they would benefit from the most.

Then, it’s time to look into the options available and what sort of courses would suit your team the most.


About the author

Dawn McGruer is founder of digital marketing and social media academy, Business Consort. For more information about digital marketing training options, visit:


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