Jo Geraghty


Filling the skills gap

Date added: 09th Nov 2015
Category: Employee Engagement

Training in any form is not simply the outpouring of knowledge; rather it should be a shared journey which assumes nothing and leads towards understanding.

Blended learning, on the job training, self-development programs…… No matter what the title, are you really sure that you are helping your employees to maximise their abilities and therefore deliver outstanding levels of service for the organisation and its clients? The trouble is that with any training program there may well be an elephant in the room; the assumption that everyone has a basic level of IT literacy.

It’s an easy mistake to make. After all, doesn’t everyone have smartphones and laptops and computers and doesn’t everyone use social media to communicate? Well, no they don’t. In fact, a report by the charity Go.On UK has revealed that 23% of adults don’t have the basic digital skills which they would need to manage information, communicate, make payments, solve problems, and create stuff online. Admittedly, some of these adults may be elderly, although we know of plenty of elderly people who are very digitally savvy, but the fact that such a high proportion of adults fail the digital skills test has measurable consequences for the workplace.

For a start, Go.On UK estimates that 1.2 million SMEs and 58% of charities simply don’t have the level of technological ability required to thrive in today’s online marketplace. Added to this is the fact that those with low IT skills are more likely to have poorer paid jobs or be in work which is under threat from future automation. In fact, Baroness Martha Lane Fox who chairs Go.On UK has warned of “a threat to economic growth, productivity and social mobility if we don’t close the skills gap.”

But it is perhaps the hidden skills gap which is of the greatest threat to business. If training is delivered with a basic assumption of skill levels then all you are doing is teaching a process rather than helping people to understand and to think. And if your people aren’t able to be proactive, then how can you hope to create realistic and innovative solutions which will drive future growth.

Let’s give you an example. In a previous incarnation, a colleague interviewed people for a fairly senior accountancy position. As part of the interview process these people were given a series of data calculation and entry challenges to see if they could spot mistakes and suggest solutions. What emerged was that a number of these individuals had no idea how to calculate percentages either in Excel or on a calculator. The explanation given was that they had been taught to use an accountancy program but they had no understanding of what the program did or how it worked. Essentially, these individuals had been trained to act as automata, simply feeding information in and receiving responses out. If the data had been wrong, if a problem had arisen then these people lacked the basic skills and understanding which would have enabled them to spot problems or to come up with viable solutions.

The skills gap is a very real problem for the UK. But far more harmful is the assumption that people possess skills which they are in fact lacking. Training in any form is not simply the outpouring of knowledge; rather it should be a shared journey which assumes nothing and leads towards understanding. Get it wrong and you finish up with process followers; get it right and your people can lead your business towards a strong future.

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