As the ASEAN region charges full steam ahead into the digital economy, one trend continues to worry employers: the digital skills readiness of the workforce.
This issue regularly rears its head in discussions at every level, from individuals seeking to upskill to policy-level debates about how best to prepare our workforce for the future.
In Singapore, upskilling the workforce continues to be a national priority. Earlier this year, the government announced more investments into workplace training programmes and subsidies in its annual Budget.
While the urgency to upskill can be largely attributed to the socio-economic upheavals caused by the pandemic, there is value in considering how the core principles of continuous learning and skills training can serve us in a post-pandemic future.
In this digital economy, knowledge that is essential today may be obsolete by tomorrow. For digital workers, learning is a constant work in progress.
The growing digital skills crisis
To be fair, that’s easier said than done.
A recent global study by Salesforce found that only 40 percent of respondents felt they were “very prepared” with workplace digital skills like collaboration technologies, digital marketing, and e-commerce. In Singapore, this figure drops to 36 percent.
Fortunately, the vast majority of respondents in Singapore (85 percent), do plan to bridge this gap and learn new skills to help them grow in their current career or build new career paths. However, they may not be getting the help they need or know where to start. Only 27 percent say they are equipped with the resources to learn the digital skills they need to thrive in the current and future workforce.
Businesses and governments play a key role in democratising the opportunities to gain digital skills.
With the resources and influence these organisations wield, they can harness learning communities, invest in younger generations, enact policies and training programmes.
But before organisations roll out their digital skills training initiatives, they need to be conscious that everyone learns differently. Attempting to create a one-size-fits-all programme that caters to all learning needs and styles may end up to be a fool’s errand.
Six learner profiles to watch out for
In our digital skills readiness research, we’ve uncovered six learner profiles that can serve as guide rails for organisations planning to roll out training programmes.
Established Skill Seekers: This persona is extremely high-skilled, likely due to a desire to continue developing their skills and actually taking action to do so.
Proactive Learners: This group ranks relatively high in regard to their skill level with workplace digital skills, and in general feels more prepared and equipped with the skills they’ll need now and in the future compared to other groups.
Living in the Now: This group focuses on the now, as they are more likely to feel prepared with workplace digital skills needed today. While some may take action to learn the skills they will need, they may not see far ahead to stay prepared in the longer-term.
Unprepared Prepareds: This persona is defined by well below-average workplace skills. However, they may not acknowledge it because they feel prepared for the workplace digital skills needed now and, to a lesser extent, in the future. They’re also not participating to a great extent in any learning or training, suggesting they may be setting themselves up for failure.
Everyday Skills Seeker: This group feels overwhelmed with workplace digital skills and are expected to continue to feel unprepared for the next several years. Interestingly, they are actually much more active in advancing their everyday digital skills, such as social media and web navigation.
Timid Learner: This persona admits they need help when it comes to addressing their digital skills gap, but their hesitation and fear only serves to set them back further in the workplace. With feelings of hesitation and being overwhelmed, they may not know where to start to begin addressing this gap in knowledge.
Grouped together, Established Skill Seekers and Proactive Learners can be termed “Future Learners”.
Equipping these types of learners with the resources needed to stay ahead will help build their careers. This could in turn create new business opportunities to put their new skills to use, and support talent engagement and retention.
Both Living in the Now learners and the Unprepared Prepareds are termed “Face-Value Learners”. To help this group, businesses should invest in and incentivise these employees to participate in training programmes that specifically address the critical workplace digital skills they acknowledge being moderately behind on.
The Everyday Skills Seekers and Timid Learners are collectively known as “Familiar Learners” who are early in their digital workplace readiness journey and may be unsure of where to begin. These learners will benefit by finding a mentor and connecting with Future Learners eager to help them develop the skills to succeed.
Re-learning the way people learn
The pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation and forced companies to switch to a remote or hybrid model in a matter of weeks to survive.
This switch revealed to businesses that everyone learns differently. Understanding the humans who make up the workforce can help organisations work with employees to build tailored learning journeys.
Whichever way we learn, we all have the same goal: to bridge the gap in a work-from-anywhere world led by digital-first interactions and business models.