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People strategy

How to Break Down the Digital Divide in Your Workforce

Kirstie Kelly

Students using computers at Digital Methods Summer SchoolThe difficulties posed by the growing digital skills shortage are real. However, finding the solution may be easier than you think, as your current employees might have had the skills to bridge the gap all along.

As the need for a highly technical workforce continues to rise, demand for digital skills is far outpacing supply, according to Oliver Rees on the Source blog. “We cannot wait until the next generation of technology literates enters the workforce,” he writes, citing the immediate need for programmers, UX designers, data scientists, games designers, and machine learning experts.

And as the external talent pool continues to lack in these categories, it might be time to take your search for techies closer to home.

Unearthing Hidden Digital Skills

“Unleash the talent from within,” Rees declares. If you do a little digging, you might find that one of your existing employees possesses the very skillset you’re looking for – whether it be a receptionist who designs websites in her spare time or a phone operator who creates mobile games and apps for pleasure. Thanks to the pervasive nature of today’s technologies, anyone and everyone out there can be digitally savvy.

However, these digital skills are often hidden, and HR departments need to engage with every employee to fully uncover those talents.

Sometimes, simply providing a hands-on experience with digital platforms can help. Gloria Lombardi, writing for simply-communicate.com, reports that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) encouraged their staff to tweet and share things they learned on the job. This exercise quickly uncovered an individual who knew the subtle ins and outs of Twitter – in other words, a potential content strategist in the making.

Similarly, BBDO’s Digital Lab held a fun competition for employees to create the funniest six-second Vine video, according to the Wall Street Journal. Given the current demand for “bite-sized creative content,” consider hosting a similar office-wide competition for the best promotional Vine, YouTube video, or Buzzfeed article. You just might discover your next brand innovator in-house.

Moreover, according to V3, many companies have begun hosting “hackathons,” in which skilled amateurs are given the task of, say, hacking into a networked device. It’s possible that your hobby hackers have the skills to turn their after-hours fun into an appreciable asset.

Also consider targeting your younger employees when looking for the next wave of digital talent – HR Magazine reports that people aged 16 to 24, the first generation to have really grown up with the Internet, are classified by the Local Government Association (LGA) as “hidden talent.” They’re the most likely to naturally possess digital capabilities, and should be tasked with teaching and inspiring the rest of your workforce.

Teaching Digital Skills

People working at computers at Wikimedia’s 2013 HackathonTo this end, it’s not as difficult as it might seem to turn existing skillsets into digitally adaptable ones – Rees cites problem solving, persistence, and creativity as the core ingredients of a great technologist: “When taught in the right way, it’s possible to unleash the inner coder, data scientist, [or] hacker within everyone.”

As an example from the same Wall Street Journal article, Madison Avenue ad agencies recently hosted tech workshops and enrolled workers in coding classes, to great effect. As advertising grows increasingly digital, workers were happy to hone their technological skills to stay competitive.

Similarly, a separate DVLA hackathon challenged developers and graphic designers to collaborate with senior management, clerks, and call centre staff, helping employees recognize that everyone has a digital role to play. More than anything, technology is an approach – going digital just requires using that technology to your benefit.

The digital divide may appear intimidating to many, but companies already have the resources at hand to easily bridge the gap to technological literacy. “It’s our business to be playing with technology,” says Dave Rolfe, director of integrated production at BBDO New York.

Perhaps no role is more open to digital expansion than that of the recruiter. And video interviewing, as offered through LaunchPad Recruits’ unique software platform, offers a simple way to transcend the digital divide, as it engages both workers and technologically inclined candidates in an easy-to-use digital platform. It’s small steps like these that allow your company to slowly but surely make the transition to digital success.

(Image credits: Anne Helmond/flickrSebastiaan ter Burg/flickr)

Kirstie Kelly

Kirstie is our resident expert in the field of recruitment and technology, having 23 years total experience in commercial business across a range of business sectors. As a result, she has been instrumental in ensuring the innovative technology provided at LaunchPad is relevant for our customers. Kirstie's passion is all about finding creative solutions to recruitment challenges. And no better way than with technology!