Publicity December 2014

Demand for Digital Skills

What is required and why

Can you understand and drive digital strategies? If not, it is time to learn. With our lives today becoming increasingly digitised, almost every job involves the use of some element of computer technology.

Digital skills in employment have become a necessity and, as such, are particularly important for those seeking their next job.

We all live in a digital world, and the technological revolution has touched the lives of billions of consumers and businesses around the globe. As a result, digital strategy—and along with it digital literacy—is growing in importance.

From chief executives assessing the threat of cyber crime to marketers looking for the latest online platforms that are becoming popular, digital skills are now needed for office jobs at all levels, and across most job functions.

Thus more firms today, rather than employ customer service representatives in call centres, will hire chat attendants who can interact with customers online via email or social media sites.

Likewise, instead of using traditional sales forecasts based on the intuition of the sales team, staff are using big data to make more precise predictions. Whether creating an app, generating leads on social media or producing digital content, office jobs now all have some digital element.

Senior managers, too, need digital expertise to be able to locate information.

In Japan, marketing via mobile devices is developing at an extremely fast pace. In fact, for an increasing number of consumers, it is becoming their primary media. The behaviour on mobile devices of users from Generation Z—born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s—is changing the overall mentality and mind-set of the average consumer.

Marketers are starting to get the message: mobile marketing will soon become the starting point for brands, rather than an add-on. This new trend in buying behaviour is already affecting the job market, creating new digital openings across all sectors.

Education systems need to adapt in recognition of, and to prepare youth with the necessary skills for, the digital age. In autumn 2015, the UK will become the first country in the world to make it compulsory for children to learn coding from the age of five until they are 16 years old.

It is a move that should be adopted in this country, too, if it is to produce the next generation of well-rounded professionals.

Tips for jobseekers
In order to take advantage of this new growth in digitised jobs, it is important for jobseekers to continually update their digital skills. Regardless of the profession or industry, organisations want to recruit, retain and develop staff with digital skills across their entire business.

Given the fast pace of technological advancement, employers look for candidates who are open to change and can adapt to a constantly evolving digital environment across all departments—whether in marketing, accountancy or logistics.

Digital changes have an impact on all aspects of business. Most important, candidates today need to show they are digitally proficient, up-to-date with the latest technological advances related to their job function and industry, and possess the ability to lean into the changes of a digital world.

Tips for employers
For hiring managers, the focus is shifting from observing digital trends and looking at where the organisation falls short, to developing the human talent it needs to make and lead new trends. This means recruiting people who can understand and drive digital strategies.

The digital world has afforded us all the benefits of rapid technological advancements, making it possible for businesses instantly to reach people across the globe. At Hays, it takes an instant to compare hundreds of thousands of candidate résumés from multiple countries.

But, such advances can only be made by having the skills necessary to support them. The challenge for businesses is to find and continue to develop those skills, to help the enterprises stay on top of emerging trends.

What is big data and how can employers utilise it?
With the power to radically re-configure the commercial and business landscape, big data is one of the most important recent developments to emerge from the digital revolution.

Previously unworkable sources of data are starting to be used to help identify business opportunities.

HR departments now have access to data and tools needed to shed light on every aspect of employee behaviour. Experts agree that big data—alongside the right data mining technology—can provide unprecedented new insights and predictive patterns into both employees and customers, leading to improved strategies and competitive advantages.

These benefits could be in the form of the attraction, engagement, retention, performance, or satisfaction of talent, while also serving to inform strategies on everything from onboarding (organisational socialisation) and succession planning to reward and outplacement.

For example, HR data has been used to measure candidate experience. Using technology, staff are able to survey every person who has applied for a job in a firm in real time to find out how they found the experience and the brand. This information can also be used to analyse what the best sources of talent are when recruiting.

However, it is not just the basic data that can be used. Businesses can broaden the scope of the data collected and then analyse it and use it for strategic decision-making. So, how can your firm’s HR department begin capturing, analysing and using big data to create a competitive advantage?

First, work out your aims for the data analysis, what your existing assumptions are, and how accurate data can help you make decisions. It is worth considering bringing in external expertise by pairing up with a vendor that understands your business priorities.

Next, to fully understand the data already in your firm’s HR systems or surveys, bring it all together so that comparisons can be made across the business. Additional sources of data available should also be considered.

Investigate what different tools and ways of collecting data are possible, and how they fit your needs.

Try to access as broad a pool of data as possible, to minimise the risk of bias or reaching false conclusions, then continue collecting and analysing the data over time.

Be transparent by drawing up guidelines that govern both the proper use of data and how it will be incorporated into business operations with key employees.

During this process it is important to keep an open mind. The data may disprove long-held assumptions that have gone unchallenged. Conversely, do not be blindly led by data. Use it in conjunction with your usual decision-making processes.

Finally, take to the board only the data that business will recognise, find useful and feel confident in using.

HR directors already should be focusing on better quality informatics and analysis, while forecasting trends to create business impact. As HR’s big data analysis grows in momentum, it will most certainly re-shape the sector’s role, and the skills that organisations shall require from it in future.

Big data in the workplace is explored further in the latest Hays Journal, the firm’s bi-annual magazine on the world of HR and recruitment.