Keith Fowler

The Digital Divide: How many of your team are like Liam Neeson?

I’ve heard some business leaders speak as if they are up against a Liam Neeson style vendetta:

 “What I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you“ Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills in Taken.

Getting anyone to replace established habits with new skills can be very difficult. And this is a challenge that has rapidly escalated in its frequency over the last decade. Not long ago a set of skills learned once used to last you several years. But in the evolving digital age, skills and knowledge can become obsolete within months.

Technology is moving too fast, people are moving too slow. And this ‘digital divide’ is proving too much for some businesses caught in the middle.

Whether you face your own Liam Neeson or not, if you are to make the right investments in your learning and development programmes, then the short shelf life of development needs is a challenge that must be overcome. 

What the Digital Divide is costing Businesses

As we get deeper into the Digital age, our ability to address the opportunities and challenges bought about by technological progress is falling more and more off the pace. In the past few years companies such as Blockbuster and Kodak who failed to keep up with the pace of change have been completely consumed, falling into the unforgiving void the divide is forcing upon us.

And it’s not just the big names, Businesses worldwide are missing out on growth. Time wasted as a result of inadequate digital skills is estimated at 21% of a worker’s time according to a study by the International Data Corporation. Effectively costing businesses worldwide about $10,000 per employee.

We as business leaders need to address this rapidly.

Keeping up with Change in the Digital Age

If there is one thing that unites digital and social technology it is this; Change. Every day (or so it seems) new networks, apps and platforms appear. And with these come the next round of new ideas, industry revolutions, technical terms and revenue streams.

Contrast this with the time it takes to create just 1 hour of a learning programme; a massive 43 -185 hoursBy the time the full course has been developed, the skills it is designed to teach have often been surpassed by changes in technology.

Training in the digital age has to take a different approach, not only to keep employees up to date, but to get them comfortable with the pace of change itself. One such approach is microlearning.

So how do we overcome the challenge?

To stay ahead of your competitors you must begin by staying aware of the latest programmes, courses and skills required to keep employees up to date and at their best. All whilst ensuring you avoid information overload. Easier said than done.

In implementation, the right investment in learning needs to engage the digital age and establish learning programmes which can cater for rapid changes in necessary areas.

To support this, organisations need to tackle any resistance to change head on. This means fostering a culture of learning hunger and a keen desire to keep up to date. Creating a coaching culture can in turn help create this learning hunger, by empowering employees to uncover their own solutions, using the best tools available to them at the time.

There is no doubt that this is an ongoing challenge and the divide is growing and swallowing businesses whole. Those that take action now to bridge the gap will find themselves way ahead of their remaining competitors in the years to come.

Today, it is a lack of current skills that is the challenge.

It leaves me with the question; how much longer can the digital divide continue to expand? And I can’t help feeling that someday soon, and as in any decent Liam Neeson film, there is going to be a reckoning.

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