Digitize or Die: Why Training in Digital Gives Your Company the Advantage This Year

2015-12-10-1449777327-3368574-AviLevine.pngAvi Levine is the Executive Director of the Digital Professional Institute, Chicago's destination for digital skills training.

Now's the time to develop a robust strategy to grow your company next year. Across industries, businesses of all sizes are taking the end of the year to reflect on past successes, analyze failures and figure out how to start the new year on the right track.

By 2018, the U.S. is expected to have around 1.5 million managers and analysts who lack sufficient technical and digital skills to stay up to date on the demands of the workplace. As executive director of the Digital Professional Institute, I've seen firsthand how in business today, it's "digitize or die."

At my company, we train companies and professionals in digital skills, as well as partner with leading high schools and colleges to offer our curriculum to their students. I got involved in digital skills training after realizing how critical reaching customers through online channels and leveraging online tools was to the success of my personal ventures. Every entrepreneur I know, as well as every big company I speak with, faces the same challenge of navigating the ever-changing, ever-expanding digital landscape.

If you're not investing in these kinds of digital training solutions, you're not just losing your advantage -- you're falling behind. Company leaders literally can't afford to wait to invest in digital training. As you define your strategic vision for the future, it's more important than ever to increase your workforce's digital proficiency and move past the competition.

Here's why training in digital gives your company a competitive advantage in 2016:

Your Old Training Programs Aren't Cutting It

Already have training programs that touch on digital skills that you've been using for years? Unfortunately, those tried and true teachings aren't going to help your employees -- or your company. According to a study by Deloitte, digital skills, including data and analytics, SEO and programming, now have a half-life of about two and a half years due to the increasing pace of technological advancement. In order to keep up with changing digital trends and innovations, it's essential to update training on at least a quarterly basis.

That's why companies like KPMG have reorganized their professional development structure to train employees on which skills aren't just useful in the present, but those that will be relevant in the future. They reassess necessary skills every year and plan proactively to help employees acquire them. By doing so, KPMG is assuring that their workforce has the tools to anticipate new innovations and adapt accordingly. If you're not taking similar steps to plan for the future, you're already falling behind.

Your Competitors (Probably) Aren't Doing It

According to a study by Capgemini Consulting, over 90 percent of companies stated that their employees lacked necessary skills in social media, mobile and data analysis. While this in itself is shocking, here's the kicker: Of those companies, only 46 percent were actually taking the initiative to invest in developing digital skills in their employees.

What does this mean for your company? If you invest in training your employees in digital skills, you'll automatically have a workforce capable of outperforming the majority of your competitors in the areas that now matter most.

It's true not just in theory, but in practice. This is something Bosch Power Tools realized when faced with a changing e-commerce industry: they trained their sales team to better support their current retail partners who are selling online, helping them understand the tools necessary to merchandise and sell their brands online. As a result, the Bosch sales team wasn't just able to stay ahead of the competition and increase their ability to communicate with buyers; they were also able to work more efficiently in digital sales, collaborate with each other and navigate the digital world with confidence.

It's Necessary

The lack of workers missing crucial digital skills is not just here at home either -- similar speculations have been made about the digital skills gap in the United Kingdom. Big data, web analytics, content marketing and social media are all skills that underpin marketing and communication tactics across industries, but they're also the areas where employees fall short. In fact, an Adobe study showed that only nine percent of senior marketers expressed confidence in the effectiveness of their digital marketing campaigns, in part due to their lack of digital experience and skills.

Next Steps

In order to get started on training your employees in digital skills, you need to first isolate what they need training on. Does your sales team need to have a better grasp of e-commerce models to make sales? Does your marketing department need to get up-to-date on the best SEO practices? To assess your needs, consider sending a short survey to your team to determine where their strengths and gaps are. Or you can have a training provider conduct a more comprehensive diagnostic assessment.

From there, you should select a training program that meets the following criteria: duration, delivery (online or onsite), customization, instructor qualification and assessment. Check to see which programs teach the exact skills your employees need, who's willing to tailor or customize their curriculum to best address your specific needs, and who can work within your employees' schedules and locations. Once you find a training solution that does all that, you're well on your way to getting your company competitive in the digital landscape.

The bottom line is that soon, digital skills won't just be useful for getting your company ahead: they'll be essential to keeping your company running smoothly and profitably. Are you investing in the digital training your company needs for the future?