Digital training officer: the new must-have role for 2017


Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado once said it would take someone 10,000 hours of training and practice to become a master of a skill. And while some skills are never forgotten – like riding a bike – many skills require regular practice in order to stay sharp.

Mastering digital tech is one such skill; every day a new application, tool or platform is developed, meaning that knowledge can quickly become outdated and obsolete if it is not regularly reviewed and tested.

For many organisations, simply keeping up with the latest development is near impossible, leaving them with no hope of mastering such a dynamic world.

Digital enthusiasm

Yet many businesses are rapidly incorporating digital tech into their operations, and employees are expected to adapt.

From online collaborative working to cloud-based applications, business leaders are clamouring to reap the benefits these tools and platforms can offer. And these technologies do drive great results: Sungard Availability Services’ recent research found that almost half of employees feel digital tools make them more productive, and two-fifths said that digital tech makes it easier to communicate with customers.

>See also: The journey of a chief data officer – and the culture the role embodies

The problem comes when businesses expect results without giving their staff the knowledge needed to use these tools effectively.

A far cry from Ericsson’s 10,000 hours, businesses make the mistake of simply throwing money at new technologies and neglect investing in the training that provides employees with even the most basic skills to use them.

Indeed, the research found that having the right technical skills and receiving the right training were the two biggest challenges hindering digital transformation for employees across the world.

36% of workers found there wasn’t enough training, whilst a further 23% said the training they had received was inadequate.

Even the tech-savvy millennial generation, who are expected to adapt to changes in technology more quickly than those not born in the tech boom struggle with unfamiliar tools.

Less than half of 16 – 34 year olds felt they could make the most of the digital tools available to them, with the majority calling for more training to improve their skills.

Prioritising upskilling

It’s clear that someone needs to take control of upskilling the workforce to meet its potential. Regular and appropriate training that keeps employees on top of the technologies they use and the trends that will disrupt the way they work in the future is essential for ROI. But who does this responsibility lie with?

Workplace training usually sits with the HR department, but with the digital landscape often technically complex and rapidly evolving, perhaps they are no longer able to provide the most effective answer to this issue.

Clearly, the responsibility should not only fall to someone with advanced technical knowledge, but to someone who also understands how to train effectively.

>See also: The UK Government’s Transformation Strategy

Organisations should consider hiring or creating a role for a Digital training officer (DTO) to future-proof the workforce’s digital skills. From social enterprise platforms, such as Yammer, through to more complex, divisional specific applications, such as the sales team’s mobile CRM, DTOs will need a range of proficiencies to support the business.

They will need both wider digital skills and more complex tech knowledge, as well as an understanding of effective training methods.

A passion for tech

Any effective DTO would need to work closely with both the HR and the IT department to make sure the needs of each are balanced effectively, while also being an advocate and evangelist for digital tech across the wider business.

Half the battle is getting employees on side, so the DTO would need to be passionate about the digital future of the organisation, and be prepared to put time into the culture of the business to ensure new technologies are well received by employees.

Beyond this, a successful DTO should be forward-thinking and adaptable, able to anticipate the training needs of the organisation, not simply for today, but also for tomorrow.

>See also: Digital? Everybody’s making it up, says McCann Worldgroup’s CDO

Employees are faced with new opportunities daily, and are not afraid to look elsewhere for a better work situation. Indeed, the research found that over a fifth of office workers admitted to leaving a job because they weren’t happy with the digital technology provisions in place.

Without providing adequate training, businesses may well be faced with a skills crisis, with employees leaving to work for organisations who prioritise digital.

How an organisation invests in the future skills of the workforce now, may be the defining factor in whether it is a business that will be able to compete in the digital market of tomorrow.


Sourced by Keith Tilley, executive vice president and vice-chair at Sungard Availability Services

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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