It’s always been the case that a certain amount of digital fluency is needed to excel when working in the tech industry, but the sheer pace at which things are developing has left many employees struggling to keep up.
In this week’s episode of #O365 Hours, I sat down with former Microsoft MVP and current Culture and Change Strategist Noah Sparks to discuss the issues organizations deal with when it comes to onboarding employees and the lack of training built into the process. Watch our discussion below or read the full transcript at your convenience!
Guests: Noah Sparks, Culture and Change Strategist at Planet Technologies (visit their website here)
- What is the general state of digital skills with the customers you work with?
- When the economy shrinks, the first thing that usually goes from the budget is training. Where do you see the largest gaps in technical skills and training these days?
- What is the relationship between technical skills and adoption? How does an under-skilled workforce impact a company’s ability to quickly and effectively deploy and adopt new tools and platforms?
What is the general state of digital skills with the customers you work with?
Noah Sparks: I would say that organizations are overly optimistic on this front. They think that their employees are far more capable than they truly are with these advances in capabilities. Unfortunately, people are never really given the opportunity to make sense of these capabilities within their roles.
That’s where I’ve been focusing my efforts lately: structuring and facilitating a workshop for employees with sessions where we get into your processes, look at how you’re doing them today, and really expose you to some of the streamlined ways of accomplishing those same tasks. There’s still a lot of trepidation and ultimately a lack of curiosity in the workplace among end users, though. They just default to what’s been known.
Christian Buckley: You know, I’ve been doing productivity tips sessions for years we had packed rooms a lot of times at major events because people were so hungry for insights on this. People would remark on how the simplest tips would change their entire work lives. So many just aren’t trained on the under the radar features that could dramatically change the way that they’re working with a product. Even I, as someone who’s been using Excel since the mid-nineties, sometimes forgets about all of the new capabilities that are out there. So it takes a bit of going outside of that safe zone to explore some of these areas and understand how to improve the quality of your work.
NS: There’s a real hesitancy for people to give up what they know and love because they trust it. And I think organizations do a disservice to their people by not allowing them to experience technology and trust it the same way.
CB: Right. And on the other side of it, sometimes companies just believe, “Hey, it’s just a new version of office. It’s just an update.” But in the end they might be limiting themselves by only using the most basic parts of the technology instead of leveraging all of the unlocked power beneath the surface.
When the economy shrinks, the first thing that usually goes from the budget in training. Where do you see the largest gaps in technical skills and training these days?
CB: Content generation. I always encourage people that are up and coming to work on their writing and speaking. Even if they think their voice doesn’t matter or an article already exists on a topic, their perspective is still of value. Learning how to communicate that perspective is absolutely essential. And there’s always room for content that solves basics tech problems users might have.
NS: There are so many folks out there that want to do amazing things with technology and have just never been given the autonomy or time. Time for training isn’t truly sanctioned by the organization, so they feel like it’s distracting from their job. That’s something leadership at orgs need to look at.
What is the relationship between technical skills and adoption? How does an under-skilled workforce impact a company’s ability to quickly and effectively deploy and adopt new tools and platforms?
NS: It’s important to keep in mind that we’re humans and we’re emotional. When we don’t provide a sandbox where people feel safe experimenting with the new tech, people naturally want to crawl back into their shells. They don’t want to look silly, and they don’t want to do things wrong. Many feel like they’re going to break something if they try something new.
CB: That’s why it’s important to take advantage of different tools out there like demo sites where people can go and stand up a free demo tenant to get used to things. Microsoft makes things like this available exactly so people can go and practice to their heart’s content.
It’s also important for organizations to have standards that they walk through with all new hires. They need to lay out, “Here’s our process, here are the tags that we leverage, here’s why we do it.” People need to understand the core functionality of your tools.
NS: Absolutely. Adoption is severely hampered when the skills (or digital fluency) with which people operate these platforms is lacking.
CB: Yeah, every company should have a basic digital fluency track people’s progress via testing. I think this will improve adoption overall, especially in organizations. I mean, Microsoft is very focused on not just selling licenses, but ensuing that people are actually using the licenses. To that goal, it’s worth taking a look at the various programs and resources Microsoft offers (such as FastTrack, for instance) to make adoption go over more smoothly.