Group of three successful business consultants in casual using laptop at meeting in office

Missing digital intelligence.

This is an extract from my book proposal, Missing digital intelligence. Here we discuss how the misuse by businesses of digital technologies and skills is creating a loss of expertise across the workplace. 

In our fast-paced digital market, a rigid structure is an anomaly for digitally savvy individuals who feel the cultural and social estrangement of the companies they work for. The business hostility to our cultural shift is not only abnormal but it is also damaging to professional skills.

Digital skills are often misunderstood.

Everybody can do digital.

With the rise of digital technology and digital needs, we’ve seen the apparition of new functions, new knowledge, and new tools inside the business world. It has become key to businesses not only to have a digital presence, but also to provide a digital output. Digital has therefore become a required skill in non specialized areas and employees can be expected to combine enough talents for a two or three-man job for the sake of digital.

My role as a Digital Strategist was primarily described as developing strategies combining digital tools, activities and technologies to support business growth. As a strategist, I was in charge of the analysis of the business digital data, which I used to build long-term strategies for the next two to five years. However my daily tasks soon began to include sale calls on behalf of account managers, presentation design and creation, account management and daily operative activities. In short the agency had made me a go-to person for anything digital, thinking that after all if I was a Digital Strategist I must as well be a PPC guru, an SEO expert, a UX developer, a programming mastermind and a creative designer, because these skills were only digital skills after all.

My case is far from being an exception.

This mismatch of digital expertise naturally leads to an overall devaluation of skills. It’s not rare to find job specs that demand the skills of multiple experts[1]. For example, I take the recent vacancy for a hotel near Birmingham that was looking for a candidate who will be at the same time a digital marketing manager, a receptionist, a waiter and a bar and cocktail skilled employee. This advertising, originated from a lack of skill appreciation, manages in a single text to belittle the training of maître d’hôtel and digital marketer together.

 

Notes.

 

[1] Indeed.com. Digital Marketing Manager for the Limes Country Lodge Hotel [online] Accessible at : http://www.indeed.co.uk/cmp/The-Limes-Country-Lodge/jobs/Digital-Marketing-Manager-79bb180e8550f178?q=digital+marketing [Accessed 14 Sept 2016]

 

Purchasing new skills.

Simultaneously there is an odd phenomenon about digital skills: They appear extremely easy to acquire and might, as a result, seem as mandatory and normal as the office suit.

Online certificates are often cheap, if not free, and easy to train for. Google Analytics and AdWords certifications, which tend to be a basic requirement for digital marketing roles, provide very comprehensive learning material to students. Their popularity is their worst enemy: One only needs to google the questions of the online multiple-choice exam to find the correct answers in a matter of seconds[2]. In some cases, you can even hire at a small fee a team of experts to take the exam on your behalf, just like the team of School4SEO offers.

Similar strategies exists for other digital and IT skills, and you can even find companies offering to sort out IT certifications, such as BuyITCert that will take care of your Microsoft, Cisco, SAP and others exams for you[3]. Acquiring new skills takes no more than a click and a credit card.

Finding the solution to a business issue needs no more than a few seconds on your favourite search engine. Yet facing the difficulty to measure digital experience in any other way, businesses prefer to rely on online certifications. This puts the question of skills vs. talent in perspective, and more importantly of the value of the digital intelligence on the market.

Digitalization is discrimination.

But the Digital Revolution is still recent; the skills and talents it demands in the business world have still time to mature and change yet there are already a few behaviour shortcuts that have appeared as a result. It would be accurate to describe the digital world as a young world. Young by the age of its experts, with 64% of the workplace in digital being below 45[4], it is gradually turning into an empire of ageism. Businesses choose to hire primarily Millennials as digitally skilled employees rather than train older employees who would bring with them the benefits of the business and market knowledge.

Social focus, when it comes to employment, is still heavily linked to gender equality. However this business attitude of trusting digital expertise to younger candidates is building a pathless gap between a digitally savvy generation Y and a business experienced generation X that leads to age discrimination and to a waste of invaluable business expertise. In my positions within digital agencies I have heard many colleagues criticizing behind their backs clients whose “old brains” couldn’t understand social media or SEO. Similar comments were made when I contracted for Google.

Are we truly in a society where only the young have a business value, where only the younger brain cells are considered apt to use digital technology effectively? Comparing online content interactions between generations gives no reasoning to the age preference: Baby Boomers are more business-focused with news, business, and political articles while the Millennials’ precious brain cells consume content about entertainment, tech, and comedy[5].

Additionally the digital behaviour engendered by the high tech we work with every day has developed into a form of mental weakness that we used to attribute to an aging population: We retain 36% less knowledge, because we can just as easily google it again[6]. The digitally savvy generation is gradually confusing search engines with cognitive ability.

 

Notes.

 

[4] UKCES. Sector Skills Insights : Digital and Creative [online] Accessible at : https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/304485/Sector_Skills_Insights_Digital_and_Creative_evidence_report_49.pdf [Accessed 14 Sept 2016]

[5] Social Times. How Different Generations Consume Content Online. [online] Accessible at: http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/how-different-generations-consume-content-online-infographic/619882 [Accessed 14 Sept 2016]

[6] Kaspersky Lab. Is Google ROTTING your brain ? [online] Accessible at : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3263670/Is-Google-rotting-BRAIN-adults-search-answers-without-trying-remember-25-immediately-forget-ve-out.html [Accessed 15 Sept 2016]