Expert Roundtable: Improving Data Skills Within UK Businesses

Expert Roundtable: Improving Data Skills Within UK Businesses
Summary: The 2022 UK Business Data Survey found that a sizable proportion of UK businesses aren't confident in their employees' data skills. What can be done to help them with this?

Data Skills Within UK Businesses: Roundtable

Introducing The Experts

  • Devin Blewitt (DB), Chief Information Officer at ITonlinelearning [1]
  • Robbie Bryant (RB), Head of Education and Development at Open Study College [2]
  • Lauren Wakeling (LW), UK Manager at CoursesOnline [3]

The data usage of each business will differ, given their respective sizes and sectors of operation. However, what are the essential digital skills that every business should possess?

DB: "With technology ever evolving and the business landscape shifting toward an increasingly digitized world, digital skillsets are becoming more fundamental than ever. Here are a list of the top four skills business owners should acquire or seek to attain within their workforce:

  • Social media
    Use this platform to encourage conversation and understand the relationship between your brand and your customers.
  • Analytics and reporting
    Knowing your data will help put investments in the right areas, minimizing waste.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    Can customers find your website? How much work is involved in ranking on page one for your search term?
  • Content marketing
    Building great blogs about questions your customers have or topics relative to your brand could become a part of your SEO strategy to bring traffic through to your website.

There are many benefits to be said about each digital skillset; finding a good certification course will help you understand the full potential of each."

RB: "As the advances in technology continue to soar, so does the need and demand for data and digital skills in businesses. The efficient usage of data is integral to businesses of all sizes; not only has it been proven that data can drive productivity, confidence in business decisions, and high profits, but in order to remain competitive, data helps produce the best and most accurate outputs.

According to the official UK Business Data Survey 2022, 85% of all businesses surveyed said they handle digital data—and with that comes the responsibility of making sure the right skills are on hand to deliver this task. Essential skills include effective communication, the appropriate handling of information and content, being safe and legal online, and problem-solving: all basic skills a business should have within its workforce."

LW: "The modern workplace is becoming increasingly digital, with employees spending more time than ever interacting through online channels and using more software in their day-to-day roles. Especially for younger team members entering the workforce, ensuring that they’ve got a good understanding of Microsoft Office software allows employers to be confident of their staff’s ability, even if the role is fully remote.

Meanwhile, giving your staff solid cybersecurity awareness training is a must for a business of any size. It’s a simple way to reduce the risk of hacks, phishing, and data leaks, whether you manage a small start-up that might be vulnerable to targeted attacks, or a large company that hackers could see as a gold mine for data and financial exploitation.

Finally, data is becoming increasingly important in roles at all levels. Ensuring that your team is competent when it comes to disseminating and understanding data will help to streamline your business and increase cohesion amongst departments."

For those businesses struggling to recruit sufficiently skilled employees, developing existing staff is a potential solution. How should a business go about deciding who to train and what type of training is most suitable?

DB: "Digital marketing is an exciting profession which requires specific knowledge, specific skills, and a passion for digital. Some of the qualities a professional should have: being analytical, being creative, having excellent communication skills, and being able to find latest trends.

An online training course that I recommend that covers these essential skills and is perfect for beginners is the professional diploma in digital marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute. This curriculum is reviewed biannually by an advisory council with members from Google, Facebook, HubSpot, and many others. This review makes sure that graduates have learnt the most current and market-relevant digital marketing skills available."

RB: "We’re all aware that as the economy recovers from the global pandemic, the number of vacancies is at an all-time high and is still rising. As a result, this has put enormous pressure on employers to recruit sufficiently skilled staff, and this makes finding the right talent harder than ever before. Training and development from within has become key to the survival of businesses, ensuring that knowledge and skill sets are advancing.

When it comes to skills and education, we believe businesses should invest in their workforce as much as possible; however, cost and time is often a barrier. Being tied to a classroom around set hours is no longer the only way to train. Open Study College has a B2B (business-to-business) arm, supporting businesses to upskill and retrain their workforce in an affordable and flexible way.

While we know training may seem a time-consuming and daunting task for employers to implement, distance learning helps alleviate the tough decision of deciding who to train and when it’s the most suitable time for them to go away and complete this training. Distance learning offers complete flexibility to staff, taking ‘location’ out of studying. Employees can study from wherever they like, whether that’s at home or on the train during their commute into work."

LW: "The best approach to training is to involve staff as much as possible in the process of deciding when to deploy learning. Ask your staff questions such as 'Which courses or education could help you to do your job better?' or 'Where are the gaps in your skill set that are holding you back?'

This can be a great way to unlock opportunities for learning that can deliver an immediate impact. The key here is to understand that your end goal is to help employees as well as your business, and that questions like these are designed to find out where they can grow, and should not be used as a way to point out flaws or shortcomings.

Elsewhere, it’s a good idea to spot opportunities for staff that are on the precipice of a promotion, or employees that have shown dedication and a long-term commitment to the company. When looking to fill roles, or when anticipating a departure or restructure, examine whether there are any employees that are just a few training courses away from stepping up to an advanced role within your company."

Data is a massive and varied field that is always advancing. How can professionals ensure that their knowledge and skills remain up to date?

DB: "Data is a hot topic and demand for data professionals to assist with data-driven business decision-making is growing. CompTIA has spotted this demand for skills and has recently released the CompTIA Data+ certification which aims to introduce key data knowledge. Knowing how to retrieve, manipulate, and report data are skills covered in this certification course and will validate your professional knowledge."

RB: "Put simply, training and development! As a sector that is always evolving, data roles and data-driven strategy for businesses is on the rise and in order to remain at the forefront, professionals will need to place an important emphasis on continuously developing this area. Ensuring that key skills in these roles remain up to date allows businesses to extract data accurately and use this information to plan, providing the competitive edge to stay ahead.

Professionals have a number of resources at their fingertips, from free online webinars to more formal courses. Open Study College’s B2B solution offers more than 700 knowledge-based courses and accredited qualifications, available across a variety of subjects and sectors. Our ethos is to make education accessible to all, which is why we offer tailored solutions helping businesses across the UK and beyond achieve Learning and Development in a realistic way with an emphasis on having zero impact on productivity."

LW: "Training should always be attached to clear and measurable outcomes within a company. This can be concrete, such as web traffic increasing, or abstract, such as an employee’s feeling that they have a better understanding of which levers they can pull to deliver results. Attaching milestones and achievements alongside training, and asking your employees to always question whether there are new skills they can learn, will often naturally shine a light on new areas of learning that could be explored.

Partnering with an education provider that understands the learner journey can also help you to follow a tailored and structured training path, which can be targeted toward specific subjects such as data or wider digital skills. Ultimately, a combination of employee engagement, goal-setting, and expert advice will be the key to keeping up with the latest developments in the world of digital skills and data training."


[1] ITonlinelearning

[2] Open Study College

[3] CoursesOnline