The Importance of Digital Skills

A desk with a computer screen over it

It’s quite a time to be an entrepreneur. And with today’s ever-evolving data landscape, it’s now more critical than ever that those who are building tomorrow’s companies are digitally literate.

Digital technologies—specifically, in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data analytics—allow companies to analyze large datasets in order to make important business decisions, improve efficiencies, and grow revenue. A survey revealed that 61 percent of businesses implemented the use of AI in 2017, up from 38 percent in 2016. Digital technology is used in other areas, too, such as security. Another survey revealed that 46 percent of business executives use data science to reduce risk and fraud, and address cybersecurity threats.

AI, machine learning, and other data-driven technologies have become some of the most necessary and impactful business tools. Yet, Gartner reported that 54 percent of executives say the data skills gap is the largest challenge facing their enterprise, which supports the demand for data scientists and analytics professionals.

Below, we’ll discuss which digital skills all business professionals should master and how they can learn them. We’ll also cover which digital skills will make you more employable.

Digital skills you need to master to become an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is challenging. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 33 percent of businesses fail after just two years, and half of businesses fail after five years. But rather than relying on intuition, CEOs can use data to determine which problems need to be solved and how to solve them. Even companies outside of the tech industry can use AI and data analytics to improve daily operations and track and measure success. Entrepreneurs should use every data-innovative resource available to stabilize the lifespan of their business.

The following are some of the most important digital skills for entrepreneurs:

Communication: An entrepreneur’s ability to communicate effectively can make or break his or her enterprise. Whether through email, chat, video or audio conferencing, social media, or project management platforms, business leaders must understand how to communicate interpersonally and organizationally across multiple disciplines.

Marketing: Business growth stems from effective marketing efforts, and digital marketing has transformed in the digital age. As opposed to traditional outbound marketing—which focuses on grabbing the attention of a potential customer by interrupting their activity—inbound digital marketing seeks to earn attention organically through quality content, web design, search engine optimization, social media, and lead generation.

Analytics: Data analytics can help small businesses become smarter and work more efficiently. Deep learning uses vast quantities of data to help machines solve the most complex business problems. Analytics tracks engagement, customer service, and purchasing trends.

Automation: Businesses should remain as lean as possible—especially within the first couple of years—which is why automation is so important. Outsourcing tasks such as content marketing, design, budgeting, and human resources helps entrepreneurs avoid the mistake of hiring employees too early. Depending on the industry, business owners can also automate certain operational functions, such as warehousing or call centers.

Relationship building: An important focus for all entrepreneurs is having a strong mentorship and support strategy. Using social media and digital networks to grow your relationships is essential for any business owner. Using networking tools is also a positive way to engage with potential clients.

Coding: While it’s still possible for non-technical entrepreneurs to become successful founders, studies show that most founders have a background in computer science. However, non-technical entrepreneurs can still gain an understanding of coding—or even learn to be a full-stack engineer—with the number of resources available today.

If you’re interested in advancing your digital skills, there are a variety of ways to learn and grow, including taking online courses. Pursuing a graduate degree that is offered online, such as Yeshiva Katz’s online MS in Digital Marketing and Media, is another great way to hone your digital skills with flexibility.

Digital skills that can make students instantly employable

Pursuing higher education to accelerate your career is a big decision. With large tuition rates and the demand for digital literacy in the workplace, students want to know whether they are learning the technical skills needed to improve personal career advancement and achieve an adequate ROI. While many of tomorrow’s students already have a clear understanding of certain platforms like social media, it’s important that they also learn other technology, such as artificial intelligence and digital marketing.

LinkedIn gathered data to determine the skills that have the highest demand. Not surprisingly, most of the skills LinkedIn lists are tech-related. Here are the hard skills companies need most in 2019:

  • Cloud computing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Analytical reasoning
  • People management
  • UX design
  • Mobile application development
  • Video production
  • Sales leadership
  • Translation
  • Audio production
  • Natural language processing
  • Scientific computing
  • Game development
  • Social media marketing
  • Animation
  • Business analysis
  • Journalism
  • Digital marketing
  • Industrial design
  • Competitive strategies
  • Customer service systems
  • Software testing
  • Data science
  • Computer graphics
  • Corporate communications

If you’re pursuing a master’s degree to any of these skills, or you’re just getting started, you’ll want to ensure you’re gaining the most digital literacy from your education. There are a few things you can look for in a graduate program to ensure you’re making the best decision:

Technology based-learning platforms. If you expect to learn the most in-demand digital skills from your graduate program, one thing to consider is whether the school itself is digitally literate. Is the program offered online or does it utilize technology-based platforms? How do you access course materials? Is the faculty available via chat or online forums? Students should determine whether the program uses outdated methods, or if it’s keeping up with the times.

Stressed importance of coding and application skills. It’s important that hard data skills are included in the program’s curriculum. Does the graduate school emphasize the importance of learning technology skills, even if it’s not a tech-based program? If the school requires or recommends prerequisites, make sure they provide solutions for satisfying them.

Hyper-innovative mindset. An excellent learning environment doesn’t place many limits on what you can accomplish. Graduate programs must push students think innovatively, even if it’s in reference to something already discovered. AI and machine learning have already started to replace antiquated job duties, so everything must be observed with fresh eyes. Having a hyper-innovative mindset encourages the brain to think outside the box and make the most

Applicable resources. Learning theoretical principles is important, but with the drive to be career-ready, there is a demand for applicable, on-the-job training. Are there special skills your graduate program teaches to ensure your future employer will notice your resume? Curriculum should include real-world scenarios so you are prepared to act on the first day of your new job. The program should also offer a list of resources to help you get connected to corporate partners and complete a meaningful internship.

Plan for ongoing education. How does your graduate program recommend that you continue your learning process? Graduate programs facilitate ongoing learning opportunities offer valuable career support and training for alumni. This can include networking opportunities, mentorship that can help solidify career paths, and resources for recent and past alumni considering a career change.

Digital skills resources

Digital literacy is the ability to navigate information through most digital platforms, such as productivity software tools, social media, or job-specific software. In the past, it was impressive to add Microsoft Excel proficiency to your resume. However, hiring managers now want to see that you possess a higher understanding of digital technologies, with 82 percent of middle-level jobs being digitally intensive. But more than just landing you a step above entry-level employment, digital skills will actually pave the way for future advancement, moving you toward a higher paying job.

Although there is a technology skills gap, the workforce is moving toward having a near-universal digital skills requirement. If you’re not quite ready to fulfill these requirements, though, you have options. Higher education is an excellent way to improve digital literacy. Trends are showing that students are more career-focused now than before—enrollment in online education on the rise and students are looking for job-ready certifications—and educators are preparing for this movement. In addition to higher education, there are a number of digital tools that can enhance your learning.

Below is a list of resources all entrepreneurs and business professionals should consider to add to their education and increase their digital literacy: * [Treehouse]() is a great tool for entrepreneurs to take technical and creative courses. * Coursera offers a large variety of online courses that will expand your knowledge and support your team. * Udemy has grown in popularity and is now one of the biggest online education tools for professionals that are interested in honing and updating their skills. * Blinkist is an educational tool for entrepreneurs on-the-go who don’t have a lot of time to read. You can learn from some of the most informative nonfiction books in 15 minutes or less.

While these resources don’t provide a comprehensive foundational education in the way a master’s program would, they are an excellent way to keep up with the latest trends and innovations.

How to master digital skills

K-12 education is beginning to understand the skills gap and importance of integrating digital literacy in the learning process. More students are using tablets to complete homework assignments or courses, and for some time, teachers have been communicating with parents through emails and learning management systems. However, the deficiency of data skills in the workplace comes from a generational gap wherein data literacy was not emphasized in K-12 or secondary education. Professionals can fix this problem by self-educating or pursuing a degree that will help them right-size their data skills.

It’s possible to learn data skills from scratch. Even without a background in computer science, non-tech professionals can learn how to use digital platforms and tools, or even become data scientists themselves. There are a lot of innovative grad programs that understand the desire of non-tech professionals to gain digital proficiency, so much of your digital literacy comes from patience and diligence. It also helps to understand why these tools exist and what they accomplish.

When just starting out, it can be helpful to simply learn how to use the tools and resources that may help you in areas like social media, digital marketing, and data analytics. From there, you can start to gain a deeper understanding of how they actually function, and potentially create one of your own.

Below are some of the most helpful data literacy tools and resources:

Communication:

  • Asana is a project management tool that helps communicate workflow within a company.
  • Slack has changed the way messaging is used in the workplace; you can set up project-based groups and reduce email communication.
  • Dropbox and Google Drive offer reliable and secure ways to store files on the cloud.

Marketing:

  • Google Ads and Facebook Ads help promote your business through sophisticated ads.
  • Hootsuite and Buffer offer a platform to manage social media in one place and build your audience and brand.
  • Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects in film, music, art, theater, games, comics, design, photography, and more.

Analytics:

  • Google Analytics is one of the best analytics tools that gives you a deeper understanding of your customers.
  • Kissmetrics helps increase your conversion rate and track analytics.
  • Tyme offers a program that will track the amount of time you spend on projects; you can personalize with billing rates and export useful reports.

Automation:

  • Zapier allows you to automate the connection of multiple platforms.
  • You Need A Budget is great for personal or professional finances.
  • Justworks will take care of your payroll, benefits, HR, and compliance functions.

Relationship building:

  • Shapr took the swiping method and created a way to find inspiration, opportunities, or new business partners.
  • LinkedIn is a great way to expand your network; it’s also a valuable source of news and information and can help keep you up-to-date on events and forums.
  • AngelList offers a platform for startups to build a portfolio and meet investors and like-minded professionals.

Coding:

  • WordPress is a website builder and one of the most popular ways to build a blog.
  • Github is a development platform that allows you to host and review code, manage projects, and build software.
  • Shopify is a way for eCommerce professionals to build a functional online store.

Invest in yourself and achieve digital literacy

Business owners have a challenging road ahead as the digital skills gap continues to widen. You can make yourself a highly qualified candidate by completing an online MS in Digital Marketing and Media at Yeshiva Katz and achieving digital literacy.

The Katz School’s online MS in Digital Marketing and Media equips you with essential marketing, media, communication, and data analytics skills to rise to the top as an entrepreneur or meet the demands of hiring managers. The program—which offers maximum flexibility by being offered entirely online—offers project-based classes and hands-on marketing consulting experiences. Empowered to become a valued and respected marketing expert, you’ll be ready and equipped to advance your career.

Reach out today to learn more about how you can meet the digital skills demands of today’s workforce.

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