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Digital skills are in high demand in the digital era, but it is important not to forget about the professionalism. Skills are built, change and become redundant over time, while professional experience and subject knowledge can be used to build crucial digital skills

Many employees in companies nervously sit on their chairs these years. They constantly hear about digitalization, new technologies and disruption, and that digital natives and millennials will take over their jobs in the future. 

It is true that digital skills are essential in this digital era, but that is not the full story.

I am the leader of an IT-services company, which specializes in developing digital solutions for our customers, while we are in the progress of digitally transforming our own company. Some of our most important employees in this transformation are in no way digitally native. Instead, they have a vast knowledge in economy, logistics and mathematics, which enables us to build big data solutions. These solutions are crucial for our customers to use data to develop their business.

My point is that an employee might be at the forefront digitally but without the professional experience and subject knowledge, the digital skills will at some point run short.

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence, big data and IoT will be booming in the next couple of years. Therefore, in order to be a competitive and attractive employee, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the new technology and start building digital skills. But technology develops so fast that it is not a requirement to master all technologies. On the contrary, it is more important to have a solid knowledge base in your subject, to which you can add and develop digital skills.

Another example showing the importance of deep subject knowledge is the pension sector, which is 40 years old and has a very complex legislation. In this sector, there will always be a need for profound professionalism. The knowledge employees have in this area cannot be replaced by digital designers. However, it is possible to simplify the communication and processing of retirement pensions by using digital skills. This example proves that the combination of digital skills and professional knowledge create concrete social value.

Therefore, my advice to future employees is to:

  • Make sure you establish a solid knowledge base in your respective subject and think about where it can add value in the digital era.
  • Familiarize yourself with the most important technologies in your area of work, and focus on customer value and concrete use.
  • Be curious about new technologies and new ways of working. Maybe it can make your job easier.

Future employees do not need to be digitally native. Digital skills are not interesting in itself. It is only when we start combining subject knowledge and digital skills that we can deliver true results.

Read more thought leadership from Columbus CEO Thomas Honore

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