How do you efficiently assess your employees’ digital skill sets? TriFinance experts give their tips and advice

19 June 2023

In addition to human skills, digital skills are indispensable for success in today’s ever changing world. Digitization causes changes in jobs, makes others disappear, and even creates new ones. Digitally skilled employees certainly have an advantage within today’s companies. But how do you ensure efficient assessment of these skills? Our three specialists Laura Debaets, CFO Services Care Manager, Inge Arys, Talent Manager, and Wim Dierickx, Care Technology Lead, tell us everything you need to know.

Collectively, Laura Debaets, Inge Arys and Wim Dierickx have racked up an impressive amount of experience in recruitment, selection, and development. As CFO Services Care Manager at TriFinance, Laura is experienced in recruiting many different types of profiles, ranging from IT to consultancy. For her part, Inge is fully committed to employee growth at TriFinance. And thanks to his impressive track record within the IT sector – and as the TriTechnology Business Unit Leader – Wim is considered by his coworkers to be TriFinance’s ‘digital guru’. So, we started by asking him the most basic of questions:

What are digital skills?

“Many people think digital skills have to do with knowledge and expertise on topics such as change management, business transformation plans, or strategic innovation,” Wim begins. “As I see it, though, these are not digital skills. I know a lot of managers who can give an impressive presentation on transformation plans but have real trouble scheduling a Teams meeting or creating a pivot table in Excel. After all these years, I never cease to be amazed by how often we lack basic digital skills in the workplace...”

“You can think of digital skills as covering a broad spectrum, from feeling at ease with new technologies – you can think of that as basic knowledge – to affecting how important these technologies can be to a company or organization. I like to distinguish between the following categories of skills: productivity skills, technical skills, online skills, security skills, technological awareness skills, business value skills, and transformational skills.”

What factors contribute towards learning digital skills?

“As Wim just pointed out, the digital field is very broad. That is why we check with potential employees where their specific areas of interest lie, as well as how they wish to apply them,” Laura explains. “Enthusiasm for developing digital skills is as important – if not more so – than having technical knowledge of certain tools. However, it’s obviously relevant to have the necessary basic knowledge of specific software packages, such as Excel or Power BI, so that you can impart quality advice to coworkers and customers.”

Inge concurs: “When learning digital skills, we look at our coworkers’ eagerness to learn, their willingness to embrace digital thinking and ways of working. We also attach great importance to the way coworkers prefer to learn new things, and therefore which learning process works best for them. In practice, employees tend to find it difficult to learn digital tools proactively if they don’t have an immediate need for doing so. As such, it’s important as part of the learning process that the new skills be relevant to them, that they can apply them to their everyday tasks.”

A digital ‘driving license’ can motivate employees to continue investing in lifelong digital learning.

Wim advocates the introduction of what he calls a digital ‘driving license,’ a motivating factor for individuals to continue investing in their ongoing digital education: “Under the influence of digitization and automation, today’s jobs are evolving at lightning speed. As an individual, you are responsible for knowing the things you need to perform your tasks as well as possible. I believe that this intrinsic motivation to keeping up to date with digital trends and associated skills is essential. On a separate note, I have noticed in recent years that companies are no longer investing as much as they could in digital training for their staff. Nevertheless, training in MS Office applications, for example, is still extremely useful, if only to keep up people’s knowledge of how to use these software packages in optimal fashion.”

What specific digital skills are essential for finance employees?

Our three experts are remarkably unanimous in answering this question: “Besides being able to use all the new technologies easily and intuitively, this skill set also includes the ability to identify both risks and opportunities in data or automation contexts.”

“On the one hand, there is data to consider, as it often has hidden potential and finance professionals have a responsibility to make management information available. This is where analytical skills are particularly important.”

“On the other hand, there is automation, creating improved procedural efficiency, as well as freeing up more time for tasks that truly generate added value.”

Here, Laura also refers to the complex IT landscapes within companies: “Being able to handle different business systems requires a lot of data insight, along with a certain amount of flexibility and adaptability.”

Wim adds: “I see different levels of skill. Obviously, having good technical knowledge is indispensable for every finance professional. Then there is the skill of transferring that knowledge from project or process A to project or process B, and so on. At the highest level, you are actively participating in the digital transformation.”

How does the process of assessing digital skills work at TriFinance?

“We don’t have ready-made questionnaires or tests available for assessing employees’ digital skill sets,” explains Laura. “During recruitment rounds, we focus more on open dialogue with potential recruits, asking them what specific digital skills mean to them and how they may already have used them with previous employers. This approach elicits more transparent and honest answers than one involving predetermined evaluation methods. At TriFinance, we certainly believe very strongly in individual development and support when it comes to mastering digital skills, including both lifelong and ‘just in time’ learning processes.”

All the same, there is still room at TriFinance for professionally designed assessment procedures, especially via digital scans. Wim explains: “For the role of finance consultant, we set the digital bar quite high. Those who want to go all-out for this position, including thinking actively about digital solutions for our customers, should not be afraid of deepening and adding to their existing skill sets. That is why we want to test employees extensively using a digital scan: a kind of survey with questions to be answered at multiple levels, all within a predetermined time frame.”

TriFinance believes strongly in individual development and support when it comes to mastering digital skills, including both lifelong and ‘just in time’ learning processes.

“In addition, it is important that we communicate openly and honestly with coworkers who are having difficulty refining or updating their digital skills,” implores Inge. “If any employees cannot or do not want to keep up with the pace of digital change, it is up to us to overcome that resistance and assist them in their digital development. For example, we fully support our consultants in learning digital communication skills.”

What are the digital skills of the future?

Wim refers to the ‘citizen movement’ as a breeding ground for exciting new initiatives: “Based on their feedback and digital interest, end users of technological tools can spark off the development of new solutions. Take the empowering nature of Microsoft Power Apps, for example, which also give non-IT professionals in organizations the opportunity to build simple business apps themselves.”

As Wim sees things, dealing ethically with digital technology is also a very important skill. “We urgently need to put digital ethics on the agenda if we are going to let AI loose on our personal data. After all, many people worry about their privacy when digitally active. An organization that does not apply digital ethics, or fails to do enough in that regard, can be severely penalized by internal and external stakeholders. At worst, this results in lower consumer confidence or damage to their reputation.”

Anyone who understands the logic behind a digital tool can also apply its added value in other areas.

He also mentions another skill: “Besides using digital tools correctly, it is useful to understand the logic behind them. Anyone who understands the thinking behind a tool – meaning that they can think the way the digital technology thinks – can also apply its added value in other areas.”

“Last but not least, there is the safe and accurate handling of digital data, including cybersecurity and the right to privacy. Using large amounts of data – which is sometimes personal and sensitive – both meaningfully and securely requires a certain amount of digital training and etiquette.”

Eager to read more about digital skills for finance professionals?

Companies and organizations who immerse their employees in a sea of digital skills are taking a significant step towards sustainable, future-proof growth. At TriFinance, TriHD and TriTechnology, we invest heavily in digital learning pathways for our employees. Beyond that, we also give companies all the tips and tools they need to build a solid digital strategy.

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