Digital upskilling: what, why and how

from Angela Prenter-Smith, co-founder of This is Milk

Angela Prentner-Smith, co-founder of digital transformation agency This is Milk, discusses the key steps to digital success.

What is Digital Upskilling?

Digital skills encompass everything from using composing emails and browsing Google to performing data analysis and being able to develop digital platforms. But why are these skills important for business? Because they are the skills used to provide for customers in the digital world – whether that’s presenting them with products and services in a digital way, or engaging and marketing with them in a digital way.

Internally, digital skills can bring about operating efficiency. If you are looking at your business from a 'digital-first' perspective you can cut out waste processes, cut down on paper, free up your people to do more enriching and rewarding activities and do more face-to-face customer engagement.

The digital world has automated many business processes, transforming accountancy from using spreadsheets and bags of receipts to relying on a digital platform. If you have the right digital tools behind you and a workforce that understands how to use them then cost savings become baked in.

Externally, a digital-forward business has the ability to meet customer needs better than one that isn’t so digitally minded. In fact, being digital-forward isn’t just about gaining a competitive advantage now – it’s the expectation. Without digital skills, a business can’t realistically compete.

But where you should start as a business when it comes to digital upskilling. Angela Prentner-Smith, the Founder of digital transformation agency This is Milk, highlights six the key elements of successful digital transformation that all SMEs should be practising.

Key Elements 1-3

Customer insights

First and foremost, the top skill a business should have is the ability to gain insights into customers through digital. Google Analytics and social media platform analytics are a great place to start. These services can provide you with quantitative and qualitative data about current and potential customers.

Keyword research is similarly accessible and beneficial. Websites like Answer the Public and SEMrush can give insights into commonly searched-for terms relating to your products and services, allowing you to create content and define product and service offerings accordingly.

Digital communication

Digital communications is about engaging with your customers online. To do this, you need to know where they are, when to communicate with them and how to communicate with them, Are they on Facebook? Or Twitter? Or are they on social media at all? Keeping abreast of digital communication and constantly adapting to your customers’ behaviour is crucial.

End-to-end customer experience

Digital always has to be understood in the context of the whole customer experience journey, and that means looking at your offline presence as well. For example, imagine you have a credit card that you generally service via a mobile app. When something goes wrong, you need to pick up the phone. If you have a terrible experience during that call then your overall impression of the business will reflect that.

Make sure customers can easily speak to a friendly person by displaying a direct telephone number clearly on your website.

Key Elements 4-6

Continuous learning

I’m a huge believer that the way to continually beat competition is through continuous learning. Learning culture is a key facet of digital transformation. Instead of being the person who holds all the knowledge and then gives out instructions from the top down, be the one who empowers people, who shares information and who encourages challenge. This way your business will continually better itself.

Peer-to-peer and reverse mentoring

If someone has a particular skill or interest, invite them to take that to the team and teach others about it. Likewise, we’ve moved on from the days of just learning from people who have gone through their careers teaching the newer generations – now we have digital natives for whom digital skills are second nature. They can teach an awful lot.


You can learn almost anything online today. Training courses, YouTube videos, blog posts – there’s not a lot you can’t find out there in ‘microlearning’ format. Use this to your advantage, particularly if you find you have specific knowledge gaps in your organisation.

New to Google Analytics? Google provides an academy for users to understand analytics and better support their businesses. Want to get to grips with social media? The social media management platform Hootsuite offers a wealth of free online courses, webinars and certifications.

If you are looking to elevate your business's digital presence, our leading DigitalBoost programme can help. Check out the wide range of free resources including guides & tutorials, and learn how you could benefit from up to 21 hours of expert 1:1 support here.

Good luck, and let us know how you get on! We love hearing from our users on social - so if you haveany feedback, or want to tell us how this article helped you, please tweet us at @bgateway or find us on Facebook or LinkedIn.