According to our recently published Tech Nation report, some 1.46 million people are employed in digital companies across the UK. Many of them have eschewed the corporate ladder in exchange for being part of something new, such as an online business that is reshaping a service or a sector.

At the same time, we’re witnessing a growing appetite for digital learning. Graduates, professionals, freelancers and the back-to-workers queue up for workshops on everything from online marketing to user experience, at hubs like Founder Centric, Makers Academy and General Assembly. 

Expertise

Tech City UK’s Digital Business Academy, launched last November, has thousands of students taking free online courses on starting, growing or joining a digital business. As well as expertise, they gain access to work opportunities, ranging from fast-track internships or apprenticeships, to free co-working spaces and mentorship for startups. 

According to O2, the UK needs 745,000 more digitally skilled workers by 2017 to remain competitive. The success of our digital economy depends on lifelong learning and a fresh approach to problem solving.

Work looks different too

If the nature of work in the digital economy is changing, so too is the space in which we do it. The digital mindset requires a fresh, fertile environment in which to flourish. This is currently best found in the recent wave of open-plan workspaces for small and medium-sized businesses.

 

The digital mindset prizes resourcefulness. It knows there is a service, software or app that will do a job better and faster, and it is quick to locate it. It will not tolerate delay and it reaches for ever-evolving standards of quality.

 

Some spaces, like Central Working and the Trampery, have become brands in themselves, with multiple branches and calendars of events. Others, like Second Home, occupy a prized niche of carefully curated digital businesses. But all offer that sense of being part of a new and growing industry. 

Take Runway East, where Tech City UK’s offices are based. It’s a friendly den of fired-up entrepreneurs. Look one way and you’ll see digital video experts Mondo TV – look the other and there’s FashionTech disrupters, Grabble.

Sharing the spoils

Digital businesses are also changing the way we accomplish tasks, with an emphasis on cost effectiveness, speed, efficiency and visibility, not least because they’re competing globally from day one. 

The digital mindset prizes resourcefulness. It knows there is a service, software or app that will do a job better and faster, and it is quick to locate it. It will not tolerate delay and it reaches for ever-evolving standards of quality.

Managing simple jobs 

New technologies have changed the way we manage even the simplest of jobs. We take pictures of business cards and upload the data to our contacts book within seconds. We transfer photos of receipts using Receipt Bank, where they are instantly ready for processing and payment. We manage our finances and payments online. Many of us hardly ever visit a bricks-and-mortar bank, simply because there is no need.

Agility is everything. Communication, whether via Skype or Meerkat, happens where and when we want it to, costing us little other than time. Documents are shared and updated online using Google Docs and Slack, product performance data is analysed on a daily dashboard in real time using GeckoBoard, international payments happen at a fraction of the normal cost via TransferWise.

Such tools improve business productivity: IDG found that 61% of companies who have implemented unified communications technology – such as collaborative applications – have seen increased productivity.

The sharing economy

Then there’s the sharing economy, in which efficiency and visibility can trump big-name brands, and online reputation becomes a powerful asset. We drum up investment on Kickstarter, rent cars by the chargeable minute using Drive Now. On business trips, we stay in other people’s apartments using sharable economy companies, like House Trip or One Fine Stay. We reach for helpers and handymen on Task Firm or Task Rabbit.

More than ever before, the work place and the way we work are built around the digital worker and a better, more efficient world. It’s a new kind of revolution, and we are just at the start.

Gerard Grech is CEO of Tech City UK.