It’s difficult to think of a workplace that doesn’t require the use of spreadsheets. Marketing, accounts, teaching and sales are just a few examples. Most will use Microsoft Excel. Yet, how many young people coming out of education into work are familiar enough with this common tool? Being tech-savvy is more than Smartphones and social media!

Philip BurtonPhilip Burton, a Computing Consultant providing expert services in the development of computer systems and data analysis, shares with Learning to Leap his knowledge and experience about Excel, the benefits of using spreadsheets and why learning this essential skill can make you more employable.

Microsoft Excel was first released in 1985 for the Macintosh, and then in 1987 the first Windows version was available. Thirty years later the programme has expanded, developed and become crucial in the workplace. It is estimated that 90% of workplaces use Excel over any other spreadsheet programme.

The programme is taught and used in school at a basic level, enabling children all over the world to become familiar with how it works. It’s common these days to find on job specifications that you must be proficient in Microsoft Office programs, Excel being one of the priorities. Training to use Excel in the workplace is not unusual. A recent study even went as far to say that being able to use Excel is the best way to increase your earnings.

Benefits of using Excel in the workplace

The amount that the software can do means that there is little need for pen and paper or complicated maths equations. Below are three basic ways in which Excel is used:

  • Data Storage

Excel is a great way to store data and create a basic database. A spreadsheet can be used to keep employee or customer information, making it easy to add extra details when needed. Software is also available to import the contents of Windows Explorer into Excel, enabling you to search (e.g.) photographic properties in Excel.

  • Analysing Data

Excel enables you to look at your data in a clear and concise way. You can look at trends, project sales figures, calculate profit margins, areas that are performing well and to identify any recurring issues. You can save time and money by putting this information into chart form to make your message easier to understand.

  • Resources

An Excel workbook can have numerous types of information on different tabs. This creates a basic resource for many different departments or for different days of the week, month, year, and it keeps all the information organised and in one document.

Why is Excel so popular?

Pricing is one of the key issues. Microsoft prices Microsoft Office, a package which includes Microsoft Word that is one of the most widely used word processors, Excel and others, at not much more than the price of one or two of its components separately.

Excel offers a lot of functionality, allowing users to use advanced features out of the box, while allowing beginners to immediately use some of its features. However, the integration of new features was not well designed originally. Microsoft redesigned Excel in 2007, so that the 2007 and later versions package this advanced functionality in more logical sections, allowing users to access more easily.

Learning how to use Excel

If you don’t know much about IT and don’t feel very confident with computer literacy, there are numerous articles, books and YouTube videos all demonstrating the basic principles and how to do them on Excel. Colours, fonts and charts allow people who may not feel confident using the software to understand the information being given to them. You can also get personalised training on aspects which are of interest to you. With the advent of Skype, distance is no object; I’m in the UK and coach someone in Texas.

The modern workplace allows people to work away from the office; some jobs require employees to travel or work at home but still use the computer as their main tool for work. Excel can now be accessed via the internet using Microsoft Office 365, therefore making it accessible at home on your laptop. Apps are now available for Android, enabling you to use it while on the move on your tablet or mobile phone.

Would learning how to use spreadsheets help you be more employable for the job or career you want? If so, maybe it’s time to spread your wings!