Is there a digital skills gap in your business? | HR blog

Published on August 3, 2021 by Tim Scott
Digital skills gap

Is there a digital skills gap in your business? Find out why this is an issue for businesses and 3 ways to close the gap with this practical guide from HR expert Tim Scott.

Here in the UK, we have an acknowledged digital skills gap, and it only appears to be getting wider. Why is this happening and what can HR and business leaders do to help?

What the research says on digital skills

The BBC recently reported that the UK is "heading towards a digital skills shortage disaster" according to The Learning & Work Institute, with only 48% of employers thinking that young people are leaving education with sufficiently advanced digital skills.

Furthermore, The Learning & Work Institute found that 70% of young people expect employers to invest in teaching them digital skills while on the job, whereas only half the employers surveyed said they were able to provide such training.

An ongoing issue...

This has been an ongoing problem over the past few years. A survey of 1,400 businesses back in April 2017 by the British Chambers of Commerce found 52% of their respondents reported a slight shortage in digital competencies, 21% said the shortage was “significant”, and 3% described it as “critical”. More than half of the businesses said that the issue is increasing staff workloads and 29% reported that the skills shortage is leading to higher operating costs.

Add to this the rise of automation, social and digital technology, artificial intelligence – all coming to a workplace near you – and we see why the digital skills gap will be an increasing problem. Without action, the gap will only widen. Those who are already struggling with technology will continue to be left behind, perhaps permanently.

3 ways to close the digital skills gap

3 important considerations for the digital skills gap

It is time for HR to get involved. What can we and our organisations do to close the gap?

1. Making the case for technology

Sometimes, this does actually mean making a business case – checking out suppliers, carrying out an analysis of costs and benefits, and writing a paper for the Board. But there is something more fundamental. You have to explain to employees and managers why they need to care about technology.

Innovations in technology can take time to spread. Until they become commonplace or mainstream, many will struggle to see what is in it for them, which of their problems technology can solve, or where it adds to their lives. So it is worth investing some time in articulating the bigger picture. In much the same way some people didn’t see the need for a mobile phone or an internet connection but now use them every day, some people will need help exploring new technology.

Learn more: Making the business case for an HR system

2. Training

This needs to be all-encompassing. It isn’t just about training people on the technology they need to use at work, right now, but providing a whole range of skills about a whole lot of technology. Remember that there may be some people struggling with the basics like email or the internet – it isn’t just about emerging technology. Meet people where they are at that moment.

Recording and tracking training and personal development across the organisation with training management software.

training tracking software

3. Role models

Finally, and too often overlooked, is the need for leaders and HR to act as role models and lead the way. If we want the benefits of technology in the workplace, leaders and HR need to put their money where their latest tweet is. Organisations need everyone to have technology skills. And this doesn’t just mean writing an acceptable use policy! When leaders and HR understand the landscape, they will be best place to take their organisations into the future.

When it comes to technology, you have only two choices: hang back or get ahead.

Read more from our blog

5 things to consider when upskilling employees

HR technology: measuring its business impact

3 performance management techniques to boost your small business

Picture of Tim Scott

Written by Tim Scott

Tim Scott is a People Director, HR writer and speaker. Before founding The Work Consultancy, he spent 20 years in HR roles, helping transform people practices.

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