The past few months have seen businesses start to depend on the digital capabilities of their teams more than ever before, but increased reliance on technology has also exposed a widening digital skills gap across the UK. As the economy starts up again, bridging the gap is going to become crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage.
A government report revealed that around 82% of all jobs in the UK list digital skills as a requirement. They also pay 29% more, on average, than those that don’t require these skills (£37,000 vs £28,000 a year). Despite this, employers struggled to fill one-third of vacancies last year due to lack of digital competency, highlighting a significant discrepancy between skill supply and demand in the UK.
Digital skills are no longer limited to tech and online roles, but are nearly-universal requirements across all sectors and skill levels today.
Working knowledge of project management software or programs like Word and Excel used to be a competitive advantage for candidates entering the job market. However, baseline skills are no longer enough to keep up with the demands of an increasingly digital world.
Today, more employers are looking for sector-specific digital skills from the workforce, like the ability to use data analysis tools, Adobe Photoshop or CAD, as well as apps like Office 365.
According to the government report, these types of specific digital skill sets aren’t just beneficial to businesses. They are also crucial to career progression and have a 59% reduced risk of automation.
While 38% of UK employers say they have all the skills they need to meet their organisational objectives, at 62%, the majority admit their workforce only has some of the skills required or face severe shortages.
The government research also revealed the sectors most-focused on hiring digitally skilled candidates:
And which sectors are recruiting fewer employees with digital skills:
According to a Hays survey of 14,500 employers and professionals, those in the private sector are better prepared for digital transformation than the public sector. At 64%, around two-thirds of private-sector employers say they have access to all or some of the skills they require, compared to only 56% of public-sector employers.
Looking at the rankings mentioned earlier, the Finance and IT sectors are leading the way in digital preparedness through recruiting employees with specific digital skills. Those in the Health and Education spaces, however, are recruiting fewer employees with digital skills.
It’s important to note that while the overall attitude towards digital literacy skills in the workplace is
positive, many do not feel well-equipped or prepared to deal with this transformation and new trends, like remote working. What is behind this lack of preparedness?
The Hays survey also identified top challenges employers face in the journey to a more digital and automated
Currently, a lack of digital literacy skills poses the biggest challenge to automation and digital transformation.
This can be addressed by educating and upskilling employees through training.
Identify the gaps: Knowing where the gaps are is the first step to closing them. Keep up to
date with emerging technologies, especially those being adopted by competitors in your sector.
Encourage self-directed learning: Provide your employees with access to the learning tools
they need to explore not just digital skills, but abilities around organisation and prioritisation, as well as soft skills. Empower them to drive their learning journey and focus on their areas of interest.
Retain top talent: It’s essential to engage with existing talent, and not only focus on bringing in new entry-level talent. Give your current employees more opportunities to hone their digital skills.
Foster a “continuous learning” culture: A successful, fulfilling career path is one that focuses on learning and development, not as a once-off short-term goal, but as a continuous process.
Considering technology changes and grows at such a rapid rate, it’s important to encourage your employees to embrace an ongoing learning process, in order to future-proof your business.
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