Skills shortage threatens to derail digital transformation

digital_hell_2The recruitment market might be slowing down but UK organisations are still facing a major digital skills shortage, with fears growing that the Covid-inspired take up of digital transformation programmes could soon go into reverse. 

New research from Virgin Media O2 Business and Censuswide has highlighted the scale of the issue.

Months on from the “Great Resignation”, the loss of talent, a lack of tech training and recruitment struggles are combining to widen the UK digital skills gap, with over half (55%) of firms saying they are suffering from a shortage and 83% of them worried about the long-term impact this could have.

More than a third (35%) of workers report that skilled colleagues have left and that their replacements lack the right digital know-how, a similar proportion (36%) say their organisation rarely provides digital training, while 32% highlighted not being able to recruit staff with the necessary competencies at all.

Many organisations are even considering turning the clock back on the technological progress of the past three years. The research suggests half of those that introduced new tech during Covid-19 lockdowns are planning to revert to pre-pandemic practices.

And half of employees say that rolling back these tech advances would make them more likely to resign: a clear warning sign that reversing the UK’s digital transformation could exacerbate the skills crisis.

And when it comes to technology, employees are expecting more. Nearly half (48%) said that poor business equipment and software could be enough to make them resign within the next six months.

Some 43% are regularly frustrated by either the quality or lack of business technology available to them at work, while 35% feel outdated tech is negatively impacting their performance. The majority of employees (81%) also say that technology is important in helping them stay engaged and happy at work.

Frequent training programmes are high up employees’ wish-lists; 47% would be happier in their roles if digital training were provided, while 42% would be less likely to change jobs – meaning that investment in learning and development is now an imperative for organisations.

The research also confirmed that hybrid working policies remain critical to talent attraction and retention. When asked about their priorities when searching for a new role, 42% said having clear hybrid working policies in place would make an employer more attractive, while 44% identified career development opportunities.

Of all technologies, employees said that digital collaboration tools (such as Teams and Zoom 40%), document management tools (such as eSignature software 35%) and connectivity applications, solutions and infrastructure (35%) are best placed to increase their productivity.

Virgin Media O2 Business large enterprise and public sector director Mike Smith commented: “As UK employers grapple with the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’, our research shows that technology could be the tipping point for many.

“From concerns about digital skills shortages to outdated tech holding them back at work, the nation’s employees are ready to vote with their feet: and a decision to revert to pre-Covid technologies could see one in two leave their post in the next six months.

“But by stepping up investment in technology to help everyone work smarter, backed by the right digital training, both private and public sectors have an opportunity to improve the employee experience – and boost outputs at the same time.

“Our research shows that employees rate connectivity infrastructure and hybrid working tools as key for improving their productivity and happiness at work, so it’s clear that now is not the time to row back on the digital transformation the UK has made over the past three years.”

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