New research explores the wide-spread problem of the skills gap, with almost seven in 10 leaders stating that their company has one, and how closing this gap will be essential to UK’s economic recovery. 

A new report by Microsoft highlights that the UK’s digital skills gap could pose a significant risk to the economic recovery after COVID-19.

The data reveals the existing and upcoming problems linked to the digital skills gap with almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) UK leaders stating that their organisation currently has a skills gap. Additionally, seven in 10 organisations (70 per cent) are expecting to experience this skills gap over the next year.

Over two in five leader (44 per cent) believe that the digital skills gap will negatively affect their level of success and around two-thirds (63 per cent) of employees feel that they do not have the appropriate digital skills to fulfil new and emerging roles within their industry.

Currently, less than a quarter (24 per cent) feel confident that the Government is doing enough to tackle the UK’s digital skills gap.

Due to this, it is clear that employers and employees alike plan to resolve this themselves. According to data from LinkedIn, just under a third (32 per cent) of employers say that upskilling employees is a top priority over the upcoming six months. Additionally, around three-quarters (74 per cent) of companies who furloughed staff said they have provided resources to help employees learn new capabilities during that time.

However, leaders did identify some road-blocks which prevents their organisation from investing in digital skills. Over a third (37 per cent) stated they had a lack of budget whilst over a quarter (28 per cent) said their company had a lack of digital skills investment strategy. Over a fifth (23 per cent) said there was a lack of knowledge on which initiatives to put focus on.

The report shows that developing digital skills is imperative to UK’s economic recovery. The data shows that digital skills represent 2.4 per cent of a company’s bottom line – meaning if a company had an annual profit of £1 billion, this would represent £24 million.

Four in five leaders (80 per cent) believe that investment in digital skills capabilities will be important to the UK’s economic recovery. 78 per cent see a large digital skills talent pool as essential to driving UK’s competitiveness on the global stage.

The report makes some key recommendations for businesses to close their digital skills gap, including:

  • Integrating a cross-functional, digital team
  • Opening up STEM careers to under-represented groups
  • Evolving learning and development programs to offer more advance digital training to ‘Next Gen Workers’
  • Fostering a dynamic, diverse and inclusive approach to talent management and recruitment

Quoted in the report, Jane Dickinson, Digital Skills Lead at the Open University, said:

A commitment to digital skills at a leadership level creates a positive impact on the performance of the organisation and the engagement of employees, who are given vital new skills to drive future success.

Speaking to HRreview, Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft UK, said:

The UK has a well-documented digital skills gap – one that has been thrown into even sharper focus in light of COVID-19 and the rising demand for technology and skills.

As we look to respond and recover, addressing this gap and growing the UK’s digital talent pool must be a priority. UK leaders understand the sense of urgency to address this skills disparity, with 80 per cent telling us that digital skills will be important to driving economic recovery.

Yet good intentions must be translated into action, with over two thirds (69 per cent) revealing that their organisation faces a digital skills gap currently.

Our latest research provides an actionable roadmap for the journey ahead, calling on organisations to identify gaps and upskilling opportunities, rethink talent acquisition and skilling strategies, identify the key technical digital skills which will drive most value and ultimately, foster a learning culture in which everyone feels included in the new world of work.

*This research was taken from Microsoft’s report ‘Unlocking the UK’s potential with digital skills’ which surveyed over 2000 UK employees and nearly 600 UK leaders. This report was created in partnership with YouGov and academics led by Dr Chris Brauer, Goldsmiths, University of London.