A survey conducted by Sungard Availability Services has found that a growing digital skills shortage in the UK is having a detrimental impact on businesses and could pose serious risks in the years ahead. Both IT decision makers (31 percent), and line of business decision makers (41 percent) have labelled it as their biggest issue impacting digital initiatives; with seven in ten employees claiming they’re not getting the training or tools they need to add value back to the business.
Despite extensive hype and scare-mongering about emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) impacting or replacing human jobs, the survey reveals that just under half (49 percent) of UK businesses have this listed as a technology that will help them prepare for the challenges they face. In reality, cloud (75 percent), Internet of Things (69 percent) and big data analytics (64 percent) are the big three when ranking these technologies, AI doesn’t even make the top four.
At least in the immediate future, many jobs and processes that are expected to be automated or taken over by robots will stay firmly within the remit of the human workforce; yet 70 percent of employees state they are underprepared for the digital journey ahead. Businesses therefore need to invest in their staff – not just in strategic technologies. This will ensure that employees feel supported by and committed to their organizations, and can be confident they can do their jobs now and in the future. For business leaders, it means their companies have the skills in situ to optimise all technology investments.
Despite the benefits in doing so, the extent to which the majority of UK businesses are not prioritising investment in people makes for grim reading. Over a quarter of UK workers stated that a lack of training has stopped them from adopting digital working practices, only 30 percent claiming their company has provided them with the tools to overcome the challenges they are facing.
Meanwhile, increasing employee satisfaction, increasing staff mobility and increasing staff retention levels were revealed to be the three lowest priorities for business decision makers over the next two years, at only 32 percent, 23 percent and 19 percent respectively.
Communication is key
The research also found that businesses need to be more transparent about how they intend to navigate future challenges. Only 32 percent of UK employees polled feel like they are kept up to speed with their employer’s digital roadmap. This is in stark contrast to the 75% of ITDMs who reported that they are kept well informed of strategic direction.
This lack of business-wide communication could have serious ramifications for business leaders and commercial success, especially when the UK is heading into the uncharted waters of Brexit, and has the European GDPR directive looming on the near horizon. For example, when asked about their understanding of the changes that will come into force as a result of GDPR, a large majority (84 percent) of line of business heads in the UK have some understanding, compared to 3% of employees who say they understand completely, contrasting with the 50 percent who report they do not understand at all. Considering that employees are often the weak link in an organization’s security chain, this lack of understanding about their roles and responsibilities when it comes to security compliance should serve as a wakeup call to businesses.
Commenting on the findings, Kathy Schneider, CMO, Sungard Availability Services said: “In addition to Brexit and GDPR, the lack of digital skills is yet another challenge facing UK organizations over the next couple of years. To remain competitive, businesses will need to prioritise digital skills development and training to help navigate the new technology trends. This means investing not only in technologies and systems, but also in training around the required skills. Communication of the challenges and the digital journey ahead will be vital to ensuring business resiliency. Failure to do so could open businesses up to unnecessary – and avoidable – risks.”
About the research
Sungard Availability Services commissioned independent technology market research Opinium to conduct interviews with 150 IT decision makers, 150 line of business decision makers and 300 employees (middle management and below) in companies of 500+ employees in the UK, across multiple sectors, ranging from medium to large enterprises. The research took place during October 2017.