Digital services company AND Digital has released its The Nature of the Digital Skills Gap report, which reveals that over half (61%) of business growth depends on digital outcomes, with most (81%) managing directors admitting that a lack of digital skills is having a negative impact on their organisation already.
Based on AND Digital’s estimations, this equates to £50bn per year across the UK economy, and more than £240bn between now and 2026.
These findings are alarming, with over a quarter (27%) of businesses attributing employee churn, a loss of talent, or difficulty attracting talent to a lack of digital skills.
Critically, over a fifth (22%) admit it has impacted their ability to hit business targets and made them lose customers or key business opportunities.
Yet, this issue is compounded by the fact that almost over half (58%) of workers admit they have not received digital upskilling from their employer.
Digital skills: workers are not receiving adequate upskilling to meet the required growth
AND Digital found that over a quarter (27%) of workers surveyed feel they lack sufficient digital skills for their current role, but almost a quarter (22%) of organisations do not offer digital skills upskilling.
Of those employers that do prioritise upskilling, half (52%) of employees believe their organisation only sees it as a worthwhile investment for obvious tech-focused roles.
A widespread misunderstanding exists of what digital skills are
A widespread misunderstanding of what digital skills actually means presents a further barrier to closing the gap. Over a third (35%) of respondents believe it means the ability to fix IT issues.
Similarly, almost half of respondents (47%) believe digital skills mean either the ability to code and programme, build a website or create mobile/computer applications.
Skills such as constantly evolving the way they work to keep up with innovation (34%) and being experimental in their role using digital tools (26%) came further down the list.
Paramjit Uppal, Founder and CEO, AND Digital, said:: “Digital skills mean so much more than just technical skills. It also includes professional skills, such as product and delivery management, and soft, human skills such as empathy, creativity and teaming. Individuals and teams with such skills are vital in creating a digital future, and for businesses to see continued growth and success.”
Inadequate upskilling is also impacting individual careers
Despite the misunderstanding of what digital skills means, as well as a lack of current digital training, there is a certain appetite for upskilling. Half (49%) of respondents stated that improving their digital skills is essential for their career progression – whether that is earning more or performing better in their role.
But workplace perceptions present a barrier, with four in 10 (42%) of workers feeling daunted by the prospect of digital upskilling and not feeling comfortable bringing it up with their employer.
A lack of digital skills growth is directly impacting career progression, with six in 10 (58%) people saying they have been affected negatively by a lack of digital skills. Almost a third (29%) say it has meant being turned down from either pay rises, promotions or not putting themselves forward for promotion.
One-fifth (20%) say it has stopped them from applying for a certain job and 16 percent have felt they either had to quit their jobs or leave their industry.
Paramjit Uppal, Founder and CEO, AND Digital, said:
“Despite the digital skills gap discussion persisting for over a decade, UK organisations are still failing to sufficiently upskill employees, and it is directly impacting business and wider economic growth. This is because we have not come to a shared understanding of what the skills gap is or what digital skills mean – this needs to be done to move forward and close the gap.
“In the next three years, AND Digital estimates the UK workforce will require eight million individuals proficient in digital skills to close the gap. A number that even the most effective recruitment teams will struggle with. This means organisations must prioritise digital upskilling – ensuring individuals, teams and organisations as a whole are fit for a digital present and future, and helping to prevent economic stagnation.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.