55% UK organisations facing skills shortages

New research from Virgin Media O2 Business and Censuswide has highlighted the scale of the digital knowledge gap facing the UK’s private and public sectors, with 55 per cent of employees saying that their organisation is suffering from a skills shortage. 83 per cent of these professionals are worried about the impact this could have, adding to other challenges organisations and employees alike face amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

Months on from the ‘Great Resignation’, the loss of talent, a lack of tech training, and recruitment struggles are combining to create a digital skills gap in UK workplaces. 35 per cent of workers report that skilled colleagues have left and that their replacements lack the right digital expertise, 36 per cent say that their organisation rarely provides digital training, while 32 per cent highlighted not being able to recruit staff with the necessary competencies at all.

Despite this, the research suggests on average half of organisations that introduced new technologies during COVID-19 lockdowns are planning to revert to pre-pandemic practices. And 50 per cent 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.

However, the research has uncovered positive solutions that businesses and the public sector can implement to help close the digital skills gap in the workforce: a combination of technological investment, training programmes, and progressive working policies.

When it comes to technology, employees are expecting more. 48 per cent of employees said that poor business equipment and software could be enough to make them resign within the next six months. 43 per cent of employees are regularly frustrated by either the quality or lack of business technology available to them when they’re working, while 35 per cent feel that outdated tech is negatively impacting their performance. Most employees (81%) also say that technology is important in helping them stay engaged and happy at work.

Frequent training programmes are high on the list of employee draws, too. 47 per cent would be happier in their roles if digital training were provided, while 42 per cent 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 - greater choice in where, when, and how people work - remain critical to talent attraction and retention. When asked about their priorities when searching for a new role, 42 per cent said having clear hybrid working policies in place would make an employer more attractive, while 44 per cent of professionals identified career development opportunities. These findings reinforce the need to invest in digital technologies that make hybrid working practices possible and empower employees to fulfil their career potential.

Of these 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 the best placed to increase their productivity.

Mike Smith, Large Enterprise & Public Sector Director at Virgin Media O2 Business said, “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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