UK faces digital skills gap … but simply hiring Millennials won’t close it

Digital skillsAlthough the UK remains a global tech leader, the country remains in the grip of a digital skills crisis which is holding back productivity and costs around £63 billion each year, according to a report published today by the Commons Science and Technology Committee. The report claims that 12.6 million UK adults lack even basic digital skills, and nearly half of these people (5.8 million) have never even used the internet. Meanwhile, a coincidental report published by Cisco claims that those organisations who apparently assume they can close the gap by merely employing so-called Millennials, will be disappointed because there’s no great correlation between age and confidence in using digital technology. The Digital Culture Clash report found the only meaningful correlations were between the type of work an individual does, their level of employment and their competence and confidence in using technology.

The Commons report found that:

  • 22 percent of IT equipment in schools is ineffective
  • Just 35 percent of computer science teachers had a relevant qualification
  • Only 70 percent of the required number of computer science teachers have been recruited
  • The UK needs another 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017
  • 90 percent of jobs require digital skills to some degree
  • Skills gap costs economy around £63bn a year in lost income

The research commissioned by Cisco in partnership with the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC), claims that creating a positive digital culture at work and encouraging worker confidence in digital tools are the most important factors in ensuring digital roll-outs are successful.

Based on a survey of more than 3,000 UK workers, its main findings include:

Workers are digitally engaged: 83.6 per cent stated that they have confidence in their home use of digital technologies. They are also inclined to accept digital technologies in the workplace with 45 per cent stating that at least half of their working day is spent using digital technology of some kind. More than two thirds (67 per cent) stated that digital technology has had a positive impact on the way they work, with 56 per cent saying it had made their job quicker and 50 per cent saying it has made their job easier.

They’re pragmatic about digital: Workers have balanced expectations around what technology can do for them. Most (65 per cent) thought that the number of new digital services that had been rolled out in the past two years was ‘just about right’ and respondents that had experienced between three and five roll-outs were the most positive. They also understand why their employers are implementing these services, with 58 per cent stating it was to make the organisation more productive, 51 per cent to cut costs and 47 per cent to automate tasks.

They want a dialogue on digital: 64 per cent weren’t consulted prior to the provision of new digital technologies and 57 per cent would have liked more information on how to use new digital technologies. 40 per cent stated that the digital technology wasn’t explained effectively to them.

 Getting digital culture right

According to the report, there are clear lessons to be learnt from those organisations getting digital roll-outs right. Employees that demonstrated the most positive attitudes to digital technology revealed that there are four key areas for businesses to address for success.

  1. Clear digital leadership– Demonstrating a clear digital vision is important but so is taking the time to ensure that workers are on board and equipped to undertake the same digital journey. Research found that 40 percent of workers stated that the digital technology wasn’t explained effectively to them by their employers.
  2. Fostering positive attitudes to digital technology – The more time organisations spend consulting staff, and building a culture that nurtures an acceptance of change, the more effective implementation of digital technology is in the workplace. A concerning 64 percent of workers stated that they weren’t consulted prior to the provision of new digital technologies.
  3. Limit organisational barriers– Prior to roll-out, organisations must assess their structure to highlight any potential barriers to success. This could include addressing out-of-date internal processes, removing restrictive legacy technology systems, or resolving a pre-existing negative digital culture. Employees do value digital technology, with 58 percent believing its implementation can make their organisation more productive.
  4. Good communications – Employees appreciate traditional forms of communication around digital roll-outs. This includes face-to-face interaction, dedicated training on the new tools and a clear articulation of how the new digital technology will impact their role at work. Research found that 57 percent of employees stated that they would have liked more information on how to use new digital technologies.
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