UK economy hamstrung by digital skills gap

The digital skills gap is constraining the UK economy by proving to be a stiff barrier to adaptation for organisations looking to transform digitally and remain competitive.

That's according to recent government research which found that without the neccessary expertise to integrate technologies into the workplace, it is difficult to derive the desired benefits, leading to a slump in company revenues and the wider UK economy.

Migrating to the digital workspace can streamline business processes and costs, and attract digital natives who demand a certain set of tools in their work. To facilitate this change, technology must be integrated with the wider company.

However, this increase in demand for digital talent is widening the already large skills gap, according to the report, with organisational change becoming more difficult to achieve despite technologies being widely available.

The problem is caused, at least in part, by the speed of innovation and the drive for efficiency. Digital training has been left behind as a result, leaving only partly-trained IT departments who are no more familiar with the latest technology than regular employees.

The plethora of technologies available that are capable of inducing organisational change has also proved to be problematic. Complex technologies require a particular skill-set, reducing the pool of talent available and ensuring that training existing employees takes more time and costs more money.

This issue has forced employers to inflate salaries to attract the talent they need, costing the UK economy over £500 million over the last 12 months alone, according to the report.

IT staff must be able to implement, operate, and manage new technologies effectively to procure the business benefits. However, Qualtrics and Red Hat's research study found that 65% of CIOs report skills shortages in their organisation and believe these shortages hamper their IT strategies. Key missing skills cited were technical architecture, security and resilience, and enterprise architecture.

For any business looking to overcome its IT skills gap, the solution is likely to be costly.

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One solution is to simply increase the scale of IT budgets. In fact, Spiceworks' 2019 State of IT Budgets report actually reveals a trend of organisations doing just this, with further investments in talent, technology and training. In theory, this would allow IT departments to optimise their infrastructure and operations, leading to lower costs over time. Resources can eventually be freed and channelled towards further innovation and strategic initiatives, amplifying the strategy's impact.

However, with limited pots of money, it's not realistic for all SMBs to simply increase investment. Many businesses will need to develop new approaches to workforce development, including searching outside of traditional talent pools, if they're to remain competitive. By hiring people from diverse backgrounds, businesses can tap into a huge pool of high-potential and underutilised talent, reducing their digital skills gap.