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3 in 20 UK employers face severe digital skills gap

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Employers have struggled to fill one-third of vacancies due to a lack of digital competency, according to new research.

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The latest research by Hays Learning found that in the UK, 62% of employers admit their workforce only has some of the skills required or face severe shortages. Whilst 15% of employers say they do not have the digital skills to meet organisational objectives, highlighting a significant discrepancy between the types of skills on offer versus those in demand right now.

Digital demand across industries

Today, more employers are emphasising the need for ‘specific digital skills’ over ‘baseline’ ones when it comes to hiring. Baseline skills include the ability to use Microsoft Word or Excel, for example. In contrast, specific skills are slightly more specialised but still advantageous across all sectors and can include things like Adobe Photoshop or customer relationship software.

A government report revealed that around 82% of all jobs in the UK list digital skills as a requirement. They also pay 29% more, on average, than those that do not require these skills (£37,000 vs £28,000 a year). These are the five industries with the highest digital intensity, ranked according to the percentage of job advertisements in occupations requiring specific digital skills:

The Finance & Insurance sector is leading the way in digital preparedness through recruiting employees with specific digital skills, along with employers in Information & Communication, Real Estate and Science & Tech.

How wide is the digital skills gap?

While 38% of UK employers say they have all the skills they need to meet their organisational objectives, at 62%, the majority admit their workforce only has some of the skills required or face severe shortages.

More private-sector employers are prepared for the digital era

According to a Hays survey of 14,500 employers and professionals, those in the private sector are better prepared for digital transformation than the public sector. Around two-thirds of private-sector (64%) employers say they have access to all or some of the skills they require, compared to only 56% of public-sector employers.

Critical barriers to digital transformation

It’s important to note that while the overall attitude towards digital literacy skills in the workplace is positive – 78% of employers and 69% of staff have an open mindset towards digital transformation in the workplace – they do not feel well-equipped or prepared to deal with this transformation.

The top challenges employers face in the journey to a more digital and automated workplace are:

  • Lack of skills from current staff: 58%

  • Lack of support from staff: 37%

  • Additional budget needed: 31%

  • New processes required: 26%

  • Difficulty integrating with existing processes: 25%

Bridging the UK digital skills gap

Currently, a lack of skills poses the biggest challenge to automation and digital transformation. This can be addressed by educating and upskilling employees through training. Hays Learning provides the following tips on how businesses can start bridging the digital skills gap:

Identify the gaps: Knowing where the gaps are is the first step to closing them. Keep up to date with emerging technologies, especially those being adopted by competitors in your sector.

Encourage self-directed learning: Provide your employees with access to the learning tools they need to explore not just digital skills, but abilities around organisation and prioritisation, as well as soft skills too. Empower them to drive their learning journey and focus on their areas of interest.

Retain top talent: It’s essential to engage with existing talent, and not only focus on bringing in new entry-level talent. Give your current employees more opportunities to hone their digital skills.

Foster a “continuous learning” culture: A successful, fulfilling career path is one that focuses on learning and development, not as a once-off short-term goal, but as a continuous process. Considering technology changes and grows at such a rapid rate, it’s important to encourage your employees to embrace an ongoing learning process, to future-proof your business.


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