The Open University’s new ‘Leading in a Digital Age’ report highlights a link between improved business performance and leaders who are equipped, through technology training, to manage digital change.
Investing in digital skills training
The latest version of the annual report, which bases its findings on a survey of 950 CTOs and senior leaders within UK organisations concludes that leaders who invested in digital skills training are experiencing improved productivity (56 per cent), greater employee engagement (55 per cent), enhanced agility and, vitally, increased profit.
The flipside, highlighted in the same survey, is that almost half (47 per cent) of those business leaders surveyed thought they lacked the tech skills to manage in the digital age and more than three-quarters of them acknowledge that they could benefit from more digital training.
The key point revealed by the OU survey and report is that the development of digital skills in businesses are led from the top and that those businesses that invest in learning and development of digital skills are likely to be more able to take advantage of opportunities in what could now be described as a ‘digital age’.
The report acknowledges the digital skills shortages that UK businesses and organisations face (63 per cent of senior business leaders report a skills shortage for their organisation) and the report identifies a regional divide in those companies reporting skills shortages – more employers in the South and particularly the South West are finding that skills are in short supply and reporting that recruitment for digital roles takes longer.
One likely contributing factor to some geographical/regional divides in skills shortages and difficulty in recruiting for tech roles in those areas may be the spending, per area, on addressing those skills shortages. For example, London is reported to have spent (in 2019) £1.4 billion (the equivalent of £30,470 per organisation), while the North East spent the least (£172.2 million), and South East spent only £10,260 per organisation.
Factors affecting the skills shortage
The OU report identifies several key factors that appear to be affecting the skills shortage and the investment that may be needed to address those skills shortages. These include the uncertainty over Brexit, increased competition, an ageing population, the speed and scope of the current ‘digital revolution’ and a lack of diversity.
What does this mean for your business?
Bearing in mind that the OU, whose survey and report this was, is a supplier of skills training, the report, nonetheless, makes some relevant and important points. For many businesses, for example, managers and owners are most likely to the be the ones with the most integrated picture of the business and its aims, and if they had better digital skills and awareness they may be more likely to identify opportunities, and more likely to promote and invest in digital skills training within their organisation that could be integral to their organisation being able to take advantage of those opportunities.
The tech skills shortage in the UK is, unfortunately, not new and is not down to just businesses alone to solve the skills gap challenge. The government, the education system and businesses need to find ways to work together to develop a base of digital skills in the UK population and to make sure that the whole tech ecosystem finds effective ways to address the skills gap and keep the UK’s tech industries and business attractive and competitive. As highlighted in the OU report, apprenticeships may be one more integrated way to help bridge skills shortages.