Digital Skills Shortage Should be a Wake-up Call for SMEs


A new report has been published Monday the 19th of October, which highlights the imbalance of digital skills between different regions.

The digital exclusion heatmap, created by the charity Go ON UK, revealed that nearly one in four adults in the UK - around 12 million people - lack the skills to complete five basic online tasks. These include managing information, communicating, transacting, problem-solving and creating.

This isn’t just a UK-specific problem; the digital skills gap is a problem that can be seen all over the world, and businesses need to take this very seriously. At a time when digitization should be moving up the corporate agenda, it’s worrying that so many aren’t equipped with even the most basic of digital skills. The ability to work in a digital environment is increasingly important – not just to an individual company’s profit margin, but to a country’s economy as a whole.

For example, the UK and US may often be praised for their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, but recent reports have shown that their productivity levels are low. This could largely be a result of a lack of digital expertise.

So, what exactly is digitization and why is it so important? It’s a broad term, which encompasses both the literal – the conversion of analogue information into digital formats - and the strategic - the development of a digital mind-set with the aim of transforming a business, its products and its customer base. Fundamental to digitization in all its forms is the embrace of more paperless processes as the most efficient, productive, transparent and economical method of running a business.

In the past, digitization strategies have been slow to take off due to a number of factors, including its perceived complexity, notably the difficulty of managing the process; a lack of leadership by senior managers; concern about costs; and fear of change. This digital map should, however, act as a wake-up call for businesses that they cannot delay this step any further. 

Ultimately, companies must take some responsibility for ensuring their employees can utilize the latest digital tools. There is such a strong correlation between digital technology and cost savings, and small businesses simply cannot afford to ignore the importance of digital expertise within the workplace. Digital capabilities should be increasingly becoming the business community's number one priority. For those that choose not to recognize this, there will be long-term consequences as their growth prospects become limited and they start slipping behind their competitors.