55% of UK organisations facing skills shortages as battle for talent intensifies

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New research from Virgin Media O2 Business and Censuswide has highlighted the scale of the digital knowledge gap facing the UK’s private and public sectors, with 55% of employees saying that their organisation is suffering from a skills shortage. 83% of these professionals are worried about the impact this could have, adding to other challenges organisations and employees alike face amidst the cost-of-living crisis. 

Months on from the ‘Great Resignation’, the loss of talent, a lack of tech training and recruitment struggles are combining to create a digital skills gap in UK workplaces. 35% of workers report that skilled colleagues have left and that their replacements lack the right digital expertise, 36% say that their organisation rarely provides digital training, while 32% highlighted not being able to recruit staff with the necessary competencies at all. 

Despite this, many organisations are set to turn the clock back on the technological progress of the past three years. The research suggests on average half of organisations that introduced new technologies during Covid-19 lockdowns are planning to revert to pre-pandemic practices. And 50% of employees say that rolling back these tech advances would make them more likely to resign: a clear warning sign that reversing the UK’s digital transformation could exacerbate the skills crisis. 

However, the research has uncovered positive solutions that businesses and the public sector can implement to help close the digital skills gap in the workforce: a combination of technological investment, training programmes and progressive working policies.

When it comes to technology, employees are expecting more. 48% of employees said that poor business equipment and software could be enough to make them resign within the next six months. 43% of employees are regularly frustrated by either the quality or lack of business technology available to them when they’re working, while 35% feel that outdated tech is negatively impacting their performance. The majority of employees (81%) also say that technology is important in helping them stay engaged and happy at work. 

Frequent training programmes are high up the list of employee draws, too. 47% would be happier in their roles if digital training were provided, while 42% would be less likely to change jobs – meaning that investment in learning and development is now an imperative for organisations. 

The research also confirmed that hybrid working policies - greater choice in where, when, and how people work - remain critical to talent attraction and retention. When asked about their priorities when searching for a new role, 42% said having clear hybrid working policies in place would make an employer more attractive, while 44% of professionals identified career development opportunities. These findings reinforce the need to invest in the digital technologies that make hybrid working practices possible and empower employees to fulfil their career potential.

Of these technologies, employees said that digital collaboration tools (such as Teams and Zoom (40%)), document management tools (such as eSignature software (35%)) and connectivity applications, solutions and infrastructure (35%) are best placed to increase their productivity.

Mike Smith, Large Enterprise & Public Sector Director at Virgin Media O2 Business, commented: “As UK employers grapple with the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’, our research shows that technology could be the tipping point for many. From concerns about digital skills shortages to outdated tech holding them back at work, the nation’s employees are ready to vote with their feet: and a decision to revert to pre-Covid technologies could see one in two leave their post in the next six months. 

“But by stepping up investment in technology to help everyone work smarter, backed by the right digital training, both private and public sectors have an opportunity to improve the employee experience – and boost outputs at the same time. Our research shows that employees rate connectivity infrastructure and hybrid working tools as key for improving their productivity and happiness at work, so it’s clear that now is not the time to row back on the digital transformation the UK has made over the past three years.”

As part of its ongoing work to understand the links between skills, technological investment and the employee experience, Virgin Media O2 Business has published a new report – ‘Tech and the battle for talent’ –, which includes the full survey findings.

To help tackle the digital divide in communities across the UK, Virgin Media O2 has recently announced that it has become a strategic partner of charity Good Things Foundation. The company will work closely with the charity to help one million people – including those on low incomes most affected by the cost-of-living crisis, minoritised ethnic groups, low-skilled workers and older people – to access digital skills training, free connectivity and devices.

Methodology 

In July 2022, Virgin Media O2 Business and Censuswide surveyed 1,500 individuals who are in work or active in the UK labour market. The sample was designed to reflect a range of industries, public and private sectors, and demographic characteristics.

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