Basic tech skills gaps restricting productivity in over a third of UK SMEs


A lack of basic tech skills such as how to use Microsoft 365 is having a negative impact on productivity in nearly four in ten firms according to UK research from Sharp. The insights from over 500 UK small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) see the ability to use such tools effectively as one of the biggest challenges facing SMEs across the UK today.

The data also reveals that almost a quarter of firms (22%) think employees’ abilities to use software in general was one of the biggest challenges facing their business over the last year. Additionally, just over a third (37%) of those making tech decisions in SMEs believe they are knowledgeable enough about Microsoft 365 and its opportunities to make the right decisions for their business.

As some businesses look to update the version of Microsoft 365 they licence to include AI through Copilot, this lack of understanding will not only impact current productivity but also the ability to benefit from any future innovations from this functionality.

Colin Blumenthal, Vice President, IT Services at Sharp Europe, comments:

“No matter the size of the business or organisation, there is a significant reliance in many firms on Microsoft 365 for the day-to-day tasks from standard document and spreadsheet work through to planning, managing operations and sales and marketing. Without the right training around how to get the most from this software, businesses are clearly missing out on being as productive as they could be.

“As AI becomes more embedded into the software SMEs are using with Copilot for smaller businesses now available in Office 365, this will provide even more opportunities to improve productivity and therefore competitiveness. The message is clear, act now to address the tech skills gap if you want to remain competitive and start with the basic tools that teams use every day – whether at home or in the office environment.”

With technology issues prominent, the research also shows a continued divide in how employers feel about how productive people are when working from home. Whilst the majority (45%) believe productivity remains the same whether employees work from home or the office, a quarter (25%) of business and IT leaders in SMEs think employees are more productive and a fifth (21%) think they are less.

Colin continues, “And it’s not just tech skills that are having an impact when it comes to time spent working away from the office, almost a third think that a productivity issue is how an employee’s desk or table is set up when working from home. The research also found that connectivity issues and ability to use of apps such as Teams and Zoom, also had a negative impact.


The research was conducted by Censuswide between 1st February 2023-13th February 2023 and responded to by 5,770 IT decision makers and people responsible for purchasing IT within SMEs, from 11 countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

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