Conducted in the summer and autumn of 2020, a new academic study from Microsoft and Goldsmiths, University of London, explores the current state of digital skills in UK organisations.

Despite accelerated digitalisation in response to COVID-19, a clear digital skills gap persists in UK organisations:

• 69% of UK leaders surveyed believe their organisation currently has a digital skills gap, 70% expect to experience one over the next year.

• More than two in five UK leaders (44%) fear the current lack of digital skills within their organisation will have a fairly negative impact on their success in the next year. However, business leaders recognise the urgency:

• 32% of C-level executives from large UK firms say that upskilling employees is a top priority in the next six months according to data from LinkedIn. And employees are eager to learn:

• 59% of employees say developing their digital skills will be important to their employability after COVID-19. Cost (37%) and lack of skills strategy (28%) are identified as the main barriers to digital skills investment by leaders surveyed. Business leaders lack faith in both the education system and government to resolve the UK digital skills gap:

• Just 28% of UK leaders believe the education system offers adequate digital training for pupils.

• Only 24% are confident that the UK government is doing enough to tackle the UK’s digital skills gap

The Bottom line

Digital skills have a clear and valuable impact on bottom line performance:

• Digital skills hold the key to 2.4% minimum of a company’s bottom line. For an organisation with an annual profit of £1 billion, this equates to £24 million every year. UK business leaders realise how vital this is right now:

• 80% believe investment in digital skills capabilities will be important to the country’s economic recovery following COVID-19.

• 78% see having a large digital skills talent pool as essential to driving UK competitiveness on the global stage. Six key skill areas comprise an individual’s overall digital capability:

• These are: information, data and media literacy, alongside digital creation, research, problem solving and innovation abilities. Productive digital skills are twice as valuable as consumptive digital skills:

• Productive digital skills, which allow someone to create new digital tools and systems for others to adopt, deliver nearly double the impact on business performance as consumptive skills, which enable people to use digital solutions that have been built by others

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