Read this post to find out about the business benefits of boosting digital skills.

Is your business being held back by poor digital skills?

Digital skills have gone from being desirable to vital, particularly in the business world. And yet a surprising number of people still find themselves lacking in this area: in some parts of the UK, as much as a fifth of the population have never used the web, while a worrying number of internet not-spots still exist in key urban centres.

It's a cause for concern that the internet simply isn't viewed as a utility – just as important as water, gas or electricity – by the very government aiming to bolster the nation's digital capabilities. Combined with a general shortage of digital training in the workplace, this could be placing the UK's future economic growth at risk.

The business benefits of boosting digital skills

New research from cloud and virtualisation software and services firm VMware highlights the importance of businesses taking positive action when it comes to giving staff the key digital skills they need.

According to the study, 75 per cent of employees believe that improvements in this area will help to boost an organisation's competitive edge, while 69 per cent say it will bolster revenue and profitability over the next five years. A further 73 per cent claimed stronger digital skills in the workplace would deliver an improvement in collaboration.

The survey also suggested that digital upskilling would make staff more likely to improve themselves further, with 61 per cent of respondents claiming they would be more inclined to learn new skills and ways of working.

Older demographics are more likely to pursue new abilities

Stereotypically, older employees are less inclined to adopt – and learn more about – new technologies and tools. However, this is simply not the case, as VMware's research demonstrates.

In reality, older workers were actually found to be more likely to actively pursue new skills. For instance, more than a third of 45 to 54-year-olds and almost a quarter of those aged 55 and over have sought out information or training on the design or building of mobile applications, while nearly half of the 45 to 54 age group have done the same for online coding and creation.

Employers failing to capitalise on digital benefits

While the survey shows that employees are well aware of the advantages offered by strong digital skills, it seems many of the organisations that employ them are failing to capitalise. In fact, only 50 per cent of respondents believe they have the opportunity to make full use of their digital capabilities in the workplace.

There are many barriers to employees utilising their full range of digital skills. Sixty per cent of those surveyed said digital isn't integrated into their personal goals, 44 per cent cited a shortage of available budget, 41 per cent said they received a lack of support from IT and 40 per cent argued their companies' policies were too restrictive.

A concerning number of workers lay the blame at the feet of their managers. Two in five of those aged between 18 and 24 believe a lack of understanding on technological infrastructure prevents senior management from adequately supporting workplace digital skills. This sentiment was echoed by one in three over-55s.

Many respondents also argued that not enough is currently being spent on upskilling staff to deal with the demands of the digital age. Fifty-six per cent called for further investment in formal training, 44 per cent said there should be more recognition for employees with strong digital skills and 47 per cent want their workplace to adopt a culture that fully embraces these capabilities.

Joe Baguley, chief technology officer at VMware in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: "UK enterprises are rightly investing heavily in digital talent as they look to harness the key skills and capabilities that can help organisations innovate faster and fully engage customers – both of which impact an organisation's bottom line.

"We're committed to working with all organisations across the country to help them better understand the 'art of the possible' with regards to truly transforming their use of technologies and skills for the digital age.

"Only then will businesses be able to fully utilise their talent, of all ages, and realise their potential."

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