Insights for Organisations

Could Upskilling be the Answer to Bridging the Digital Skills Gap?

Paul Brown
06.04.23

The digital skills gap is one of the most concerning issues the technology industry currently faces, characterised by the disparity between digital skills in the workforce and the current supply of workers with the necessary skills to fill these positions. In short, the evolution of digital technologies is advancing so quickly that it has now overtaken the number of skilled professionals able to actually implement, use and maintain this technology.

In fact, techUK reports that a shocking 57% of UK tech firms believe the current talent shortage in the digital field to be one of the most significant barriers to achieving their growth plans. Likewise, recent reports reveal that 92% of organisations consider digital skills to be pivotal to success, serving as a means to achieving organisational growth, innovation, and productivity. Moreover, 23% of employers even admit to their staff lacking essential digital skills!

Unfortunately, the gap continues to widen in the UK, with a number of key contributing factors, such as rapidly changing technology, gaps in the educational system, limited access to tech due to socioeconomic factors, an ageing workforce, and a lack of investment from employers to train employees. If a solution is not found, the impact of this on the technology industry will be far-reaching. Businesses will struggle to remain competitive in a global market, and there could be a decline in innovation and loss of market share. Likewise, a lack of skilled workers may cause companies to experience increased labour costs, which could limit their profits and growth plans.

Not to mention, the technology industry saw exponential growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – the same growth we would expect to see over a decade – and the industry now accounts for over 5% of the UK economy. With this rise in technology surpassing all expectations in almost every industry, there is now a demand across a range of technical skills, such as data analysis, cybersecurity, coding, and much more. Nevertheless, if we plan to sustain this upward trajectory and accelerate digital transformation, it is imperative that we address the digital skills gap and fill these roles. But the question is: how?

The answer to this question is complex, and there are myriad elements that impact the disparity, however, digital upskilling in particular will play a vital role in narrowing the gap. Upskilling your employees’ digital skills offers plenty of benefits for your business, yet, it also plays an important part in reducing the national digital skills shortage, and increasing the technology industry’s contribution to the economy.

So, could upskilling really be the answer to bridging the digital skills gap? Read on to find out more about how providing digital training and upskilling your employees can help you achieve your organisational goals for growth, and make a real difference to the wider industry and economy.

What’s in this article?

What is digital upskilling?

Digital upskilling is the process of improving an individual’s digital skills and knowledge to adapt to the changing technological landscape. It involves learning how to use new digital tools, software, and technologies, as well as enhancing existing skills to keep up with the latest developments in the digital world.

Why is digital upskilling important?

Digital upskilling has become increasingly important in the modern workplace as technology continues to rapidly advance, and has become ingrained in our daily lives. There are countless benefits to digital upskilling for both employees and employers, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

For one, digital upskilling enables employers to stay competitive and agile in a constantly evolving digital landscape by providing employees with the necessary skills to adapt to new technologies and tools. This will ultimately lead to increased productivity and efficiency, and improved customer satisfaction.

On the flip side, taking part in digital upskilling welcomes new opportunities for career advancement and personal growth, as well as job security. It also helps employees stay relevant in the job market, keep their skills up-to-date, and increase their earning potential. It’s a win-win for all!

But, how does digital upskilling feed into addressing the digital skills gap in particular?

Give employees the tools they need to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape

As technology continues to evolve, so do the skills required to use and maintain these technologies. This includes everything from basic digital literacy skills to more complex digital skills, such as anything from coding to cybersecurity. By upskilling employees, employers can guarantee that their staff have the competency required to keep pace with technological advancements and compete with the competition.

Attract the top talent and build future-proof, digital-savvy teams

Digital upskilling will have a knock-on effect throughout your organisation. Not only will it ensure you are training your existing staff to handle whatever digital transformation throws at them, but it will also create a culture around continuous learning and professional development.

Recent reports by PwC on workforce hopes and fears reveal that 30% of employees are concerned about being replaced by technology in the near future. At the same time, 39% say they are worried that they are not receiving enough digital training from their employers, which only exacerbates their concerns. Alarmingly, the proportion is even higher among younger employees, indicating that this will be an issue for the next generations of the digital workforce.

Today’s job seekers are on the lookout for employers who can offer growth opportunities and a clear career path. In the digital age, this means providing employees with the necessary skills to adapt to the changing digital landscape and demonstrating your commitment to employee development. As such, it’s important that employers provide sufficient training in digital skills to attract prospective talent and hire the best teams.

What are businesses already doing to address the digital skills shortage?

Employers in the UK are already making efforts to address the digital skills shortage and invest in their people.

Upskilling is the number one initiative for addressing labour shortages

Many employers are focusing on internal measures to address the skills and labour shortage, and according to a PwC report, the number one way they are doing this is through upskilling workers.

In addition to upskilling, employers are increasing pay in order to incentivise potential talent. However, interestingly, an incredible 92% of employees, millennials and Gen Z’s in particular, believe that job progression is more important than pay. As a result, it can often be more beneficial for your business to provide upskilling opportunities for new starters, rather than offering monetary incentives alone.

However, the same report shows that employees believe there is still much more employers can be doing to support their staff and give them the tools they need to improve their digital literacy. Only 40% of employees report that their company is providing upskilling opportunities, which indicates there is certainly more to be done here.

Increasing diversity in recruitment and upskilling can be more efficient than hiring for specific skill sets

There are also external measures businesses are currently taking to address the digital skills gap. External focuses include increasing diversity in recruitment, recruiting with lower qualifications or fewer experiences, outsourcing to third parties or hiring from overseas.

Increasing diversity in recruitment and then upskilling successful candidates can be more efficient than hiring for specific skill setsfor a number of reasons, including the following:

5 Strategies for successful digital upskilling for your workforce

Here are five strategies employers can use to facilitate digital upskilling in their workforce:

  1. Provide training and development opportunities
  2. Offer mentorships and coaching
  3. Encourage on-the-job learning
  4. Invest in digital tools and resources
  5. Foster a culture of continuous learning

1. Provide training and development opportunities

Providing training and development opportunities can help a business upskill its employees by offering them access to new knowledge and skills, which can improve their performance and productivity. Before you can provide training to your employees, you must first identify the specific skills gaps that exist within your organisation. It is only once you have identified these gaps that you can begin developing a training plan to address these organisational weaknesses.

There are a variety of training and development options you can offer, such as workshops and seminars, on-the-job training, mentorships, or online courses. For instance, Microsoft offers a range of digital literacy courses and resources that cover the basics of working with computers.

Whatever training style you choose, just make sure that it is suited to your teams and aligned with your organisation’s overall goals. Regular feedback and assessment can be helpful to track your progress and adjust your training plan as needed.

2. Offer mentorships and coaching

Offering mentorships and coaching can help employees learn from experienced professionals and receive guidance and feedback, which can accelerate their learning and growth. Mentors can transfer their knowledge and expertise to mentees, helping them to learn new technical skills and develop a deeper understanding of complex technical concepts.

In addition, mentors can help mentees build their professional networks, connecting them with other professionals in the industry who can offer additional learning opportunities and insights. Overall,  mentorships can help employees identify and achieve their career goals, as mentors can provide guidance on career paths, job opportunities, and skills development. As a result, this could encourage more individuals to explore the technical path.

3. Encourage on-the-job learning

Encouraging on-the-job learning can help employees learn by doing, which can enhance their practical skills and problem-solving abilities. Learning on the job enables employees to learn new skills in a real-world context, using the tools and technology that they will be working with on a daily basis. This type of training is particularly effective for technical skills that are best learned through hands-on experience, such as coding or data analysis.

Practical training can also be more efficient and cost-effective than other forms of training or workshops, as it minimises the amount of time that employees spend away from their regular duties and does not require additional budgets.

On-the-job training can also be customised to meet the specific needs of individual employees, allowing them to focus on areas where they need improvement or where they have a particular interest. In this way, under-qualified candidates can develop digital skills and progress into more technical roles, without formal training or qualifications.

4. Invest in digital tools and resources

Organisations should consider investing in digital tools and resources as a means of upskilling their employees and bridging the digital skills gap. By doing so, employees gain access to the latest technologies, software, and resources that are necessary for developing new digital skills and keeping up-to-date with the latest technological advancements.

Similar to on-the-job training, digital tools can also help to create a more engaging and interactive learning experience, which can be particularly effective for technical subjects. Likewise, they provide personalised learning experiences, allowing employees to learn at their own pace and in a way that suits their learning style, making it easier for them to retain and apply new technical knowledge and skills.

At FDM, our consultants have access to a wide range of virtual training sessions and webinars, as well as e-learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Intuition Know-How. Yet, there are many more options available to you, such as learning management systems like Moodle, coding hosting platforms like GitHub, online courses like Coursera, or online certifications like Microsoft Azure – to name a few!

5. Foster a culture of continuous learning

Fostering a culture of continuous learning can help employees stay engaged and motivated, and encourage them to seek out new learning opportunities and apply their knowledge and skills to their work. As such, employees are more likely to have the right attitude and work ethic to better themselves through upskilling.

Having this type of culture ingrained within your organisation can also help new employees integrate better into the team, as they are able to build relationships with their colleagues and look to their peers to learn about the company culture and values.

Investing in online networking sites for your organisation can also encourage knowledge-sharing within a company, and make for better-rounded teams. At FDM. our consultant collaboration platform Yammer enables all FDM employees to connect and socialise with each other virtually. This creates an open space for building stronger relationships, and sharing skills and knowledge.

So, is digital upskilling the key to closing the digital skills gap?

To conclude, it is evident that digital upskilling will play a key role in bridging the digital skills gap, enabling non-technical job candidates or existing employees to improve their skill sets and fulfil the specifications for more technical roles. Organisations can take several steps to upskill their employees, such as by offering training opportunities, mentorships, and access to digital tools, as well as fostering a workplace culture that revolves around continuous learning.

Here at FDM, we are passionate about the power of upskilling and believe that anyone is capable of pursuing a successful career in technology with the right training and support. We hire candidates based on their strengths and potential for the role, not their background. Providing candidates with expert technical training and a host of professional and personal support programmes, we provide our clients with highly-skilled technical professionals from a diverse talent pool. Diversity is key to business success, and it is what enables organisations to innovate and grow.

Are you looking to build your teams and hire top technology talent? Check out our technical consultant services or get in touch to find out more.