UK digital transformation hindered by skill shortage

Eighty-two percent of HR leaders say their workforce needs to improve its skills in order to get the most out of digital transformation.
28 November 2018

HR leaders report difficulties accessing the right digital skills. Source: Shutterstock

When any company embarks on a digital transformation journey, it’s success depends on the skills and capabilities of its employees more than anything else in the world.

And that’s the very thing that seems to be holding back companies in the UK— a new report suggests that the lack of skills is hindering progress on digital transformation and preventing companies from climbing the digital maturity curve.

According to a new report, 82 percent of HR leaders say their workforce needs to improve its skills in order to get the most out of digital transformation.

Further, 94 percent of HR leaders report difficulties accessing the skills their organization requires to support its transformation objectives.

In fact, research reveals that many of the most significant transformation challenges facing organizations are skills-related.

Transformation needs more than just technology

The report suggests that 36 percent of businesses suffer from the lack of leadership skills and experience running change programmes, while 35 percent are finding it difficult to predict future jobs and skills requirements.

Further, 29 percent say they are being held back by a lack of digital skills amongst their workforce and 28 percent claim that they are hampered by a lack of access to high-quality digital talent.

One of the most significant challenges to the UK’s digital transformation came to light as a result of this report as it found that a majority of businesses focused on technology rather than talent for their digital programmes.

Of the 200 HR leaders surveyed at companies employing more than 100 people, only 33 percent felt that culture and people have been a key focus in their transformation strategies up until now, and only 35 percent stated that skills had been prioritized.

HR leaders can support digital goals

Just as business leaders must understand that digital transformation needs more than just technology, they need to realize that the organization’s HR leaders can play a bigger role in these programmes.

HR leaders are not only in a unique position to help map the talent gap and the training that the staff needs to be provided in order to support the digital transformation agenda, but also have a finger on the pulse of the talent market and know how easy (or difficult) it is to find the right talent.

Unfortunately, the study says that HR is usually an afterthought in most digital transformation programmes, as confirmed by 76 percent of HR leaders surveyed.

A growing number of HR leaders, about two thirds, said they were concerned that being left out of the core team driving the company’s digital transformation agenda would cause them to fall behind in their personal knowledge of technology and new ways of working.

At the end of the day, it’s important for businesses in the UK (and elsewhere around the world) to realize that skills and talent — and the HR function, by extension — play a significant role in their digital transformation.