How the UK can fix its digital skills shortage

The shortage of digital skills in the current UK marketplace is unprecedented. 

According to recent research released by Capgemini and LinkedIn, it was discovered that 54% of companies believed that this skills gap was a hinderance to their growth. 

Skills gaps are poised to grow in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with rapid advances in technology changing the very nature of jobs faster than ever before. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has predicted that at least 133 million new roles will be generated by 2022, as a result of the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.

In areas such as analytics, digital marketing and SEO, the market is in high demand for professionals and in short supply of talent. This is preventing teams from innovating and limiting their growth potential, as a result.

What’s more, a report by the Institution of Engineering and Technology has revealed that more than half of engineering and technology companies in the UK believe that a shortage of engineers poses a threat to their business, equating to a shortfall of approximately 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians per year.

The solution to this widespread problem may seem simple, but the reality is far more complex. Vital steps are being taken to upskill employees, with government jumping onboard and investing £170m in 12 technology-focused institutions to strengthen technical education in England, and while this is a step in the right direction for most, long-term plans do not fix short-term problems. 

So, what do businesses in need of technological expertise due in the immediate future need to do and how can they navigate this ongoing challenge?

The answer lies in strategic workforce planning and diversifying your current work model. The former involves allowing your business’ long-term needs to drive its skills requirements, comparing these requirements to current skills and then working out solutions to fill those gaps. Consider your aim over the next three to five years, a strategy for reaching it and the skills required to execute the strategy. Following this, look at solutions to bridging the gaps you have identified.

Considering the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses have been pushed to adapt to a new way of functioning, with remote work becoming the norm for most top digital talent. Notably, a recent survey  conducted by Gartner has revealed that nearly half of organisations reported over 80% of their employees are currently working remotely, with 48% of employees set to work remotely, at least part-time, after the pandemic.  This shift has made way for new business opportunities, lending itself to more long-term remote work strategies and allowing businesses the opportunity to explore a diverse talent pool outside of geographical borders. 

Within the digital and technology industries, most employees can complete their work using only a computer or laptop, and wireless internet. For those careers where this is the case, why not explore talent elsewhere or employ the services of a remote digital agency to carry out the work for you?

These agencies provide businesses with access to a pool of specialised talent that will function as an extension of their in-house team. By employing a remote team, such as a virtual marketing agency, companies can by-pass the time-consuming recruitment process, using remote digital workers on a contractual basis. 

With the nature of the digital sphere involving many activities being done independently, remote workers are well-suited, producing high-quality work with optimum efficiency at a lower cost. This is due to the lack of overhead expenditure on things such as office space, furniture, stationery and monthly salaries. 

By taking a more global approach to your work model, you can tap into a huge pool of high-potential and underutilised talent. By accessing candidates from across the world, you have the option of hiring people from diverse backgrounds, while also overcoming the skills challenges facing the industry today. According to a McKinsey report, companies that rank high for gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, proving that diversifying your talent pool truly does pay off.

As the skills gap widens over time due to workplace trends, the need for innovative ways of working and a flexible work model becomes increasingly important. Hiring an outsourced team to focus on a specific sector of your business will add a layer of precision and immediacy to your workforce, filling the exposed gaps, while growing your business sustainably and providing the same skillset as an in-house team, without the long-term commitment.

Show More