Shaping a digital future - part one

Shaping a digital future
Shaping a digital future

Increasingly SMEs need digital skills to complete even the most basic of tasks, yet the pace of digital education has not kept up with demand, creating a serious skills gap. Letitia Booty explores the issue…

The scope of the skills gap is quite severe. Almost all SMEs use the internet for business purposes, the most common use being to email customers. However, a quarter of SMEs claim that they do not have basic digital skills, defined as being able to: manage digital information, communicate online, make online transactions, use digital tools for problem-solving and create digital content.

According to a government report, more than one in five SMEs consider they are poor at overall technical understanding, use of customer relationship management systems, using social media, the ability to create/develop a website, and e-marketing.

There is a positive link between digital skills levels and turnover growth; without being website-savvy, SMEs are forgoing their share of the UK’s annual website sales of £193 billion and risk not being found by potential customers.

With businesses in such dire need of digital skills, it is vital they make themselves an attractive a prospect as possible for talented employees. As Robert Half technology director Neil Owen says: “Employers need to act decisively when meeting suitable candidates and offer a competitive salary and benefits package as skilled, talented IT professionals are often sought-after by multiple employers. Enhancing the workplace experience and employer brand will go a long way to ensure they keep their most valuable people.”

Of course, offering competitive salaries and bonuses is not an option for all SMEs, especially for those at the smaller end, which means trying to find an alternative.

In the next installment, we look at how businesses can upskill their workplace...