| 3 min read

Mind The (Skills) Gap, Please

Francesca Greane
Written by Francesca Greane

Mind the gap. A phrase most commonly associated with a crowded commute home, when one too many people have made a desperate attempt to run across the platform to the closing train doors.

But, for today’s business leaders, ‘mind the gap’ has taken on a whole new meaning. Namely, their inability to find the right people with the right technology skills to drive forward their digital transformation initiatives.

The concept of digital transformation isn’t exactly news, in fact it is probably one of the biggest trends in business today, and organisations that want to thrive in the new modern economy are embarking on a digital transformation journey in order to set themselves apart from their competitors. But, this drive towards digital is contingent upon one key thing: people. And it is here that the problem occurs.

 

What is the digital skills gap?

It is all very well and good having a plan for digital transformation, but if you don’t have the people with the right skills in your business, then you can’t move forward on your digital journey. So, as firms continue to try and innovate, digitise and transform their operations, the demand for technology talent has never been higher.

Indeed, the number of digital technology jobs across the UK has grown at twice the rate of other roles, indicating just how desperate businesses are to augment their organisations with new, technological talent. But, the pace of the digital revolution is so extreme that it has inevitably made digital skills an incredibly scare resource, and this disparity between need and want has created an ever-widening skills gap that is halting digital innovation in its tracks

 

Is this digital skills gap new?

Although there has always been a relative skills gap in particular industries, the truth of the matter is that today’s skills gap is not only the largest it has ever been, but it is also now industry agnostic. That is, almost every business, in every industry, is now being affected by a lack of available talent.

Indeed, in 2016, the shortage in digital skills was linked to one in five of all vacancies (Digital Skills for the UK Economy), and last year the UK faced a shortfall of 40,000 people with the necessary STEM skills to meet the demands of the digital economy, at any one time. Clearly, the demand for these skills is growing, and the war for digital talent is getting more brutal as businesses compete over the scarcely available talent to plug their skills gaps.

 

But is it really causing a problem?

The notion that a lack of talent is bringing entire digital transformation initiatives to a halt seems a large claim. But, scarily enough, it’s not an unfounded one. Indeed, in a survey of 1,200 human resourcing and talent executives, 54% believed that the digital talent gap is hampering digital transformation and competitiveness in their firms (LinkedIn & Capgemini). 

And, as Mulesoft recently revealed, four out of five businesses are expected to see a negative impact on their revenue, in the next 12 months, if they fail to complete their digital transformation initiatives. Clearly, the ramifications of this lack of talent is not a fad that has been made up or escalated as a scare tactic – it is a real and tangible problem that businesses are facing almost universally.

As Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman said, 

“We know that embracing digital technology can help businesses in every sector to be more productive. Firms risk being left behind unless they have the skills to take advantage of technology to remain competitive and responsive to their customers”

In an increasingly digital age, those organisations that bridge their talent gap will clearly enjoy a competitive edge over those who don’t, as they excel and success in their digital transformation aims.

 

So, it exists…but how do you bridge that gap?

Solutions for bridging the digital skills gap are being offered at a dime a dozen rate. From increasing IT education in schools to increase the funnel of qualified professionals, or developing your employees existing skills through digital training, businesses are now having to consider a multi-pronged approach to filling their skills gaps. These solutions all have their merit, and will be further considered in a later post, but they are often timely. And as we’ve learnt, the need for digital transformation waits for no one.

Often the simplest approach that businesses can take, therefore, is to diversity their recruitment methods; the digital skills are out there, but the first hurdle is finding them. Whilst building a specialised in-house function will be a worthy investment, it will take time. If you can’t wait, and need to bridge your digital skills gap now, improve your access to talent immediately with forward thinking and specialised recruitment suppliers. 

Here’s how: read our e-book for tips from some of the UKs most respected in-house recruitment leaders; and discover how to gain access to better qualified talent by shaking up your PSL

 

So, to summarise. All businesses need to digitally transform; a failure to do so will result in organisations failing in this new digital economy. But, to transform, businesses require a new set of technological skills.  And, as a result of the digital skills gap, these professionals are almost impossible to come by.

When you think about the problem of the skills gap, it suddenly doesn’t seem such a big deal when one desperate commuter delays your commute by trying to jump the gap between the platform and the tube…