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5 December 2017 | By Jon Addison Community

Bridging the digital skills gap

The UK is on the hunt for digital talent, but it’s not necessarily as hard to find as you might think

For businesses looking to compete in a digital-first world like ours today, the right expertise is vital. Many British companies face a digital skills gap nowadays, and recent reports reveal that our lack of digital expertise is posing major risks to productivity and operating costs – which are severely impacting business performance. But despite nationwide concern, the skills gap is widening. So at LinkedIn we decided to partner with CapGemini to find out what’s going on.

It’s easy to think of digital skills as writing code or fighting hackers, but the real problem businesses are facing is a lack of softer skills. Our The Digital Skills Gap report revealed that 59 per cent of employers were on the hunt for expertise in customer-centricity and change management. But, despite 57 per cent of UK companies responding to the widening gap, more than half of today’s digital talent say that training programmes have not been helpful – and they are investing their own money to get trained up in the required digital skills.

The problem is also taking its toll psychologically. Our research suggests over 29 per cent of UK professionals worry that their skill set is already redundant – or will be in the next couple of years. And if employees don’t have faith in their organisation’s upskilling efforts when it comes to digital, fears of redundancy could trigger a loss of existing talent.

Over half of the UK’s talent are willing to move to another organisation if they feel that their digital skills are stagnating or can see better opportunities to develop elsewhere.

Although the current situation is proving challenging for British businesses, it doesn’t have to stay this way. Through our research, we found that there are ways that companies can bridge the digital skills gap.

Diversify recruitment methods

The digital skills are out there, but the first hurdle is finding them. Companies who think outside the box to diversify their recruiting approach are also the ones attracting the top skills. Sainsbury’s campaign to lure in digital talent is a great example of this: using Space Invaders, a cultural reference typically connected to tech followers, Sainsbury’s launched a transport takeover in Manchester. The campaign not only targeted the top tech talent, but also changed the brand’s retail-focused image into a digital-savvy environment to work. This is just an example, but it’s worth asking yourself the question: what can you do today to attract talent with the right digital skills?

Develop existing skills

We know that talented professionals are keen to learn, and will also move on if they don’t have enough development. So why not turn inwards and upskill existing talent? We found that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of digitally talented employees want to join organisations that are known for their training programmes – and which financially incentivise their learning. As organisations give more support to employees’ learning and development, the more likely they are to retain the top talent – and the digital gap will begin to close.

It’s also crucial to chart progress and create clear development paths – particularly as redundancy is a key worry among employees. Not only will digital talent be happier in a supportive environment, but businesses will reap the rewards too. So while searching for new talent, take a step back and revise what you are doing today to develop your workforce further.

Retain the digital expertise

Now you’ve got the right talent, how do you encourage them to stay? We also found that 70 per cent of digital talent prefer organisations that have an entrepreneurial start-up culture, so it’s important that businesses looking to attract this type of individual offer an element of flexibility and encourage innovation.

Again, this won’t just benefit individuals – it will also benefit your business as exciting new developments flourish in a culture of experimentation. All too often, efforts can be focused on attracting new talent, rather than nurturing existing in-house talent to ensure they stick around so it’s important to create the right culture for growth and development.

Although the digital skills gap is growing, businesses have the power to address the issue. And in an increasingly digital economy, organisations that put themselves forward and bridge that gap will be the ones that enjoy the competitive edge. A clear vision of a digital future will draw in the necessary talent and propel organisations into a commercially successful future. After all, every great business is built on its people.

Take action today and make sure you keep the right digital skills under your roof to stay competitive in the market.

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