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Digital growth of UK staff stunted by lack of opportunity

Millennials aren't the only ones driving digital transformation in the business.

By James Nunns

Economic growth could be stunted by a lack of digital skills training in the workplace.

Although digital skills training initiatives have increased in schools, with programs led by Google and the BBC, training to further develop skills are almost non-existent in the workplace.

Research from VMware has found that it isn’t just millennials that have significant influence within businesses to drive digital transformation, employees across all ages do and they want more opportunities to use their skills.

The benefits of widespread digital skills, as seen by UK employees, include improving the competitive edge of an organisation (75%) and increasing revenue/profitability over the next five years (69%).

Employees (73%) believe it helps to enable greater collaboration between colleagues.

The benefits of digital skills has led to 61% of UK employees willing to use their own time to learn new skills and ways of working.

Older generations of the workforce are actively pursuing more skills, with 35% of 45-54 year olds and 23% of 55 years and over, seeking advice or training on designing or building mobile applications.

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The age group of 45-54 years are also doing the same for coding and creating online (47%).

Sue Daley, head of programme, big data, cloud and mobile at techUK, said: "It was surprising, but also refreshing, to see that it is not just today’s young workforce that is driving digital transformation in the workplace.

"While today’s school and university leavers have been brought up with digital tools literally at their fingertips, there has been an assumption that older generations do not always grasp the latest technologies.

"This research shows that we need to stamp out this common misconception and embrace digital development across the career ladder."

However, despite employees recognising the benefits, only 50% of the UK’s workforce believes they are able to fully use their digital skills in their organisation.

Barriers to this include; digital not being integrated into personal objectives (60%), lack of budget (44%), lack of adequate support from IT (41%) and company policies being too restrictive (40%).

Matt Crosby, Head of expertise, UK and Ireland, Hay Group. "The challenge, and opportunity will be in aligning senior teams with years of experience of running businesses in a pre-digital age with younger talent who bring new expertise, expectations and motivations.

"Each company must work hard to find a system that brings this multi-generational workforce together, doing some of the ‘old’ things well, such as measuring accountability, performance and outcomes, whilst also making sure that ideas and new ways of working flourish."

Although skills are a priority across all age groups, it was found that 42% of 18-24 years believe that senior management doesn’t understand the technology infrastructure enough to support digital skills in the workplace.

The same was felt by 30% of respondents over 55. This suggests that there is a possible disconnect between those entering the workforce and senior management.

Many (56%) also felt that more investment in formal training should be made, that there should be better recognition for using digital skills (44%), and the development of a culture that better embraces digital skills (47%) should be priority areas of focus.

Joe Baguley, CTO, VMware EMEA, said: "UK enterprises are rightly investing heavily in ‘digital’ talent as they look to harness the key skills and capabilities that can help organisations innovate faster and fully engage customers – both of which impact an organisation’s bottom line.

"We’re committed to working with all organisations across the country to help them better understand the ‘art of the possible’ with regards to truly transforming their use of technologies and skills for the digital age.

"Only then will businesses be able to fully utilise their talent, of all ages, and realise their potential."

The study consists of 5,700 employees across EMEA, including 1,000 employees in the UK.

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