The Digital Disconnect: 70% of UK employees not equipped with necessary tools and training

Sungard Availability Services ® (Sungard AS), a leading provider of information availability through managed IT, cloud and recovery services, today reveals that the skills shortage is having a detrimental impact on UK businesses and could pose serious risks in the years ahead. Both IT Decision Makers (31%), and Line of Business Decision Makers (41%) have labelled it as their biggest issue impacting digital initiatives, with seven in ten employees claiming they’re not getting the training or tools they need to add value back to the business.

Technology priorities

Despite extensive media hype and scare-mongering about the technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) impacting or replacing human jobs, research* undertaken on behalf of Sungard AS reveals that just under half (49%)  of UK businesses have this listed as a technology that will help them prepare for the challenges they face.  In reality, Cloud (75%), Internet of Things (69%) and Big Data Analytics (64%) are the big three when ranking these technologies, AI doesn’t even make the top four.

Employee disconnect

At least in the immediate future, many jobs and processes that are mooted to be automated or taken over by robots will stay firmly within the remit of the human workforce; yet 70% employees state they are underprepared for the digital journey ahead. Businesses therefore need to invest in their staff – not just in strategic technologies.  This will ensure that employees feel supported by and committed to their organisations, and be confident they can do their jobs now and in the future.  For business leaders, it means their companies have the skills in situ to optimise all technology investments.

Despite the benefits in doing so, the extent to which the majority of UK businesses are not prioritising investment in people makes for grim reading. Over a quarter of UK workers stated that a lack of training has stopped them from adopting digital working practices, only 30% claiming their company has provided them with the tools to overcome the challenges they are facing.

Meanwhile, increasing employee satisfaction, increasing staff mobility and increasing staff retention levels were revealed to be the three lowest priorities for business decision makers over the next two years, at only 32%, 23% and 19% respectively.

Communication is key

The research also found that businesses need to be more transparent about how they intend to navigate future challenges. Only 32% of UK employees polled feel like they are kept up to speed with their employer’s digital roadmap. This is in stark contrast to the 75% of ITDMs who reported that they are kept well informed of strategic direction.

This lack of business-wide communication could have serious ramifications for business leaders and commercial success, especially when the UK is heading into the uncharted waters of Brexit, and has the European GDPR directive looming on the near horizon. For example, when asked about their understanding of the changes that will come into force as a result of GDPR, a large majority (84%) of line of business heads in the UK have some understanding, compared to 3% of employees who say they understand completely, contrasting with the 50% who report they do not understand at all. Considering that employees are often the weak link in an organisation’s security chain, this lack of understanding about their roles and responsibilities when it comes to security compliance should serve as a wakeup call to businesses.

Commenting on the findings, Kathy Schneider, CMO, Sungard Availability Services said:

“In addition to Brexit and GDPR, the lack of digital skills is yet another challenge facing UK organisations over the next couple of years.   To remain competitive, businesses will need to prioritise digital skills development and training to help navigate the new technology trends.   This means investing not only in technologies and systems, but also in training around the required skills. Communication of the challenges and the digital journey ahead will be vital to ensuring business resiliency. Failure to do so could open businesses up to unnecessary – and avoidable – risks.”

Eddie Curzon, Regional Director at the CBI adds:

“Despite the widespread news coverage highlighting the impact that skills shortages are having on UK plc and associated GDP, these findings suggest that some businesses are not making their staff a priority. A good business thrives off people, processes and technology and need to place equal emphasis on each to avoid going off course.”