Digital skills shortage still an issue three years after ‘stay at home’ mandate

UK businesses still held back by old tech and poor digital skills, says Virgin Media O2 study

New research conducted by Virgin Media O2 Business has revealed that three years after the UK Government’s ‘stay at home’ mandate, nearly a fifth of businesses are still held back by limited digital skills or employee resistance to new technology.

The study surveyed over 1,200 public and private sector decision-makers across the UK and found that despite the pandemic forcing many companies to adapt to remote working, many are still struggling to embrace digital transformation fully.

The research highlighted that old technology is hindering the UK’s bounce-back from the pandemic, with 72% of respondents believing their outdated tech is impacting their ability to operate efficiently.

Digital skills shortage

Digital skills are also a challenge, with 18% of decision-makers stating that employee resistance to tech or limited digital skills is holding back operational efficiency. This finding has a knock-on effect on hybrid working, with 50% of leaders believing that less than half of their employees are using unified communications and collaboration tools, like Teams and Zoom, to their full extent.

Although businesses are keen to make the most of their existing tools, 32% of decision-makers say that the biggest hindrance to their efficiency is old software or hardware, indicating that digital transformation will remain high on their agendas this year.

With growth being the number one priority for 36% of respondents, decision-makers are forced to balance the challenges of 2023 with their ambitions. Nearly a quarter (24%) of professional services leaders still have limited remote work capabilities. With 19% citing employee attraction and retention as their biggest internal challenge this year, empowering employees with the skills and flexibility needed for their roles will be key.

Smart tech investments

As decision-makers navigate the cost crisis, they are turning to the expertise of their IT teams and external partners. The vast majority (78%) of respondents rely on their IT and telecom providers for consultancy on maximising the value of their old tech, leading organisations to put increased trust in partners. Three-quarters (75%) agree that their IT and telecoms partners are rising to the economic challenges of 2023 to provide the consultancy their organisation needs to make smart tech investment choices.

The stress to realise a return on investment quickly was the highest among respondents who said old tech significantly hinders their ability to operate efficiently (79%). Despite being the most in need of new tech, these leaders appear to have more pressure to prove its value quickly.

Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business and Wholesale at Virgin Media O2, said: “The last three years have seen the biggest change in how we work since the Industrial Revolution, but many companies are being left behind.

“It would be easy to assume that most organisations have embraced new technology and digital transformation to support their workforce; however, that’s clearly not the case.

“Virgin Media O2 Business’ latest research reveals almost three-quarters of business leaders say old technology is impacting their businesses’ ability to operate efficiently and holding back growth.

“With companies facing complex operational challenges and a tough macro-economic environment, the lessons learned from the pandemic should not be forgotten – it’s key businesses make smart tech investments, challenge partners to get the most out of their existing technology and give employees the tools they need to succeed.”

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