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Employees crave digital skills, but organisations lack budget to teach them

VMware survey on digital skills finds a large percentage of employees are keen to learn, but organisations are holding them back

More than 60% of employees would be willing to use their own time to brush up on their digital skills, according to research by VMware.

The study found that staff recognised the value of digital skills for their employers and careers, with 75% claiming that adoption of digital skills across their business would improve its competitive edge.

But 44% claimed they were not able to use their digital skills at work due to budget constraints, and 41% said there was a lack of support from their IT department to allow digital initiatives to be used throughout the organisation.

Matt Piercy, vice-president for northern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Nemea) at VMware, claimed that embracing digital and allowing employees a safe and flexible environment in which to use it was one of the only ways businesses will continue to grow.

“To build a successful business you need to have talent, and you need to have a culture that allows that talent to thrive,” he said.

Piercy pointed out that businesses should be moving away from simply “digitising business functions”, and should instead embrace digital in a way that allows increased collaboration and innovation.

But half of employees said they were not able to use their digital skills at work, with some citing barriers such as digital not being allowed to be integrated with personal objectives and company policies being too restrictive.

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VMware CTO Joe Bagley said one of the main problems is that a lot of people thinking digital skills means coding, whereas what it actually means is how people operate in a modern world. “It’s affecting the business and how they interact with customers,” he added.

The research also found older employees were just as keen to use digital skills as the younger generation, with 46% of respondents aged between 45 and 54 seeking advice or training in areas such as coding or the creation of online content.

The survey also highlighted the importance of an agile and digital approach. Using digital as a platform to enable staff to innovate, by making it safe for them to fail fast and learn while doing it, will help the organisation grow, according to both Bagley and Pearson CTO Graham Calder.

Millennials are disappointed with the opportunities they have to use digital skills, and 42% of those aged 18 to 24 don’t think senior management understand the technology infrastructure in enough detail to allow digital skills to be used in the workplace.

“We should move from a system of fail-safe so a system of safe fail,” said Maggie Philbin, co-founder and CEO of TeenTech.

Staff want the value of digital skills to be recognised with formal training and the development of an internal culture that embraces digital.

Sue Daley, head of programme for big data, cloud and mobile at TechUK, said organisations should be concerned about these results because effective adoption of digital throughout organisations will be a driver for innovation and growth across the UK as a whole.

“Digital skills are a key enabler to economic growth,” she said. “We live in a digital society.” ........................ .......................

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