Almost half of UK business leaders lack key digital skills

Many businesses are struggling to adapt to the challenges of a digital workplace as senior management admit that they may not be doing enough to address their digital skills shortage, according to a new report by the Open University (OU).

The OU’s ‘Leading in a Digital Age’ report has found a clear link between business performance and leaders who are equipped to manage digital change. It surveyed 950 CTOs and senior leaders within UK organisations, and found that 88% of leaders who had received digital training in the past year went on to report organisational growth, compared with just 49% who had not received any training.

The benefits of senior digital skills development go even further. Leaders who invested in digital skills training said they are experiencing improved productivity (56%), greater employee engagement (55%), enhanced agility (42%), increased profit (42%), and improved staff retention (33%).

However, many leaders questioned admit that they still lack the requisite skills to manage in the digital age. Nearly half (47%) say they could do more to address their own digital skills deficit and 78% acknowledge they would benefit from more digital training. 83% of leaders who received digital training felt more inclined to encourage colleagues to undergo similar courses.

Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, chancellor at the Open University, said: “We’re living in a digital age where the development of technology affects all areas of our lives from the workplace to our homes. But in a business context, digital presents a very real opportunity to become more profitable, yet for those who fail to embrace change there is a real risk of being left behind.

“For a business to survive in this world, workforces must be equipped to harness the power of digital technologies, and understand how technology can positively impact their work. Digital leadership is vital to making this vision work, with senior teams fostering a culture of digital adaptation, starting with improving their own digital skills, and then cascading that knowledge throughout the organisation.”

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