Lack of digital skills among UK office workers, new research reveals

digital skills

Lack of digital skills among the UK workforce is causing problems in the boardroom and contributing to low productivity, a new survey suggests.

The average British worker still regularly fails to set up presentations without support from the IT department, according to a survey of IT professionals. As a result, meetings are often delayed and business is being affected, while IT departments are suffering a huge drain on time and resources.

Surprisingly, it is not the oldest employees that struggle the most with technology in the boardroom. It is Generation X and Millennials that IT professionals say require the most assistance and fare least well in the boardroom, while over 55s and Generation Z are far more self-sufficient.

The study, which surveyed 1,250 IT decision makers from the UK, US, Germany and France, also found that UK respondents are more likely than any other country to report that employees do not believe it is their job to deal with technology problems. Additionally, employees in the UK are, according to IT professionals, the most likely to ask for IT assistance because they are not digitally savvy enough.

The research also outlined that there is a clear North-South divide: only 55 per cent of London respondents highlighted the digital skills gap as a key issue, compared to 74 per cent in the North and Midlands.

Overall, boardroom technology was cited as the biggest IT challenge facing companies, both in the UK and globally. The average company experiences 11 problems every week, taking more time to resolve than any other IT issue.

According to George Stromeyer, Senior Vice President of the Enterprise Division at Barco, the results underline the wider productivity problem faced by the UK which, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), lags at least 16 per cent behind the rest of the G7 group of industrial nations in terms of national productivity.

Stromeyer said: “If you are going to tackle productivity, you need to get a handle on the basics. Meetings are critical, yet we routinely put up with them being delayed by tech issues. Ten minutes wasted at the start of a meeting may sound insignificant – but across every meeting taking place in every UK company, that’s hundreds of thousands of hours and billions of pounds wasted.”

In the study, almost six in ten of those surveyed globally believed the root cause of IT issues in the boardroom was the fact that employees are not ‘digitally savvy’ enough to use the technology available to them. Meanwhile, 40 per cent said it was because employees didn’t believe it was their job to fix technology problems – a figure that rose for 45 per cent for the UK.

When asked how to tackle the problem, 86 per cent of respondents believed their organisation’s employees should have better technology skills to be able to cope when things go wrong, while almost all believed there are technology features that could help their organisation’s employees ensure presentations run more smoothly.

Lieven Bertier, Head of Product Management, Barco ClickShare said: “Issues around technology remains a major hurdle for businesses to overcome. The research shows that presentation issues are the most common of all technology problem for businesses, which take up a lot of employee’s time and can have a large impact on the reputation of the company and workforce productivity.

“Business leaders and IT decision makers can address presentation problems with the deployment of easy to use wireless technology, removing the need for training and minimising disruption caused in meetings.”

Technology pioneer and data scientist Inma Martinez said: “Millennials, Centennials and some Generation X employees excel at being digitally social, yet they are 100 per cent mobile driven, lacking the necessary skills for interoperability – that is, to understand how desktop computers connect to other devices or, furthermore, how network infrastructure really works. This explains why they represent the largest employee group requiring IT support around presentation technologies in the workplace.

“The very nature of Millennials and Centennials is short-term oriented, spoiled by the instant gratification of e-commerce, the widespread availability of WiFi and the seamless user experience that mobile apps present today. Generation X, because they weren’t born digital, feel even more alienated.

“Outside of this digital environment, when confronted by desktop interoperability issues – connecting to other machines, or understanding basic network infrastructure, they experience ‘digital frustration’. They are not only at odds, but require stronger support and respond from IT teams beyond what other generations need in the workplace because patience is not their forte.”