How to address the technology skills gap?

36% of decision-makers in the UK, France and Germany state that skills have been one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation improvement, according to the Docusign Digital Maturity Report 2023. The survey was conducted on behalf of Docusign among 1800 Business Decision Makers in the UK, France and Germany. While the majority of organisations have invested in or adopted digital technology to help compete in a rapidly changing business environment, many organisations continue to identify skill gaps. 

In the UK, 69% of respondents believe they have a technology and digital skills gap in their organisation, as do 63% of decision-makers in France and 62% in Germany. This highlights that investing in technology alone doesn’t guarantee growth.

Successful digital transformation relies heavily on strong leadership teams, and having in place an implementation plan that encourages upskilling and adoption of the new technology. 62% of decision-makers believe they are currently focused on digital improvement or modernisation strategies that improve the use of digital tools already deployed rather than changing the way technology is used across the business. Even with the best technology and strategy, businesses will struggle without the skills to implement and execute.

The technology skills gap

The breakneck speed of technological innovation is often a factor behind the skills gap. Technology innovation is developing faster than the skills needed to apply to it. While almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents believe there’s a gap in their organisation around technology and digital skills, this gap grows to 70% for European SMEs. Leaders and organisations that do not support their talent face a potential loss of skills to forward-thinking competitors. Start-ups tend to see a lower skills gap than other organisations - with the skills gap lowering to 58%. Worryingly, 46% of decision-makers feel they are not well equipped to orientate their business for the long-term. 

A significant proportion of organisations need to upskill their staff with the latest tools and digital technologies. Most employers need to be ready to adapt and change to upskill staff. For organisations that report a skills gap - 52% agree that they cannot do some things that form part of their strategic plan or experiment with innovative technologies because they don’t have the right talent on board or don’t have employees with the skills required. Investment in digital processes does not guarantee growth in isolation. The digital strategy of an organisation also relies on its rollout, implementation and wider support from within the company. The most common approach to closing this skills gap is a focus on reskilling, upskilling, and retaining critical talent.    

Training and Learning to Close the technology skills gap

Organisations that can upskill their staff and provide strong leadership are more likely to retain their employees. As technology is changing at an ever-more accelerated rate, individuals and organisations of all sizes must adapt to take on new skills and ensure that a culture of constant learning is in place at work. 

A need for fast upskilling

There remains a gap between the perceived forward-thinking strategies of businesses and the reality of their implementation. Having a strong leadership team that will drive more effective transformation processes is central to digital change. Over a third (34%) of respondents believe that the CTO/CIO is one of the roles most likely to deliver the biggest impact on the organisational performance and resilience of their business – more so than even the CEO (30%). Start-ups with a more agile nature place more emphasis on the CEO as a driver of performance and resilience. 

Strong leaders and organisations are looking for solutions and seek ways to plug the digital technology skills gap through upskilling staff. 30% of businesses with a skills gap are looking at emerging technologies such as generative AI. Responders to the survey also cited these approaches to closing the skills gap:

  • 45% said they are putting a focus on reskilling, upskilling, and retaining critical talent 
  • 43% said they are investing more in digital tools or automation 
  • 36% are focusing on attracting external talent, and 32% are using third parties and consultants
  • 42% of SMEs and start-ups are likely to allow current employees the chance to upskill

There also remains a gap between the perceived digital skills of individuals and their actual skills as employees, and many are still spending a disproportionate amount of time on low-value tasks that could otherwise be easily automated. Automated processes can eliminate low-value and repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus skills on more high-value pieces of work. 

Industry leaders and innovators agree that technology is changing at an ever-more accelerated rate. This has forced individuals and organisations of all sizes to adapt, take on new skills, and ensure a constant learning culture. With the right digital infrastructure adding value to the business and empowering employees to achieve more, organisations will attract the best talent, further fuelling their digital maturity, building resilience in a competitive market and unlocking greater productivity. 

Discover more about closing skills gaps in the Docusign Digital Maturity Report 2023. 

Elsa Kesler
Demand and Content Marketing Manager
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