Despite their reputation as a tech-savvy generation, 18-34-year-olds are the age group that is most worried about being left behind because they lack digital skills, according to new research from Barclays.
The survey of UK employees and employers found that one in three millennials (32%) fear being shown up by younger people in the workplace due to their lack of digital skills. This concern was supported by the fact that 17% of 18-34-year-olds reported having had to pass a task onto someone younger because they did not have the required digital skills – compared to 11% of employees overall.
Respondents in this group were the most concerned about their career being at risk due to advances in technology, with more than one in five (22%) citing this as being a worry.
This crisis of digital confidence among younger workers comes as UK businesses are found to have an overreliance on this age group as being the source of necessary digital knowhow. According to the research, two-fifths (40%) of businesses rely on younger employees and graduates for digital skills. However, a third (33%) of businesses think that only a small proportion of employees in their organisation have the digital skills they would expect and require.
The problem is not exclusive to millennials however – a third (30%) of employees overall said they were concerned that a lack of digital skills could lead to them being overlooked for promotion, and a third (30%) feared it could lead to redundancy. Bridging the digital skills gap among the UK workforce at large could be a solution to the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’, with almost half (47%) of employers agreeing their organisation would be more productive if the level of digital skills of its workforce was higher.
Together with government, businesses and society as a whole, we need to raise our sights beyond basic inclusion and aim to create a Britain of true digital confidence at all levels of the workforce. We are at a tipping point when it comes to digital skills and the UK must act now to ensure we are not left behind
However, very few people are taking steps to boost their digital competence. Almost half (47%) of employees have never taken steps to boost their digital skills, rising to more than half (53%) among those aged 45-54. Only 16% of the UK workforce has taken steps in the last year – lowest among those aged 55+ (10%).
Time (37%), cost (29%) and knowledge about what digital skills they should have (17%) were the biggest barriers to improving digital skills. Among those who have taken steps to improve their skills, the main way they have done this is through a training course offered to them by their workplace (48%).
The research also finds that British businesses are failing to invest significantly in digital skills training for the workforce. Medium and large businesses spent an average of only £109 per employee in 2015 and are only planning on increasing this investment in either digital skills training or recruitment by 22% in the next five years.
Planned investment in digital skills is highest within financial services organisations (£60,582 planned investment in the next five years) and the IT and telecoms sector (£35,593). The expected business spend is among the lowest in professional services organisations (£13,038) and the manufacturing sector (£20,044).
Employees who are taking the time to boost their digital skills are reaping the rewards, with 58% saying it has had a positive impact on their career progression. This effect is felt most acutely by the millennial group, with 30% of 25-34 year olds saying their ability to do their job had improved a lot as a result of having taken steps to boost their digital skills.
Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays UK, said: “Together with government, businesses and society as a whole, we need to raise our sights beyond basic inclusion and aim to create a Britain of true digital confidence at all levels of the workforce. We are at a tipping point when it comes to digital skills and the UK must act now to ensure we are not left behind.”