Digital deficit

Digital deficit

Technology is rapidly and fundamentally changing the way most people do their jobs, disrupting the nature of work and increasing the demand for new kinds of digital skills….

The impact can be felt in all kinds of jobs. Gone are the days of copywriters simply writing copy, for instance. Now they also need to be familiar with search engines and social media to know what will make their work more visible online. Architects need to be able to create digital concepts as their clients now often expect to see more than a 2D drawing. Accountants have to keep up with rapid digital advances disrupting their industry such as the growth of online filing.

Demand for people with high-level digital skills is greater than the supply of suitably qualified employees, and the gap is growing. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022 emerging technologies will generate 133 million new jobs in place of the 75 million that will be displaced.

The UK is the fifth most digitally advanced nation in Europe (Finland comes top) according to data from the European Union. It is already home to a large number of big tech businesses and the UK has more tech “unicorns” (start-up businesses valued at $1 billion or more) than any other European country.

A report from the Open University last year highlights the extent of the problem and its impact on UK companies, with nine in 10 organisations admitting to having a shortage of digital skills. In disciplines such as Big Data/analytics, mobile and marketing automation, there are already far more open positions than there is talent to fill them.

The report, Bridging the Digital Divide, also reports that 37 per cent of jobs are expected to alter significantly in the next five years — which could see 12 million employees in the UK affected by changing roles or potential redundancies.

Big Data in particular demands a uniquely broad and diverse set of skills, combining an intimate knowledge of computer science, modelling, statistics, analytics and mathematics with proven commercial acumen and communications capabilities – enabling data scientists to walk ‘both sides of the fence’: helping non technical business leaders to leverage data to achieve their strategic goals.

Unsurprisingly, this particular combination of skills is in very short supply.

These days, freelance contractors are able to pick and choose the jobs that appear most lucrative, and personally rewarding. And staff relocating from overseas invariably need considerable support in the early stages – to help them acclimatise to their new culture, lifestyle and even language.

Outsourcing to a specialist digital agency, on the other hand, offers the best of both worlds: combining specialist talent ‘on tap’ with lower overall costs.

Compare and contrast.

Outside of London, a ‘middleweight’ digital marketer is likely to command a salary of the order £36,000-£48,000pa before benefits – e.g.: a bonus scheme, contributory pension, healthcare, ongoing training, holiday entitlements, etc.

Factor in around £4,000+ worth of Employer’s National Insurance and your digital ‘Jack of all trades’ is likely to cost you around £60,000pa – and provide you with a relatively narrow skillset.

Meaning, chances are, you’ll still have to outsource a number of key functions.

By contrast, outsourcing to a specialist agency enables you to pick and choose the skills you need, when you need them.

And necessarily so, because nowadays: one size simply does not fit all.

Your new hire may for instance be a great web ‘designer’; but do they have the requisite understanding of, say, information architecture/usability, SEO, content development, programming – or any of the myriad disciplines that make for a winning site?

In turn, an effective content marketing strategy is predicated on a diverse mix of traditional and digital expertise – including journalism, marcomms, social media, search, video… and much more besides.

Skills that, frankly, you’ll be fortunate to find in a single hire.

Then there’s PPC, remarketing, analytics, gamification… the list goes on. But your budget, alas, does not.

Given this, it’s no wonder smarter SMEs are turning to outsourcing – not only bridging the digital skills gap, but booking capacity for future sales growth.