Nick Williams: How can business support the growth of digital skills?

Reading, writing and arithmetic have been used as a measure of adult literacy for two centuries. Enter digital, the industrial revolution of our generation, and what is now commonly regarded as the fourth form of literacy. Digital has changed the way we interact with each other, with organisations and the world around us. Running the largest digital retail banking franchise in the UK, I’ve witnessed first-hand the scale of growth in digital usage driven by changes in consumer behaviour preferring the convenience to interact anytime, anywhere. With 88% of the UK adult population now active online₁, it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that businesses without sufficient digital capability are missing out.

In 2015 UK retailers received £114bn through online channels, up 11% since 2014. With a further 11% growth predicted for 2016 the total spend online in 2016 is set to rise to £126bn.1 Why then do 66% of small businesses invest no budget in developing their digital capability?2 I’m sure it’s the case that some are happy with their existing turnover and don’t have a real desire to grow – but all would benefit from saving time and money.

38% of small businesses and 49% of charities lack basic digital skills₂ and only around half of these organisations have a website. Without basic digital skills, they are missing out on potential interactions with 45 million UK citizens – and the benefits are very real. The results are compelling for small businesses, where the most digital are now twice as likely to report an increase in turnover as the least digital. Digitally mature charities are nearly a third more likely to report an increase in funding than their less digital counterparts.3

“Digital has changed the way we interact with each other, with organisations and the world around us”

Developing digital skills and having a digital presence doesn’t just offer the possibility of greater sales. In fact, 65% of small businesses are already using digital to reduce their costs and over half of charities now accept online donations – more than doubling since 2015. 87% of charities have also cited that saving time is a key advantage to being online.4 Clearly digital presents an exciting opportunity to reach a far wider audience than possible through traditional bricks and mortar.

Despite the opportunities offered by digital, many organisations are still not maximising the benefits and there appears to be two underlying reasons for this. Firstly, there is a lack of awareness and motivation – 14% of small businesses and 19% of charities still don’t believe that digital is relevant to them as an organisation. Second is the lack of digital capability with 15% of small businesses and 19% of charities stating a lack of digital skills in their organisation being the main barrier to doing more online.

“I believe large organisations that are realising the benefits of digital adoption have an obligation to educate and support individuals and smaller organisations across the UK”

I believe large organisations that are realising the benefits of digital adoption have an obligation to educate and support individuals and smaller organisations across the UK, sharing experiences and building awareness of the benefits of being online. To tackle the lack of awareness of, and motivation to adopt digital practices, more needs to be done to engage relevant audiences. Local leaders and influencers must champion the benefits digital can bring and share insight to inspire those that are apprehensive.

There must be more local and consistent face to face digital skills training for organisations across the UK; “trusted faces in local places”. It is through partnership with Government, digital leaders and local organisations that the digital skills deficit will be effectively addressed. Consistent support and messaging needs to be employed to inspire and motivate organisations to adopt digital and enable them to do so with ease.

Sources

₁ ONS, Internet Users 2016. Active is defined as being online in the last 3 months.
₂ Based on the Doteveryone basic digital skills framework.
Lloyds Bank Business Digital Index 2016.
₄ IMRG Capgemini Sales Index 2015.


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