Finance and Insurance firms are leading the way in digital preparedness compared to other sectors, research by Hays Thrive has revealed. The sector holds the highest digital intensity at 95%, which is calculated on the percentage of job advertisements in the field which require digital skills. Isabella Colletta reports

However, the Hays study shows a significant lack of digital capabilities across UK firms in general, with 3 in 20 employers facing a severe digital skills gap. Whilst 38% of employers believe they have the skills required to meet their organisational objectives, the majority of employers, approximately 62%, acknowledged that their workforce only has some of the skills required or faces significant shortages.

Whilst the majority of employer’s face shortages, evidence shows that the private sector is better prepared for a digital transformation than the public sector. Around two-thirds of private-sector (64%) employers say they have access to all or some of the skills they require, compared to only 56% of public-sector employers.

Employers are also in need of sector specific skills as opposed to baseline digital competencies, such as knowledge of programs such as Microsoft word and excel. Knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and customer relationship software alongside other sector specific software has become more advantageous when recruiting new staff members. A government report revealed that approximately 82% of all jobs in the UK advertise digital skills as a requirement, demonstrating their importance in the workplace.

Transforming the workplace into a digitised environment holds challenges, with the Hays survey revealing that 58% of UK employers believed that the lack of skills from current staff acted as the top reason for the lack of digital performance. However, the general attitude towards digital transformation in the workplace appears to be positive. 78% of employers and 69% of staff said that they have an open mindset towards the process of digital transformation.

Whilst there is a significant digital gap within many UK firms, Hays have also used their research to locate solutions for bridging this divide. The organisation places priority on identifying the gaps, and encouraging a culture of both self-directed learning and continuous learning around the digital field.

Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accounting and Finance, said: “We’re seeing greater use of programming tools to provide insight on potential risks and opportunities within accounting and finance teams, as well as data-based decision making through digital means. With proficient use of these programming and tools, the service provided by finance teams will be more accurate, insightful and future-focused.   

“While it’s essential that accountancy and finance professionals upskill in order to take advantage of emerging and disruptive technology, the importance of soft skills such as communication, adaptability and emotional intelligence mustn’t be underestimated. Without really paying attention to these skills, we won’t be able to make the most of the human value we have to offer. It will be key to nurture both digital and soft skills to really thrive in our ever-changing world of work.”