Australian Businesses Lag Behind US And UK In Competitive Digital Skills

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A man works on his laptop computer in his home in Sacramento, California in this undated handout photo. AT&T unveiled on Monday an offering that lets customers using its network for Web-surfing on laptop computers or netbooks avoid the obligation to sign a two-year contract with the operator. REUTERS/Handout Reuters

Businesses in Australia are at a disadvantage due to a shortage of digital skills and their inability to address the problem. New research revealed that a quarter of Australian businesses are finding it difficult to recruit digital employees.

The Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey has found that the digital skills gap has taken a moderate or high toll on businesses. Commissioned by the Slade Group Digital Practice and NET:101, the survey asked 150 small to large-scale business in the country about how the digital skills gap has affected their companies.

About 70 percent of the businesses surveyed said difficulty in sourcing digital talent was one of the problems they face. “With growing importance of digital in today’s business landscape, a lag in digital expertise in Australia is a major concern – one that has the potential to hinder the ability for growth and innovation,” said Elizabeth Ebeli, digital practice manager in Slade Group.

Ebeli added that organisations that find it difficult to source digital talent could leave businesses at risk to being “left behind.” The challenge of finding digital talent was a result of companies either thinking there was insufficient talent or more competitive salaries being offered elsewhere. 

According to the survey, more than 30 percent of the businesses had brought in staff from outside of Australia despite the higher costs of relocation and sponsorship. Ebeli said a quarter of businesses believe there is not enough digital skills and experience in Australia while 18 percent feel their companies do not have the expertise to find the right candidate.

The survey found about 80 percent of managers described their employees as “weak” in some areas of digital expertise but only 12 percent of businesses conducted any type of testing during the recruitment process. Respondents also said only 40 percent of senior managers have a moderate understanding of digital skills while 20 percent answered they had “little understanding.”

Ebeli said one clear issue for most Australian businesses is that locals with digital skills do not hold senior positions. “Current senior leaders are often baby boomers and older gen Xers,” she remarked.

She noted Australia was lagging behind the US and UK in terms of businesses with competitive digital skillsets. However, majority or 80 percent of Australian businesses have initiated skill enhancement programs to bridge the digital skills gap while two thirds are planning to invest in more training. 

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