MONDAY 7 JUN 2021 3:37 PM


Open University and nonprofit organisation, Be the Business conducted the a report, revealing that 77% of SME leaders do not have the skills required to implement new technology, and internal teams lack the variety of skills necessary for long-term growth.

The report titled ‘Skills for Success: supporting business leaders with digital adoption’ surveyed 1,500 business leaders of small and medium sized enterprises (SME) across the UK. It found that Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of collaboration and e-commerce software. Of the business leaders that adopted new technology due to the pandemic, at least 85% plan to continue its use once restrictions are lifted.

Janice Dickinson, digital skills lead at the Open University says, “If business leaders can adopt a ‘grow your own’ approach, then it is a win-win-win for the employee, employer and the economy. But there are some barriers to overcome – not least the time and cost investment.”

While large companies delivered skills and training to help the successful adoption of technology last year, 30% of SME leaders said they did not have the time or funds to do so. However SMEs have still been flexible when it comes to delivering digital skills, with 70% of business leaders expressing interest in some form of learning and development in the next 12 months.

Despite popular belief that younger people are more tech savvy, business leaders aged 35 and older reported being more generally knowledgeable about cloud-based computing, online accounting, video conferencing and cyber security. On the contrary, younger business leaders aged below 34 are more knowledgeable about marketing automation and enterprise resource planning software and identifying differences in types of technology.

The Skills for Success report recommends that business leaders identify the right digital tools to tackle a company’s biggest challenge, secure time and budget to enable an attitude of continuous learning and empower SMEs to embrace a digital culture. It is also important to recognise the power of a varied skillset within an organisation.

Anthony Impey, chief executive at Be the Business, says, "Adopting new digital technology can be challenging, even for the most confident business leaders. That is why getting the right skills and training – focused on both digital and leadership capabilities, is essential.”

Read the full report here.