Sungard Availability Services®  (Sungard AS), a leading provider of information availability through managed IT, cloud and recovery services, today reveals that the skills shortage is having a detrimental impact on Irish businesses and could pose serious risks in the years ahead. Both IT Decision Makers (57%), and Line of Business Decision Makers (60%) have labelled it as their biggest issue impacting digital initiatives, with just under half of employees claiming they’re not getting the training or tools they need to add value back to the business.

Technology priorities
Despite extensive media hype and scare-mongering around technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) impacting or replacing human jobs, research undertaken on behalf of Sungard AS reveals that only 12% of ITDMs have listed AI as a technology that will help them meet their business challenges in the immediate future.  The highest percentage of ITDMs and LOB DMs ranked public (ITDM 39%, LOB 45%) and private cloud (ITDM 64%, LOB 54%) as the top technologies that they will be looking to invest in, in the next two years, to meet their challenges. AI isn’t even in the top five.

Employee disconnect
At least in the immediate future, many jobs and processes that are mooted to be automated or taken over by robots will stay firmly within the remit of the human workforce; yet three quarters of employees are underprepared for the digital journey ahead. Businesses need to invest in their staff – not just in strategic technologies. This will ensure that employees feel supported by and committed to their organisations, and be confident they can do their jobs now and in the future. For business leaders, it means their companies have the skills in place to optimise all technology investments.

Despite the benefits in doing so, the extent to which the majority of Irish businesses are not prioritising investment in people makes for grim reading. Nearly a third of Irish workers stated that a lack of training has stopped them from adopting digital working practices, with a further 31% claiming their company has not provided them with the tools to overcome the challenges they are facing.

Meanwhile, increasing employee satisfaction, staff mobility and staff retention levels were revealed to be the three lowest priorities for business decision makers over the next two years, at only 32%, 20%, and 17% respectively.

Communication is key
The research also found that businesses need to be more transparent about how they intend to navigate future challenges. Only 24% Irish employees polled say they are kept fully up to speed with their employer’s digital roadmap. This is in stark contrast to the 93% of ITDMs who reported that they are kept well informed of strategic direction. Ireland is rapidly growing as a centre of technology R&D, but there is a danger of this creating a chasm within the workplace.

This lack of business-wide communication could have serious ramifications for business leaders and commercial success, especially considering the disruption and potential advantages expected from Brexit, and with the European GDPR directive looming on the near horizon. For example, when asked about their understanding of the changes that will come into force as a result of GDPR, the vast majority of Irish IT  83% and business decision makers (82%) understand the impact, compared to only 6% of employees who say they understand completely, contrasting with the 29% who report they do not understand at all. (This lack of understanding is not as high as results from the same survey carried out in the UK, to 50% of employees claimed no understanding of the impacts of GDPR). This greater awareness amongst Irish employees is no doubt caused by Ireland’s long-standing position as a home to international technology companies. That said, considering that employees are often the weak link in an organisation’s security chain, any level of misunderstanding about their roles and responsibilities when it comes to compliance should serve as a warning.

Commenting on the findings, Kathy Schneider, CMO, Sungard Availability Services said:

“In addition to Brexit and GDPR, the lack of digital skills is yet another challenge facing Irish organisations over the next couple of years. To remain competitive, businesses will need to prioritise digital skills development and training to help navigate the new technology trends. This means investing not only in technologies and systems, but also in training around the required skills. Communication of the challenges and the digital journey ahead will be vital to ensuring business resiliency. Failure to do so could open businesses up to unnecessary – and avoidable – risks.”

Commenting on the research, Mary Rose Burke, CEO of Dublin Chamber of Commerce adds:

“The modern worker is demanding and typically wants a high quality of life, both in and out of work. Technological advances are making the world smaller. Companies and employers are having to react to this changing environment to ensure that they remain attractive and relevant to the best talent. This is becoming a big challenge for many firms as competition for staff intensifies. Any firm that fails to keep pace with the changing employment world, risks being left behind.”

 

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