The Digital Marketing Institute digital skills report for 2016 found that digital skills in Ireland were on a par with the UK (37%) and the USA (38%), highlighting an emerging trend of low digital competence across the three economies. A score of at least 60% is needed to achieve entry-level competency in digital marketing.
In Ireland, the most significant drop in skills was in the mobile category with a test result of 40% on average, down from 47% in 2014. There were also reductions in skills in search (37% v 41%), display (35% v 39%), strategy (38% v 40%), email (38% v 40%) and social media (37% v 40%).
The new report, ‘Missing the Mark: The digital marketing skills gap in Ireland, UK and USA’, was conducted on behalf of the Digital Marketing Institute by independent market research firm Behaviour & Attitudes.
Respondents for this report were assessed by answering a basic competency test, using a new 54 question diagnostic tool. 20 questions on average were answered correctly to give a score of 38%.
Older workers fare better
Findings from the test showed that older participants aged 50+ (39%) and aged 34-49 (40%) performed better than their younger counterparts, aged 18-34 (34%).
Participants in Dublin (42%) fared better than non-Dublin (37%), although there was a sharp drop in the capital, down from 48% in 2014. Overall, self-employed participants fared best of all (43%), compared to those employed full-time (36%) and part-time (34%).
Ian Dodson, founder and CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute notes:
“Ireland’s digital marketing skills base has dropped since 2014. One could argue that the field has become more complex as it develops, but it is both disappointing and a cause for concern that general digital marketing skill sets remain low and have continued to fall over the last two years.
“There is huge potential for Ireland Inc to benefit from the EU’s plan to harmonise regulations and create a single digital economy in Europe. This must not become a lost opportunity through a declining skills base.”
Commenting, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said:
“Ireland has been an open economy that has historically reached out to the wider world to develop exports, trade and services. The EU’s plans to create a digital single market, by harmonising regulations across member states, presents another opportunity for Irish businesses to expand their footprint across the EU. A recent report by Boston Consulting Group estimated that Ireland could add more than 140,000 new jobs and increase GDP by €27 billion through the creation of a digital single market.
“Ireland has been at the forefront of the rise of the global digital economy to date with many leading Irish companies successfully competing internationally as well as iconic digital companies setting up operations here. However, change also brings its challenges so we must seek to embrace digitisation and ensure that skill levels among our marketing teams are among the best in the EU.”
Mismatch in survey results
The report also highlights a worrying discrepancy between self-perception and the reality of digital skills levels in Ireland and abroad. In contrast to the test results, when surveyed, 59% of respondents in Ireland believe themselves to be ‘very or fairly competent’ at digital marketing skills. The younger the respondent, the more competent they believe themselves to be.
The survey also reveals marketing professionals in Ireland to be the least confident about their organisations’ overall digital skill levels, with 59% more likely to agree that their organisation ‘is involved in digital marketing, but not very competent’, compared to their counterparts in the USA (47%) and the UK (46%).
Only one in four marketers (25%) said their company had offered them training in digital marketing, slightly more than the UK (20%) and the USA (18%).
The extent to which organisations offer digital marketing training support depends greatly on the size of the organisation, with six out of 10 workers in larger organisations (250 employees and 51-250 employees) receiving some support compared to smaller businesses, with 37% (11-50 employees) and 24% (1-10).
Challenges and the future
A lack of resources is cited as the single greatest challenge to improving digital skills within organisations, according to respondents in Ireland (60%). The issue is only slightly less prevalent in the UK (50%) and the USA (47%).
55% of professionals in Ireland say the pace of technological change within their organisations is too slow with the US (49%) and the UK (46%) in agreement.
Irish workers (72%) followed by the counterparts in the USA (63%) are also most likely to agree that becoming ‘more digitally focused will be critical to their organisation in the next two years’.
80% of Irish workers believe they need to improve their digital skills for their careers to progress.
A total of 30% of Irish marketing professionals say yes when asked if they believe it is likely that their jobs would be replaced in the next 30 years by robots and / or computers, compared to the USA (31%) and the UK (24%).
The report can be downloaded here.