UK SMEs Are DIY Tech Heroes

Independent research commissioned by TalkTalk Business reveals that the UK SME workforce is a nation of amateur DIY technicians despite a lack of formalised training. Although a quarter of staff will report issues to the IT team, 62% roll up their sleeves when faced with an IT challenge. However, only 9% of SME workers rate themselves as ‘Techno Heroes’ leading to an average of 2 hours of downtime for every employee per week.

The research, which reveals the extent of UK business’ tech skills gap and its impact on small businesses, suggests SMEs that give more priority to IT training will gain the equivalent of one extra member of staff for every 20 employees. Additionally, more than two thirds of respondents believe tech-smart staff are valued more highly by senior management and fellow colleagues alike. Almost 60 per cent say that better IT skills would make them more efficient personally, as well as increasing peer respect and career opportunities.

Charles Bligh, Managing Director of TalkTalk Business, says: “Few companies deny that having the right IT systems and technical know-how within their team plays an essential part in their growth, but addressing the skills gap effectively is the key to unlocking any investment in technology. As an internet provider, we are focused on making it easier for small businesses to take advantage of the power of technology, from using effective communications tools like VOIP business phones to cloud computing, and call on other suppliers to do the same. By making online services as simple and accessible as possible, we can help reduce the time and resource burden for UK SMEs.”

Office workers admit that it’s not just specialist software that causes trouble; 47% say hardware issues are ‘very challenging’, and 9% of respondents even say they struggle with commonplace software such as spreadsheet packages.

Although 36 per cent say they feel personally responsible for ensuring they are technically proficient, the majority (51 per cent) say the responsibility for IT training lies with their employer.

Anyone facing an IT challenge may be wise to ask the intern; one third of temporary staff claim to have all the skills they could need, twice the number of those in lower level management positions. Senior managers are thought to have the best IT skills, underlining the fact that IT competency is closely associated with authority and career success. More than two-thirds of people working for SMEs believe tech-smart staff are valued more highly by senior management and fellow colleagues.

Charles Bligh concluded: “Businesses which are able to invest in reducing the skills gap will clearly be able to benefit from improved efficiencies and productivity – as well as the positive and engaged attitude staff have to technology in the workplace. By playing our part in equipping SMEs with simple tools such as plug and play routers, video help and support guides we aim to make life easier and reduce the reliance on in-house tech training.”

This research follows the launch of the Geared for Growth report, commissioned by TalkTalk Business in conjunction with ICAEW, which found that in a fast-moving digital economy the companies most likely to succeed and grow are those able to get, acquire, and retain employees with the right technology skills.

The Tech Hero research took place in May 2013 amongst 1,027 consumers and was undertaken by The Leadership Factor.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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