Five ways privacy training can help business leaders bridge the digital skills gap

The UK is facing a digital skills gap that costs the economy £65bn a year. Privacy training needs to be top of the list

By Emma Sheppard


February 2023

In our increasingly tech-enabled world, digital skills are essential across all sectors and job roles. More than 80% of all jobs advertised in the UK now require digital skills, and it’s estimated virtually every UK worker will need upskilling by 2030 to perform their jobs well. The gap between the skills the workforce currently has and what’s needed is a significant barrier to growth and digital transformation. And it’s costing the economy as much as £65bn a year.  

That’s not down to a lack of interest among the British workforce. Research by Hays found 83% of workers said they were very open to learning and development but only 25% said they were satisfied with the upskilling provision from their company. There’s a noticeable mismatch with employers – when asked the same question, only 48% thought their teams wanted upskilling opportunities. 

Privacy compliance isn’t the only digital skill that employers need to consider. But it’s one of the most important. Data breaches can lead to hefty fines, damage to a business’s reputation, and loss of customers. Despite this, Europe-wide 94% of companies say there are privacy skill gaps within their business and just 38% of business leaders are confident in their ability to ensure the privacy of sensitive data. 

So if you’re a business leader facing a digital skills gap within your organisation, privacy is a great place to start. Here’s why: 

It addresses your biggest security threat

Privacy is often delegated to the IT or legal functions of a company, but the fact is, everyone needs to play a role in protecting privacy, regardless of their department. Employees are your best defence against data breaches and cyber attacks, but they’re also your biggest weakness. An estimated 88% of data breaches are caused by employee mistakes. The average worker has less than half an hour a week set aside for learning at work, but regular, bite-sized, modular training sessions like those provided by the Privacy Compliance Hub can fit around other responsibilities and keep privacy front of mind. 

It boosts productivity, whether teams are remote or in the office

When a cyber breach happens, everything stops. A locked computer or network, loss of trust from clients and customers, reallocation of IT support teams to deal with the issue, and service outages, all impact productivity. Hackney Council for example, is still dealing with the colossal aftermath of a 2020 cyber attack almost three years later. The breach crippled its systems, impacting social care, housing benefits, council tax, business rates and housing services.

The risk of a cyber attack is also higher now more organisations are permanently allowing hybrid working. During Covid-19, hackers took advantage of people working remotely, with less secure Wi-Fi networks, use of personal devices, and less stringent security measures. Research has found 47% of individuals fall for a phishing scam while working from home. 

It builds digital literacy

The pace of technological change at work has been rapid in recent years and many employees need help. Research has found one in five employees admit a lack of digital skills is impacting their ability to hit targets. More than half (58%) say they’ve received no digital training from their employers. Demand is particularly high among the over 55s – 60% say they haven’t received any digital upskilling from their employer, but are reluctant to bring it up. That creates risks for privacy. Teams need to be able to spot phishing emails, know how to practise good password hygiene, be able to spot subject access requests and know what to do if a data breach happens. 

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It unlocks innovation

Organisations are collecting data in greater volumes than ever before. Data is the key to unlocking digital transformation but organisations need privacy literate employees to exploit it safely. When your employees know what they can and can’t do with data, they’ll be able to spot opportunities and innovate. When they know how to keep data safe, they’ll feel confident enough to analyse it to uncover actionable business insights and opportunities, and communicate those insights to other members of the team. 

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It creates resilience for the future

The need for digital skills is only going to keep growing. So too will the volume and complexity of cyber attacks. Organisations need to make moves to integrate continuous learning and upskilling into their cultures so that they can make best use of the people they have within the team. That will have benefits for employee morale and retention, and create more fulfilling career paths. People also want to work for employers that share the same values as they do. Almost two thirds of employees say recent scandals over the misuse of data has led them to question whether their own data is at risk, and more than one in two would consider leaving an employer that didn’t use workplace data responsibly.

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