SMEs sold on remote working, lack the ability to deliver it

SFA, Vodafone
Sven Spollen-Behrens, SFA; Regina Moran, Vodafone; and Louise O’Conor, Abodoo.com

Study finds 22% of SME employees don’t believe they have the right digital skills for their role

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9 November 2018 | 0

Despite the demand for remote working, just 9% of SME business owners in Ireland are fully embracing the concept, with 38% not considering it at all. This is according to a report by research firm Amarach on behalf of Vodafone Ireland.

According to the research poll of 600 SME owners, there is significant optimism in the sector with nearly 90% of SMEs predicting growth between now and 2021.This optimism was shared by employees, with 60% confident about the future prospects of their company. Munster is the most optimistic region, with 67% of SME employees feeling confident about the future prospects of their company (versus 62% in Connaught/Ulster, 60% in Dublin, with Leinster (outside of Dublin) overall coming in lowest at 52%). Additionally, Munster employees are the happiest at 60% (versus Dublin 59%, Connaught /Ulster 58% and Leinster 52%).

When asked about investment, 60% of SME business owners surveyed confirmed that they plan to invest in their business within the next 12 months; with the majority (71%) being spent on staff attraction and retention, followed by sales (64%) and technology & digital tools (57%). In fact, 69% of small firms plan to increase technology investment within the next five years, higher again for medium sized firms, who are also most likely to invest upwards of €50,000. However, nearly seven in 10 (68%) see barriers to growth, with 46% seeing it come from Brexit, followed by 40% from taxes and rates.

When looking at digital skills, 22% of employees felt that they did not have the necessary skills required for their role, with a further 20% unsure whether they had the relevant digital skills required. The greatest amount of uncertainty is seen in Connaught/Ulster with 29% of employees unsure if they have the necessary digital skills for their current role (versus 21% Leinster, 18% Munster, and 14% Dublin). These figures support the recent European Commission research, which identified Ireland as having one of the lowest level of digital skills in the EU.

“The sentiment of this research offers SME employers extremely valuable insights into the future of the workplace in Ireland – particularly as many companies are struggling to not only attract staff, but retain their existing staff,” said Director of Enterprise at Vodafone Ireland, Regina Moran. “What is evident is that employee expectations have changed and that businesses in Ireland need to accommodate that change.

“With more than 95% of Ireland’s business economy made up of SMEs, it’s never been more important for Irish businesses to talk to each other and it is vital for us to understand the sector to serve it better, help businesses realise their connected ambition and contribute to their future sustainability.

“We see connectivity and technology at the core of enabling Irish businesses to flourish, and want to understand businesses so we can develop technology that helps achieve this goal. Vodafone is committed to championing the digital potential of communities all over Ireland, ensuring equal benefit for all businesses in society.”

The survey respondents represented a wide cross section of sectors, including the professional services, technology/IT services, financial services, retail, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing, arts and entertainment, charity, social enterprise or non-profit, education and training, health and social care, hospitality and recreation, manufacturing, ICT and telco products or services, transport, logistics and storage, and utilities.

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