Yorkshire SMEs held back by lack of basic digital skills

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Leeds telecoms business Simentic acquired by Texas company
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ SFIO CRACHO

More than four in ten of SMEs in Yorkshire and Humberside lack the basic digital skills that could drive growth, according to startling new research from Lloyds Bank.

By embracing digital skills, UK businesses could generate an additional £85 billion in turnover according to the report.

Across Yorkshire and Humberside, a quarter of businesses are already benefiting from trading online domestically – above the UK average.

The region’s firms are using digital to target international markets, with 13% of Yorkshire and Humberside businesses using online channels to trade overseas, 5 percentage points above the UK average.

But there is still work to be done in the region with the latest Lloyds Bank Business and Charity Index revealing that only 8% use digital channels to search and discover growth opportunities for their business.

A third of Yorkshire and Humberside SMEs have no interest in developing their cyber security capability.

For those businesses embracing advanced technologies including cloud IT, online accounting software and digital training tools there is the opportunity to generate more than £100,000 in extra annual turnover compared to those who have none.

The benefits can go beyond finances too, with 2.5 million businesses saving time through digital, more than twice as many compared to 2014. Small businesses and charities with advanced digital capabilities can save a day a week according to the report.

Russell Galley, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “Businesses in Yorkshire and Humberside have hugely improved their digital skills in the past three years with 57% of firms now holding basic digital skills compared to 35% in 2015. This has unlocked major benefits including better management of invoices and accounts and improved communication with customers and suppliers.

“But there is still some way to go if the region’s firms want to keep up with the UK’s tech transformation. Our research found that just under three quarters of SMEs are not investing in building digital skills and more than a third don’t have a website for their business, which means they risk not being able to take advantage of opportunities that exist at home and overseas.

“Across the region we have a team of digital champions that are helping businesses and charities to improve their digital capability through one-on-one coaching and workshops. By working together, we can help the region, its business and Britain prosper.”