Digital agencies suffer from widening skills gap and lack of diversity amid Brexit worries

16 Dec 2016

The digital industry is suffering from a widening skills gap and lack of workplace diversity, finds brand new study of 272 digital agencies by BIMA, the digital agency membership association and SapientRazorfish, the world’s largest digital agency.

The digital industry plays a vital role in the UK economy, contributing £118.3 billion to the country’s Gross Value Added and employing 1.4 million people (Source: Technation 2016). A substantial part of the digital industry is the digital agency landscape in the UK – the organisations at the forefront of helping brands to digitally transform and innovate.

Widening skills gap

Interestingly, the skills gap isn’t confined to technologists and coders. Survey results show that there has been a shift in the skills that are in high demand among agencies surveyed. Although 35% of respondents expressed hiring technologist and coders as a priority, Creatives (30%) and Account Managers (24%) followed hot on their heels.

The skills gap is one that is challenging the digital industry, with thousands of desirable positions going unfilled across the country.
Nigel Vaz, CEO, EMEA and APAC at SapientRazorfish, Publicis.Sapient

Diversity issues

Encouragingly, 39% of agencies surveyed report a 50:50 split between the ratio of female and male employees, however results still highlighted that the majority of respondents (54%) are failing to reach a gender balance, with their companies being more than 50% male.
Despite 82% of respondents reporting employing a minimum of 5% black or minority ethnic employees, it’s evident that this isn’t enough to reflect the diversity of talent trying to gain access to the digital industries. Worryingly, 18% of agencies have a workforce that is 100% white.
Diversity issues have become more prominent since Brexit, and almost half (47%) of those surveyed believe leaving the EU will make it much harder to attract diverse non-British talent.

Recruitment processes

Despite widening skills gap and diversity issues, there are signs that the recruitment process is improving. While in 2015, the industry mostly cited 3 – 4 months as the normal time to fill a position, this has decreased to just 1 – 2 months in 2016. However, research shows that agencies are currently understaffed, and almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed currently have 3 - 4 open vacancies.

Agencies are already crying out for diverse talent; and they are clearly worried that Brexit will further narrow the talent pool. As an industry, we need to continue broadening our employee base, recruiting individuals who have an array of digital sills that will add to the strength and success of the digital industry.
Bridget Beale, Managing Director at BIMA

Nigel Vaz, CEO EMEA and APAC at SapientRazorfish, Publicis.Sapient said: “As companies address the challenge of reimagining their business for a digital age, this skills gap is both damaging to the growth of British industry, and means that many talented people are missing out on rewarding jobs due to a lack of modern skills. As an industry, we are looking to do our bit to combat the skills gap and encourage the next generation to consider the digital industry for a rewarding, varied and viable career.”

This research was conducted in partnership with SapientRazorfish, the world’s largest digital agency. BIMA would like to thank them for their continued support in BIMA, and our efforts to raise awareness in bridging the digital skills gap and tackling the diversity crisis head on.


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