STL Skills Survey: UK Businesses Display IT Skills Gap

Employees in the UK are struggling to deal with a major IT skills gap, with the average UK office worker spending more than half an hour a day struggling to figure out how to work their tech or IT systems.

For most office workers in the United Kingdom, dealing with things like spreadsheets, presentations and word documents are considered normal, everyday tasks.

Yet, a new national survey by STL has found that a significant number of employees are seriously struggling with their IT systems.

What our survey revealed

In a survey* of 2,000 UK office workers, STL found that more than a third of respondents believe their lack of IT skills prevent them from doing their job effectively.

Half of UK office workers admit to being unable to fully understand tools like Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word, with spreadsheets and presentations cited as being the most problematic.

Excel training
Excel training

Astonishingly, office workers are losing over 10 hours per month struggling to operate their IT systems, meaning UK employees are losing over £1,600 per employee, per year, based on the average office worker salary.

With an estimated 10 million office workers in the United Kingdom, that means businesses are wasting a staggering £16 billion per year due to a basic IT skills gap.

Despite the clear gap in skills, our survey found that workers are reluctant to get help from their IT department.

42% of respondents said that embarrassment stops them asking for help, with many worrying that their query would be thought of as ‘basic’. Instead, many workers turn to colleagues:

For others, the Internet and even family and friends are a preferred option for getting assistance with basic IT tasks:

excel training courses

Excel frustration

When they do choose to ask for help, the most common source of frustration is Microsoft Excel:

A reluctance to admit to a gap in IT skills appears to be a common problem amongst UK employees.

With nearly one in five opting to ‘bluff’ their way through common tasks or questions from colleagues (including giving a colleague spreadsheet advice, hosting a meeting using documents and giving a PowerPoint presentation).

Employers can do more

Our research also found that office workers are aware of the IT skills gap, and that many feel that their employers need to improve their training to help address the problem.

A third of those polled directly blamed their employer for not offering them enough support in using computer applications, and more than half of UK office workers felt they would benefit from proper training in Microsoft Office.

Effective training would not only help to make office workers more productive and efficient, but 47% of respondents also felt it would improve their levels of motivation at work.

At STL we seek to provide an unrivalled value and quality service, enabled by our strong working culture. Our 500+ courses deliver learning solutions across leadership and management training and Microsoft Office applications (including Excel) .

We help our customers to address some of the most critical aspects of the real economy, by improving productivity and efficiency. We have instructor-led London training centres and also deliver across the UK, EEC/Abroad (95+ countries)

*Our data comes from an MRS-compliant, nationally representative survey of 2,000 UK office workers who regularly use a computer. The survey was carried out on behalf of STL in February 2020.

Case Study: Team Performance Management

How we help organisations improve team performance

As part of our portfolio of management training courses, STL offers a Team Performance Management Course to a wide range of organisations, from IT and Banking to Sporting Facilities and TV Stations.

Their HR/Learning and Development departments select this course because they have identified a clear need within their organisation for managers to be able to manage the performance of teams successfully.

A truly effective performance management system supports the alignment of organisational goals/objectives with those of its respective functions, departments, teams and individual employees.

The course is suitable for those with a responsibility for managing the performance of teams and those aiming to transition into a people management position.

Lastly, for those interested in understanding how a performance management system can work to build the effectiveness and productivity of teams.

At the end of this one day workshop, delegates will have gained the skills necessary to positively resolve performance issues and to use those skills to build further managerial credibility.

team performance management
Assertiveness course can help team performance and dynamics
They want their managers to employ techniques and strategies to:
  • Understand the purpose and benefits of a team performance management system within an organisation
  • Discover what motivates performance (individual and team motivation techniques)
  • Be familiar with the range of both formal and informal conversations (annual appraisal, performance review, one to ones) which may need to be in place
  • Know to how to agree practical and meaningful objectives for teams which are aligned to those of the organisation and, from which, effective individual objectives can be developed.
  • Identify development opportunities
  • Provide clear and confident feedback
  • Determine the causes of under-performance in teams
  • Resolve team disagreements constructively using an assertive approach
  • Improve their listening and negotiation skills
Learning Deliverables for Managers

This Team Performance Management course blends theory and practice to great effect, so the learning is embedded. People learn in different ways, so once a topic has been introduced there will be time for group discussion, where ideas, experiences and real-life situations can be shared. Following this, there is always a practical exercise when delegates get to work together and apply the skills, techniques and top tips provided in a safe environment.

One of the biggest benefits of the course is that we have several delegates from a wide range of different industries all openly sharing their hopes, experiences and challenges around the world of performance management.

It’s very reassuring to know that other people, no matter where they work, face the same sort of issues that you do in this area. So, let’s share our ideas and experiences for everyone’s benefit.

The areas of the course which frequently provide the most ‘light bulb’ moments are:
  • The realisation that every organisation needs to have a performance management framework in place
  • The importance of effective teams to the overall success of an organisation and the value a performance management system can bring to help achieve this.
  • The need to ensure team objectives are aligned to those of the organisation and to the individual ones each employee strives to complete.
  • If done correctly, performance management can be an incredibly beneficial process for all concerned, not just a ‘box ticking’ or ‘paper shuffling’ exercise that needs to happen once a year to annoy everyone when they are really busy
  • It’s everybody or nobody – everyone needs to have their performance managed!
  • The importance of agreeing meaningful objectives – give people something to achieve (stretch ‘em but don’t stress ‘em)!
  • How to give people effective feedback whilst keeping emotions out of the conversation
  • The ability to address areas of under-performance positively, constructively and respectfully whilst avoiding the perception of blame or accusation in the mind of the recipient
  • Adopting a more assertive approach to all interactions when managing performance, particularly when someone does not agree with what you are telling them
Trainer Comments

As a trainer, facilitating a Performance Management course is always an enjoyable experience. With 80% focused on practical exercises and discussions, delegates emerge with a newfound confidence in their performance management skills and often form lasting connections with peers from whom they will have learnt to see their activities and challenges through a new lens. 

Delegate Comments

“Excellent. Good to review practice and develop new techniques..”

“Very live and interactive session. Trainer responded well to ‘work experience’ and relating this to using the material on course to ‘solve’ the problem. Very solution focused, honest and kept expectations at the right level. Have already used session on LAMA at work this week.”


As a trainer, I have delivered many workshops covering this topic and over the years, I have found that most organisations (but not all) do have a performance management system in place.

The complexities and technical aspects of performance management processes can vary greatly from industry to industry and company to company, but one thing that will never change is the people skills required to make it work.

At the end of the course, when delegates are shaking my hand and thanking me for a great day, I like to think that once again, I’ve helped them all to be more effective and productive in this area.

Sadly, in some companies, the culture of the workplace means that performance management is perceived by some as a once a year, waste of time box ticking ordeal, but for me they are missing the point entirely.

Good team performance management has one simple goal: to help teams to be the best they can be!

As one of the UK’s leading soft skills training providers, we offer a wide range of management training solutions and management training programs to help managers achieve their performance goals.