Digitally skilled Scottish leaders outperform their counterparts

The Open Universitys Malcolm Sweeting: Digital revolution needs to start in the boardroom. Picture: Contributed
The Open Universitys Malcolm Sweeting: Digital revolution needs to start in the boardroom. Picture: Contributed
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Scottish companies led by ­digitally savvy leaders are outperforming their counterparts, a new study has shown.

The Open University’s Leading in a Digital Age report has found a direct correlation between business performance and leaders equipped to manage digital change.

The study found that 83 per cent of Scottish leaders who had received digital training went on to report organisational growth, compared with just two-thirds who had not received any training.

More than half of leaders who invested in upskilling experienced improved ­productivity and greater employee engagement, while 42 per cent boosted staff retention and 36 per cent increased profit.

The research also found that 75 per cent of Scottish leaders who received digital training felt more inclined to encourage colleagues to undergo ­similar courses.

It suggests a key barrier to improving digital skills is a lack of understanding, with four in ten leaders saying their organisation is falling behind when it comes to embracing new technologies such as ­artificial intelligence, augmentation and automation.

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The results were part of a broader UK study surveying 950 chief technology officers and senior leaders.

Malcolm Sweeting, ­pro-chancellor at The Open University, said: “Our report suggests that for UK organisations to thrive in 2020 and beyond, the digital revolution needs to start in the boardroom. Doing so will foster a culture of digital skills development, encouraging employees at all levels to embrace the requisite tech skills.

“This report shows that if we invest in our leaders, they in turn will invest in developing their employees – giving their workforce the skills to drive success in the digital age.”

Underrepresentation of women

Meanwhile, a separate report by has found that women are significantly underrepresented at board level for companies included in the FTSE Small Cap 100 index (SMC) and the Alternative Investment Market (Aim).

The study by Company Matters revealed that women account for 28 per cent of SMC boards and just 15 per cent of those on the Aim. More than a third of Aim-quoted companies have all-male boards.