Time to get technical: debunking the digital literacy gap

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Image credit: Adobe Stock/ Malik E/peopleimages.com.

Is the grass really greener? Since the beginning of the very unsettling pandemic, working remotely made us all hold a mirror up to our work vs. life balance and assess whether we were happy in our day-to-day jobs — resulting in mass resignations and career changes. The question is, how has this mentality impacted existing industries? Enter the skills gap.

Sure, you may have crushed an interview, but have you really got the tech skills needed to rise to the role you’ve applied for? With the landscape of work ever-changing, the digital skills gap is making it extremely tricky for businesses to hire appropriately and bag the right brains for the job.

Whether it’s down to employees not putting enough time into personal development, or employers not investing in programs like Adobe Acrobat to upskill their workforce, there is a serious disconnect between what businesses need and what candidates have to offer.

So we decided to do a little digging. Through analyzing job posting across the top industries in the US, we can now reveal the top job skills needed to be a successful candidate in 2023. We also surveyed business owners and employees alike to understand if the job postings we’re seeing on the likes of LinkedIn actually match the skills needed. Let’s dive in.

What skills matter the most?

LinkedIn is littered with endless job advertisements and role requirements, but which skills are the most in demand? According to our data, 1 in 3 job posts mentions needing data-related skills, yet 45 percent of business owners find them wholly unnecessary or not important at all.

Infographic of What Skills Matter Most.

The number one skill required by job posts is communication (43 percent) — with a high 93 percent of business owners and 94 percent of employees agreeing that it’s an extremely important skill. Not far behind in priority is organization (38 percent) — although only 59 percent of employees currently feel that they’re experts in this area and would benefit from additional training.

Interestingly, only 8 percent of job posts consider problem-solving to be a valuable skill — in comparison to the whopping 93 percent of business owners who see it as a necessity. Similarly, we also found that only 11 percent of job posts call out email skills as a desirable trait, whereas a large 88 percent of employers and 81 percent of employees think otherwise.

Employer vs employee

Do you want to excel in your role, but find it hard to keep up with the tech of today? Are you interested in learning new skills, but don’t feel supported by your boss? You’re not alone. Our research finds that over 1 in 4 employees do not feel comfortable asking their employer for more training on technological skills.

In fact, 34 percent of employers don’t consider it their responsibility to train their staff or teach them new tech — and only 48 percent of business owners believe that they offer their staff enough support in this area. Simply reallocating some budget into efficient, technological tools — such as the online PDF compressor and editor that are easy to use and teach — could help employees feel less intimidated by new technology. A win-win for bosses and their workforce.

This mismatch between employee satisfaction and employer opinion also bleeds into soft skill training, such as communication, time management, critical thinking, and decision-making. Only 52 percent of employers believe that they give enough training in these areas, with 31 percent of them feeling that they shouldn’t be held responsible. With a sizable 34 percent of workers saying that they think they could have more support in this area, it’s clear that there are not enough resources being put into upskilling existing employees.

Here’s what’s getting under people’s skin at work

Top employee frustrations when it comes to tech

Consider yourself a tech whizz? Or do you struggle to keep up with ever-changing software? Whether you’re tech-tastic or simply operate on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, we’ve looked into which tech-related gripes annoy employees the most in the workplace.

Infographic of what's getting under people's skin at work.

According to our findings, the number one frustration for employees is outdated technology, with some respondents saying that “the inconsistency in accessibility and difficulty obtaining adequate hardware” adds to this annoyance. In a similar vein, the second and third biggest frustration is slow computers and a lack of training — with surveyors expressing that their "equipment is severely out of date", and yet they “can't get buy-in from leaders to invest in newer technologies". Though all three frustrations address different issues, the general consensus is that having outdated resources and little technological support has a negative impact on employee morale.

Top employer frustrations with staff skills

We’ve heard from employees, but what about employers? Yes, management is in charge of budgets and training resources, but it’s the staff and their attitudes that can really help take a business to the next level. It takes two to tango, after all. We asked business owners and employers what frustrated them the most about their staff and their skills.

Our research shows that the number one grumble amongst employers about their staff is the lack of desire to learn new skills and improve, with some saying that they get irritated by "older employees that struggle with or refuse to learn basic technology skills including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint." It’s clear that it’s important to introduce easy-to-follow technological processes that every generation can follow.

In second and third place, of employer frustrations is ‘laziness’ and ‘lack of initiative’ — with employers also admitting that they get frustrated by “employees who do not work to their full potential” and display a “lack of desire to improve”.

Money Spent = money made

Whether you’re part of a big established business or a small startup, finding the time to work on digital development as well as getting sign-off on the additional budget for training tools can be tricky. However, spending money on employee upskilling won’t only help staff feel more motivated and advanced in their field — it’ll also help contribute towards business revenue.

Infographic of Money spent=Money made.

Refreshingly, our data shows that some American employees are spending both their time and dollar on leveling up their tech skills. On average, employees spend $618.55 per year upscaling their tech skills outside of work. An impressive 35 percent of employees also said that they spend 10+ hours per year working on bettering their abilities.

But how do they do it? Reports show that every employee's learning habits are different. For example, 67 percent watch how-to videos for things like Excel hacks and Adobe Photoshop, whereas 56 percent take free courses, and a further 46 percent read help books. An impressive 29 percent even pay for an online course.

How do business owners help their employees?

We’ve had a look at what employees do to take their skills to the next level, but what about leadership? American business owners reveal how they help their employees better their tech abilities in the workplace below.

Iimage of How do buisness owners help their employees.

Employers report spending, on average, $2,743 per year per employee on training resources. A decent 47 percent host training sessions at work, and 35 percent give their employees access to training videos.

Though this is all well and good, only 20 percent actually invest hard-earned cash in employer-paid skill certifications. As for time, 29 percent set aside weekly and monthly periods for personal development — which is great for giving employees the flexibility and breathing space to work on their career aspirations.

How entry level is entry-level, really?

Top skills deemed important by entry-level employees

Are you a post-grad on the hunt for a new role? Do you feel like you have the drive it takes to start your dream career, but don’t have the qualifications necessary to jump straight into an entry-level job? Sure, there are a bunch of entry-level roles — but is entry-level actually accessible to fresh-out-of-class employees? Let’s take a look.

With 87 percent of entry-level employees fearful about inflation and the ever-rising cost of living crisis, it’s more important than ever for entry-level graduates to put their focus into the right skills and make sure they’re suited, booted, and ready for the job market.

Infographic of How Entry level is Entry level really?

Our research shows that 69 percent of entry-level employees currently make less than $50,000. Even so, entry-level employees reportedly still spend an average of $110 a year on leveling up their tech skills. Nearly 3 in 4 entry-level employees spend time outside of work, as well as cash, to better their tech abilities. Kudos, kids.

As for necessary skills, though entry-level employees are clearly putting the time and monetary effort into being the best hire they can possibly be, our findings show that there’s a substantial skill gap in a multitude of areas. For example, 91 percent of entry-level hires feel that communication is important, whereas only 49 percent of entry-level employees actually feel confident in this area.

Similarly, when it comes to time management, 82 percent feel that it’s a crucial skill — but only 48 percent think they actually have a handle on their time. A significant 2 in 5 entry-level employees feel spreadsheets are an important skill to have, but a contrastingly 23 percent of business owners feel that this skill is unnecessary. Reading between the lines, entry-level employees need a little more guidance from their employers to help them succeed and grow in their careers.

Here’s what job postings are asking for across industries

Top tech skills required by industry

From communication to time management, there are a number of skills that prove useful across a multitude of business models — but which skills are required by each industry?

Sure, data might be the top skill needed in a tech position, but you don’t need to be a data fanatic to cook up a storm in a busy kitchen. Through analyzing different job advertisements and their requirements, we had a look at what specific skills are considered important depending on the industry you’re interested in. We analyzed 600 job posts across 12 sectors on LinkedIn to find out:

Gen Z vs. Baby Boomers in the workplace

No matter what generation you’re from, everyone has something different to offer the job market. Millennials may have literally lived through a millennium, but are they up to date with the latest tech? Gen Z might have their TikTok algorithms personalized to a T, but do they have all the skills necessary to succeed in the working world? Let’s take a look.

Infographic of Gen Z vs Babyboomers in the workplace.

Which generations consider themselves communication experts? Baby Boomers came out on top with a solid 73 percent reporting as advanced in this area, followed by Gen X with 66 percent — with Gen Z bringing in the rear with 60 percent. As for organization, Gen X has the most experts in this skill set with the highest score of 65 percent, just ahead of the 64 percent of Baby Boomers who feel confident with their organizational skills.

As for other areas such as leadership, teamwork, research, and adaptability, the swipe-ready Gen Z is reportedly the least skilled. Not so slay. However, when it comes to social media — Gen Z has skills. 42 percent of this tech-savvy generation are advanced and expert level, compared to 32 percent of Millennials and 20 percent of Baby Boomers.

So, how can employers tackle the digital literacy gap?

It all comes down to putting employees first. No business can succeed if its staff doesn’t feel confident in their role or like they’re developing their skill set.

Investing in programs like Acrobat will help your team feel more digitally connected, with simple workflows and tools that are easy to create, edit and share. User-friendly interfaces are the way forward — don’t let your business get left behind.


Adobe conducted a survey of 501 employees and 501 business owners to understand how competent employees feel about specific skills required for their role and how employers support their staff to level up their skills A text analysis (was used to summarize open text questions and provide a ranked overview of the most common themes or threads.

We chose 1,000 respondents, because it provides a margin of error of between 3 percent and 7 percent. According to the National Institute of Health, that is an acceptable margin of error for social science research. The difference between margin of error for sample size of 1,000 (3 percent) and margin for 2,000 is around .8 percent. Considering that we were surveying a broad demographic, employees and employers, we felt comfortable meeting those parameters.

Because the data are based on self-reported answers, respondents may have had biases or discrepancies between their own reported ability and their actual abilities. To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. Survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting.

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