How to Balance Your Organisation’s Budget and Data Skills Shortage

As a nation, we are being challenged by a significant data skills gap within organisations. The role of "Business Analyst" even made it into the UK Shortage Occupation List for this year.

According to a study by Qlik and Accenture, businesses with higher data literacy rates could increase their enterprise value by 3% to 5%. This shows that upskilling your team with the relevant data skills can bring great benefits to your organisation.

Keep reading to discover how you can achieve your data literacy goals whilst effectively managing your training budget.

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The costs of not prioritising employee upskilling

Upskilling staff within an organisation tends to be pushed down the list of priorities when budgets are tight. But limiting staff upskilling is likely to be a costly mistake.

Let's look at some of the costs your organisation could face without training and upskilling of your staff.

  • Decreased staff morale: When your workforce aren’t tackling new challenges or accomplishing goals they can often feel “stuck”. And, if your employees are not being offered new learning opportunities, morale falls. 

    Employees value opportunities to develop themselves, and they welcome progression. In fact, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.
  • Difficulty in attracting new talent: Not only will the morale of your current workforce be in jeopardy, but organisations that don’t offer development opportunities find it difficult to attract new talent.

Technology is evolving fast, as is our increasing dependence on it in order to do our jobs. This heavy reliance means that data and AI upskilling has now become crucial. And 58% of workers say that their lack of digital skills has affected them negatively in the workplace. 

Data and AI upskilling can allow you to overtake your competition, yes. But it also empowers your workforce to approach their job roles effectively from the get go.

We either embrace technology and new ways of working or get left behind.

Some of the costs of not upskilling in data and AI, in particular, are:

  • Less accurate decision making: By analysing data, organisations can make more informed decisions that are based on evidence, rather than intuition. Without data, it’s difficult for organisations to know which decisions are the right ones that will make a positive impact.
    • Reduced innovation: Innovation and product development are difficult without data analysis. Data analysis allows organisations to recognise patterns and trends in customer behaviour. This can lead to innovative ideas that satisfy the evolving demands of your customers.
  • Decreased competitiveness: Remaining competitive is difficult without continued innovation. Your competitors are very likely using data to stay ahead of the game, so it’s critical that you do too!
  • Reduced customer satisfaction: Taking informed steps to improve customer satisfaction is a challenge without the skills needed to analyse the relevant data. Analysing customer data gives you the opportunity to serve those customers better and solve their problems.

How to understand what data skills your organisation needs

A substantial number of UK businesses recognise data specific skills gaps, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s). 

For instance:

  • 25% of businesses report a lack of machine learning skills
  • 22% admit to deficiencies in programming
  • 23% recognise gaps in their knowledge of emerging technologies, and
  • 22% confirm shortcomings in advanced statistics

Recognising which skills are missing is key to making a positive impact within your organisation. Only when you’ve identified which skills are missing, can you begin upskilling your workforce in alignment with your company objectives.

But how do you recognise what skills are missing? Which skills is your organisation most likely to benefit from having access to?

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Some methods of assessing your skills gaps could include:

  • Employee assessments
  • Key performance indicators
  • Physical observations
  • Exit interviews

Most importantly, align your upskilling plans to your business goals. This ensures that training is relevant and directly contributes to key performance indicators and strategic objectives. 

For example, if a company aims to enhance customer satisfaction, training can focus on analysing customer behaviours to improve marketing and product development. 

This strategic alignment also optimises resource use, avoiding expenditure on non-impactful training.

How your data team can save on costs

When it comes to cutting costs within your organisation, the first team you may not necessarily consider is the data team.

But there are ways you may be able to save on your data handling costs, including:

  • Identifying stale and historical data: Regularly identifying and archiving stale and historical data can significantly reduce costs. Data that once was important may no longer be relevant and it’s now consuming valuable resources. Implementing data lifecycle management policies helps determine which data to archive or delete based on age, usage, and relevance. 
  • Automating routine tasks: Automation of repetitive and routine tasks can free up your data team to focus on other, high-value activities. This can include automating data cleaning, integration, and report generation.
  • Consolidating tools and platforms: Review the tools and platforms currently in use. If there are redundancies, consider consolidating to fewer platforms that can serve multiple purposes. Combining your tools and platforms can reduce subscription fees and maintenance costs.
  • Regularly reviewing vendor contracts: Continuously assess and renegotiate contracts with software vendors and service providers to ensure you're getting the best value for money. Look for discounts, bundle offers, or alternate vendors with more competitive pricing.
  • Prioritising projects: Focus on data projects that deliver the highest return on investment (ROI). Evaluate and prioritise projects based on their potential impact on revenue and cost savings.

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Managing your training budget

When it comes to your training budgets, you want to get the most out of your money, right? You want your workforce to be as well equipped to deal with their daily roles as possible. And essentially, you want to develop a team that’s going to put you ahead of the game in your industry. So managing your training budget effectively is key.

What’s included in a training budget?

A training budget can include anything that is part of your workforce's upskilling journey, such as:

  • Course/instructor fees
  • Equipment/venue rental
  • Travel and accommodation expenses
  • Evaluation and testing expenses
  • General administrative costs

Annually budgeting for data upskilling ensures you can capitalise on evolving tools and technologies and keep your workforce proficient and future proof. 

So, allocate a specific portion of your annual training budget to focus on upskilling your staff in data and AI skills. This upskilling could include training in data analysis, data science, and machine learning, for example.

Ways to monitor training effectiveness

When your team undertakes any training programmes start with clear, measurable objectives. This allows you to easily review whether the training is working for your organisation and in line with your goals.

Here are some ways you might review training effectiveness:

  • Calculating ROI: By comparing the cost of training against the benefits derived from it, you can calculate your financial return on investment from your upskilling efforts.
  • Analysing performance metrics: Compare key performance indicators (KPIs) before and after training. Metrics could include sales numbers, customer service ratings, production rates, and quality control figures.
  • Carrying out training assessments before and after upskilling: Evaluate participants' skills and knowledge before and after the training using quizzes, tests, or practical assessments. The difference in scores can show the immediate effectiveness of the training.

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Cost-effective ways to upskill your workforce in data

With the right upskilling strategies that suit your organisation, you can stay well within your training budget. There are various ways you can approach upskilling your workforce:

Professional Programmes in Data and AI

Cambridge Spark’s Professional Programmes are a new way to upskill your workforce in data and AI with short, flexible courses.

Your team members can build specialised knowledge through top-quality instruction, tailored to accommodate their schedules and deadlines. Courses range from a single, 3.5-hour workshop to 10 half-day workshops over 10 weeks.

Discover more about each of our Professional Programmes:

Data Apprenticeships

Data and AI apprenticeships in the UK provide structured data training that relates to learners’ daily job role. Participants learn whilst they work, gaining practical skills in managing, processing, and analysing data. Apprenticeships in data usually span 14-15 months.

These apprenticeships are funded through the UK Apprenticeship Levy, a tax collected from employers with an annual payroll over £3 million. This means that there is no additional cost to your organisation other than your organisation’s contribution into the Levy pot.

Data Skills Bootcamps

Data Skills Bootcamps offer an alternative to apprenticeships and Professional Programmes. They are short courses typically delivered over 8-16 weeks. Like apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps are fully funded and help aspiring data professionals enter the exciting world of data and AI.


Organisations face the critical challenge of bridging their data skills gaps while effectively managing budgets. However, you can achieve your data goals and manage your training budgets simultaneously. 

Prioritising upskilling enhances data literacy and operational efficiency, boosts employee morale, and attracts new talent. Leveraging cost-effective approaches to upskilling while smartly managing training budgets is a key strategy not only for closing skill gaps but also maximising the impact of your investment in employee development.

If you want to future-proof your organisation, get in touch via the form below and we’ll be happy to help you start your data journey.

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