SAN FRANCISCO: Digital talent is in such short supply in many agencies that they are in danger of decreasing in relevancy and losing business, a new report has claimed.

Online Marketing Institute, a digital trainer, surveyed 747 US advertising and marketing executives on the state of digital marketing skills, knowledge, and training in their companies and found significant gaps between the skills that talent should have and the skills they do have.

Only 8% of executives surveyed thought their employees were strong in all areas of digital marketing and advertising. Most (71%) felt they were strong in some areas but mediocre or weak in others. Some 15% admitted to mediocrity across the board, while 4% were mediocre in some areas and weak in others and 2% were weak in all areas.

The largest agency skill gaps appeared in mobile, analytics, and marketing automation. Fully 74% of agencies surveyed believed that mobile was a very important or important skill to have, but only 31% felt their talent was stronger or much stronger than the competition.

This was a gap of 43 percentage points, while significant 30 point gaps were seen for analytics and marketing automation.

Aaron Kahlow, CEO and founder of Online Marketing Institute, noted that the speed of change in the digital space created difficulties for agencies looking for candidates with the skills necessary to deliver quality creative and strategy.

He argued that agency executives needed to address the digital talent gap just to survive, let alone grow. "The agencies that are investing in closing the gap through training and level-setting programs are able to drive better results, prove their value, and strengthen their relationships with clients," he said.

The extent of the problems companies were facing was evident in the survey finding that over 80% had reported "significant challenges" in consistently locating, hiring and retaining top talent.

Not surprisingly, then, there were more open positions than available talent. Some 40% of companies surveyed had more projects and positions open than they could fill, with analytics seen as the most desirable skill.

Online Marketing Institute suggested online learning was one way to close the gap, as almost 80% of companies had identified this route as a viable solution to the skills shortage they faced.

Data sourced from PR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff