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Canadian businesses are struggling to find workers with digital skills as the pandemic continues to accelerate technology adoption and automation, a new survey has found.

The KPMG business outlook poll released Tuesday found the inability to find and retain talent was identified as the No. 1 threat to the growth prospects of businesses across the country.

Nearly 80 per cent of businesses polled said the pandemic changed the way they work and they now need more workers with IT skills.

But 70 per cent of businesses said they are having a hard time hiring people with the right skills.

“The pandemic clearly provided a catalyst for many businesses to accelerate their digital strategies,” Armughan Ahmad, president and managing partner of digital at KPMG in Canada, said in a statement.

“But implementing these strategies is becoming more difficult, as the competition for digitally skilled talent is accelerating globally.”

While nearly 90 per cent of businesses said they are investing in upgrading the skills of workers, the poll found more than half of businesses are considering recruiting outside of Canada.

Businesses polled by KPMG ranked cybersecurity and data analytics as among the top skills needed in the work force.

Given the shortage of skilled workers, many companies are turning to outside sources to digitize their operations, the survey found.

About 73 per cent plan to use products or services from online platform providers while 63 per cent said they are looking to bring in third-party expertise or off-the-shelf software.

“Canadian businesses understand the power of technology and most have been making the necessary investments to digitize their operations,” Mary Jo Fedy, national enterprise leader for KPMG in Canada, said in a statement.

“The next challenge is ensuring they have the talent to use these new digital tools. While having the right technology is important, it’s only effective if your team possesses the skills to leverage it.”

KPMG polled 505 Canadian small and medium-sized business operators online between Aug. 6 and Aug. 15.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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