This year’s CEO Survey found 79% of UK CEOs see the availability of key skills as a top business threat that will impact their growth prospects in the next 12 months. This skills shortage stifles innovation and raises workforce costs. But there are also more widespread implications. Companies are unable to pursue growth opportunities, key initiatives are cancelled and quality standards can slip.
With the right skills in short supply, CEOs are considering how to source the talent they need. Previous years have seen CEOs exploring the idea of hiring people from other sectors – particularly industries that are further along the innovation journey – and making use of contingent workers when the “gig economy” is appropriate. But this year, CEOs identified significant retraining, or upskilling, as the most important activity to close the skills gap, followed by establishing a strong pipeline directly from education and hiring from competitors coming in 3rd.
It’s understandable that organisations are focusing on reskilling – there’s certainly an appetite for it, with 74% of people surveyed in our Workforce of the Future report ready to learn new skills or re-train to remain employable in the future. This willingness to be adaptable as the economy changes will be critical as the workforce evolves in future and roles change alongside emerging technologies.
But the picture of who’s responsible for helping solve this skills gap is less clear. Skills mismatches directly affect organisations, making them less productive and holding back growth. But the effect goes much wider, having a direct impact on a nation’s GDP, tax revenues and social safety net bill.
As a result, reskilling programmes are being explored by both organisations and governments. But there are mixed views on where the responsibility for workers displaced by automation and AI should fall, with just over half of CEOs feeling that it’s government’s responsibility to protect those displaced by technology. If these opinions are to turn into an actionable strategy, we need an honest, collaborative conversation across every part of society about what automation means for businesses and society, how to manage the transition, and who should help those who are vulnerable or interested in learning.
If we’re to tackle the skills gap and prepare the workforce for different ways of working in the future, we think a collaborative approach will be required between governments, organisations, and society at large. We’ve laid out 5 recommendations below that society can take to prepare for the workforce of the future.
Do you have a clear view of your emerging skills gap?
Are you providing a clear narrative to your workforce about the skills your business needs for the future?
Have you thought about how your employee experience combines with your upskilling programmes to unleash the workforce performance you need?