UK companies failing to equip workforce with skills they need for the future

Nov 26, 2018

  • Only 41% of employees in the UK believe employers are providing them with the skills they needed for work in the future
  • More than half of 18-34 year olds in the UK would work in the gig economy compared to less than 30% of those above that age group

Business needs to invest and focus on the human skills of creativity, leadership and adaptability to better prepare the workforce for the future.

A survey of 1,246 business and HR leaders from 79 countries by PwC finds that 87% of companies believe human skills are a critical capability for the future, but only 33% have talent practices that drive these skills. A similar percentage use data analytics to predict and monitor skills gaps in the workforce.  

Separate employee research from PwC found that only 41% of employees in the UK believe their employer is providing them with the skills they need for work in the future.

Alastair Woods, partner at PwC, commented:

“HR departments must lead the way in growing and building the capabilities the workforce of tomorrow will require. The impact of automation and robotics over the course of the next decade will mean some tasks disappear, but new activities will emerge that rely on uniquely human skills like judgement, empathy, innovation. To prepare for this change HR teams must develop a thorough understanding of future needs and put in place the learning and development programmes and other tools like performance management to help and underpin this transition.”

The changing nature of work is accompanied by an increase in the numbers of contractors, freelancers and portfolio workers. A rising number of partnerships between large organisations and smaller start-ups are providing ready access to innovation and talent on demand. Identifying where and how to engage this flexible talent will become increasingly important for organisations, yet few are prepared for this shift. Only 8% of global respondents strongly agree their organisations are able to engage easily with this valuable resource as and when they are needed.

Separate employee research by PwC finds more than half (55%) of 18-34 year olds in the UK would work in the gig economy compared to less than 30% of those above that age group. They cite having greater control and flexibility as being positive aspects around this.

This flexibility desired by younger generations is recognised by business and HR leaders as increasingly important in attracting and retaining talent (70%). However, less than half (45%) currently give their employees a high degree of autonomy and control around when and where they work.

Alastair Woods added:

“Firms need to think about how they embrace flexibility while ensuring workers get a fair deal. Businesses are missing a trick by ignoring the huge value gig economy workers could add to a company and are failing to invest in tapping into this workforce. HR has a role to play in preparing the organisation for growing numbers of gig workers and moving from a ‘one size fits all’ HR model. With attitudes changing, and gig working seen as a positive alternative employment model, it should fall to HR to design the recruitment, reward and recognition elements that will attract gig workers and see them return.”


About the report

PwC’s 2018 Workforce of the Future report - Preparing for Tomorrow’s Workforce Today – is based on a survey of 1,246 business and HR leaders from 79 countries. 59% of the respondents were HR professionals, and 41% were business executives, of which 13% were C-suite level leaders. A copy of the report can be downloaded at:

PwC’s Employee Research was an on-line survey across 2,001 UK employees (8,142 employees globally) across all sectors. 48% were men and 52% were women.

About PwC

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