CEOs must help employees develop human skills such as leadership, critical thinking and creativity, to ensure they remain relevant in the age of digital automation, according to Accenture.
Accenture Strategy’s Harnessing Revolution: Creating the Future Workforce report predicted that if the rate at which workers build relevant skills is doubled, the share of jobs at risk of total automation in the US in 2025 would be reduced from 10% to 4%. The same progress in the UK and Germany would result in reductions from 9% to 6% and 15% to 10% respectively.
“Paradoxically, the truly human skills, from leadership to creativity, will remain highly relevant and winning organisations will strike the right balance – leveraging the best of technology to elevate, not eliminate their people,” said Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture. “Not only are workers optimistic, but they understand they must learn new skills. Digital can accelerate learning by embedding training seamlessly into daily work so learning becomes a way of life, helping workers and organisations remain relevant.”
The report also found that 84% of survey respondents are ‘excited’ about the impact of digital technology on their current role. Most believe technologies such as robots, data analytics and artificial intelligence will help them be more efficient (74%), learn new skills (73%) and improve the quality of their work (66%).
While 87% of these employees expect parts of their job to be automated in the next five years, 80% predict that new automation technologies will provide more opportunities than challenges. This is reflected in recent Accenture research which found that artificial intelligence alone has the potential to double annual economic growth rates and boost labour productivity by up to 40% by 2035.
Accenture Strategy recommended that CEOs should invest in company-wide reskilling programmes to ensure employees have the technical and human skills they will need in the digital era. It suggested that wearable technologies could be used to provide real-time technical advice as workers carry out tasks, while intelligent software could be used to personalise training to every individual.
In addition, CEOs should work with employees to co-create role-based employment opportunities to satisfy workers’ demands for more varied work and flexible arrangements.
Finally, they should aim to address industry-wide skills shortages by forming long-term public-private partnerships, particularly with the education sector, to design curricula that develop relevant skills at the beginning of the talent supply chain.
“Creating the future workforce now is the responsibility of every CEO,” said Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive at Accenture Strategy. “Those leaders who make their people a strategic business priority and understand the urgency of this challenge will be the ones that make the greatest gains in growth and innovation.”