A new report by Accenture Strategy cautions that in a rapidly changing digital landscape, CEOs must lead the charge in reskilling their people to be relevant in the future and ready to adapt to change. According to the report, Harnessing Revolution: Creating the Future Workforce, CEOs must be mindful to put their people first and at the center of change to create the future workforce.
The stakes are high for businesses, workers and society as a whole. Development of human skills such as leadership, critical thinking and creative skills, as well as emotional intelligence, would reduce job losses due to total automation considerably. The survey of 10,527 working people in ten countries and Accenture Strategy modeling shows that if the rate at which workers build relevant skills is doubled, the share of jobs at risk of total automation in the U.S. in 2025 would be reduced from 10 percent to four percent. The same progress in the U.K. and Germany would result in reductions from nine to six percent and 15 to 10 percent 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 Dr. Roze Phillips, Managing Director for Accenture Consulting in South Africa.
“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.”
From the U.S. and France to Brazil, India and six other major countries surveyed, people are surprisingly positive about the impact of digital technology on the workplace. In fact, fully 84 percent of workers surveyed are optimistic about the impact of digital on their job. More than two-thirds think that technologies such as robots, data analytics and artificial intelligence will help them be more efficient (74 percent), learn new skills (73 percent) and improve the quality of their work (66 percent).
Eighty-seven percent of these working people expect parts of their job to be automated in the next five years, ranging from 93 percent of millennials to 79 percent of baby boomers. Of those who expect automation, 80 percent anticipate more opportunities than challenges in how automation will impact their work experiences in the next five years. Additional Accenture research shows that artificial intelligence alone has the potential to double the annual economic growth rates and boost labor productivity by up to 40 percent by 2035 in the 12 developed countries examined.
Additionally, the values of today’s workforce will require leaders to respond with a different range of rewards, benefits and support. According to modeling undertaken by Accenture Strategy and Gallup, non-financial factors, such as well-being, engagement, quality of life and status are equal, if not more important to workers than income and benefits.
“Creating the future workforce now is the responsibility of every CEO. 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,” said Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy.
To help leaders navigate and shape the future workforce, Accenture Strategy has the following recommendations:
Accelerate reskilling: From top to bottom, invest in technical and more human skills involving creativity and judgment, taking advantage of the fact that 85 percent of workers are ready to invest their free time in the next six months to learn new skills. Scale reskilling by using digital technology. This can include wearable technologies, such as smart glasses that provide technical advice and information as workers carry out tasks. It can also include intelligent software to personalise training that offers recommendations to support an individual’s life-long learning needs.
Redesign work to unlock human potential: Co-create role-based, gig-like employment opportunities to satisfy workers’ demands for more varied work and flexible arrangements. Develop platforms through which a range of resources and services can be offered to employees and freelancers alike in order to create a compelling community that keeps top talent loyal.
Strengthen the talent pipeline from its source: Address industry-wide skills shortages by supporting longer term, collective solutions. These include public private partnerships designed to create a broad adoption of skills training. Work with the education sector to design curricula that develop relevant skills at the beginning of the talent supply chain.
Accenture combined quantitative and qualitative research techniques in order to analyse how responsive and responsible leadership could help create the Future Workforce. The research program is built on three pillars of a survey, econometric modelling and an index, complimented by extensive secondary research and in-depth interviews with leading experts from universities, start-ups, large corporations and government organisations.
The online survey was conducted in the U.S., Brazil, U.K., France, Germany, Australia, Italy, India, Japan and Turkey of 10,527 workers across skill levels and generations. The survey was conducted between November 26 and December 9, 2016.