Tackle tech skills and greater trust may follow

Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC UK Kevin-ellis

Disruption from emerging technology is now a fact of life. Business leaders are considering how the fourth industrial revolution will impact their operations and employees. They are acutely aware of the change technologies such as AI, blockchain and robotics could bring. Our 21st annual global CEO Survey, published this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, underlines this. More than two thirds of the UK CEOs polled agree emerging technology and automation will disrupt their business over the next five years. 

The next stage of the challenge is capitalising on the digital revolution by having the right people with the right skills to apply and embrace cloud technologies, data analytics, robotics and more. Technological changes will have a significant impact on the jobs market. How UK businesses respond will determine their own and the UK’s future success. 

Ensuring they can attract and develop the right talent is a top priority for UK CEOs and the availability of key skills is one of their prime concerns. Six in 10 (62%) don’t believe they currently have sufficient digital skills amongst their workforce and a significant 38% believe it is difficult to attract the right kind of digital talent.

Creating the next generation of skilled workers and attracting and retaining tech talent will be essential in a post-Brexit world. The more UK CEOs take the lead and innovate, the greater the likelihood that the UK will maintain its competitive position on the international stage.

There are positive signs they are taking practical steps to address this issue. Three quarters (77%) say they are improving compensation and benefit packages to attract or develop people with digital skills. But the digital skills shortage means companies are unlikely to meet their needs through recruitment and retention alone. So it’s encouraging that nearly two thirds (63%) of leaders are using or plan to use apprenticeships and internships to grow their workforce, while developing the skills they need for today and tomorrow. Our own new technology degree apprenticeship will give 100 people per year the chance to develop the right skills and experience to kick off a tech career, as well as providing us with a pipeline of talent for the future.

But it’s not just about the workforce of tomorrow. Business leaders also need to focus on the workforce of today. PwC’s economic analysis forecasts that up to 30% of UK jobs could be impacted by automation by 2030. That’s a significant proportion of workers at risk of being left behind, but business leaders appear to be increasingly alive to this.

More than half of UK CEOs recognise they have a responsibility to retrain employees whose tasks and jobs may be impacted by automation. Upskilling existing employees is as vital as creating the next generation of tech talent, particularly given we estimate a higher proportion of lower skilled jobs are at risk of automation, For example, in sectors such as transportation, storage and manufacturing. This is an area where business can take a lead. Business and Government can work together to help current and future employees develop skills that keep pace with technological change.

Nearly nine out of 10 UK CEOs also recognise the need to strengthen harder to automate soft skills, such as teamwork and communication, alongside digital skills. 

According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer published this week, only 43% of the general population trust business. 60% of respondents believe that CEOs should lead change, rather than wait for regulators to impose it. Equipping people with the skills to stay relevant and employable is a vital and tangible way businesses can make a valuable contribution to society and start to bridge the trust gap. Improving social mobility will mean keeping people in work, as well as opening up the workplace to people from diverse backgrounds. Businesses have an opportunity, and responsibility, to really benefit people’s lives. 


« A strong business outlook means it’s time to invest in people and in digital: Findings from PwC’s 2018 CEO Survey | Main | CEOs in Davos — Are they talking your language? »


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