Tuesday 24, October 2017 by Jessica Combes

UAE CEOs must start skills revolution to unlock potential of the digital age

 

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 a study by Accenture Strategy.

The study, Harnessing Revolution: Creating the Future Workforce, CEOs must be mindful to put their people first and at the centre 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 10,816 working people in 12 countries and Accenture Strategy modelling shows that if the rate at which workers build these relevant skills is doubled, the share of jobs at risk of total automation in the US in 2025 would be reduced from 10 per cent to four per cent. The same progress in the UK and Germany would result in reductions from nine to six per cent and 15 to 10 per cent respectively.

In the UAE, 92 per cent of workers are excited about the changes that technology is bringing and will bring to their work in the next five years. They believe there will be significant changes in how the next generation will work; 56 per cent are optimistic that the changes to come will result in more opportunities than the 43 per cent who expect challenges. Over the next five years, 43 per cent from the UAE expect part of their job to be significantly automated. In Saudi Arabia, this was higher at 50 per cent.

Considering the progressive changes, 93 per cent of the workers  in the UAE are ready to invest their free time to learn a new set of skills, so that they can remain relevant in their work. Furthermore, 75 per cent also consider learning new skills regularly as critical to remaining relevant in their working life, while 89 per cent have acted to develop new skills within the past 12 months, with most doing on-the-job training. In 66 per cent of the cases, it was the employer who identified the learning opportunities for their workers.

“With the rapid advancement of technology, truly human skills, from leadership to creativity, remain more relevant than ever. The winning organisations will be those that leverage technology to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of their workforce rather than using it as a mere tool to cut costs. The fact that workers in this region are more optimistic and willing to adapt to changes helps significantly in shaping a dynamic workforce of the future,” said Visar Sala, managing director and Accenture Strategy lead in the Middle East and Turkey.

Globally, people are surprisingly positive about the impact of digital technology on the workplace.  In fact, 84 per cent of workers surveyed for the study are optimistic about the impact of digital on their job. A clear majority, 74 per cent, think that technologies such as robots, data analytics and artificial intelligence will help them be more efficient, with 73 per cent  saying they will help the learn new skills; and 66 per cent  said technologies will improve the quality of their work.

In the UAE, the respondents also had a highly positive outlook on technology’s impact with 76 per cent saying it will help efficiency, 74 per cent stating it will help them develop new skills, and 85 per cent thinking it will help the quality of their work. 

Detailed in the global study, 87percent of working people expect parts of their job to be automated in the next five years, ranging from 93 per cent of millennials to 79 per cent of baby boomers. Of those who expect automation, 80 per cent 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 labour productivity by up to 40 per cent 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 modelling 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 is now 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 judgement , taking advantage of the fact that 85 per cent 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.