PwC: CEOs see skills shortage as top threat to business

22 June 2015

Eighty-four percent of UK CEOs view the skills shortage as a threat to their business, research by PwC shows. The firm’s global CEO survey highlights that while the vast majority of CEOs globally feel digital technologies will result in more growth opportunities for their business, almost three-quarter are worried about finding the right skills. To deal with the skills issue, CEOs are training their staff with the new skills and looking for recruits with broader skills sets.

As part of its ‘18th Annual Global CEO survey’, professional services firm PwC recently released its ‘People strategy for the digital age’ report for which it surveyed 1,300 CEOs on their people strategy and difficulties they encounter with their strategy in the digital age.

CEOs see opportunities in a wide range of digital innovations

The research reveals that the rise of digital innovations is seen as positive the majority of CEOs, with 61% feeling that these technologies enable more growth opportunities for their company than there were three years ago. The most important digital technologies for the organisation, named as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important by 81% of the CEOs, are mobile technologies for customer engagement, followed by data mining and analysis (80%) and cyber security (78%).

To fully benefit from the potential of digital technologies, companies need to find people with the right digital skills. According to the research, this is increasingly becoming a concern for CEOs, and is ranked as the second biggest threat to their business. Although half of the CEOs plan to hire new talent in the coming year, 73% indicate their worry about the right set of skills, which is up by 10% compared to 2014.

Recruiting needed skills

Commenting on the results, Jon Andrews, Leader of PwC’s Global People and Organisation Practice, says: “Despite rising business confidence and ambitious hiring plans, organisations are struggling more than ever to find the right people with the right skills to achieve their growth plans. The digital age has transformed the skills shortage from a nagging worry for CEOs into something more challenging.”

CEOs in Japan and South Africa are the most concerned, where 93% is worried about finding the right skills. China comes in second, at 90%, followed by Hong Kong (85%). In the UK, 84% CEOs are worried, which is above the global average of 73%. CEOs in France (37%), Italy (49%) and Spain (53%) are the least worried of the surveyed leaders.

CEOs are worried about finding the skills they need

To deal with the skills shortage, CEOs are changing the way they hire their people. More and more CEOs are equipping their employees with new skills through continuous learning, mentioned by 81%. The same percentage of CEOs indicates to look for a much broader range of skills than in the past when hiring new people. To find these new skills, CEOs are not only using multiple channels to find the talent (78%), they are also searching for talent in different geographies, industries or demographic segments (71%).

The research also shows that an increasing amount of businesses plan to work with external organisations (40%) and plan to use hire contractors, part-time employees, outsourcing and service agreements (33%) to fill their talent gaps.

Current talent activities

Andrews concludes: “Businesses are faced with a complex and shifting world where technology is driving huge changes. They desperately need people with strong technology skills that are adaptable and can work across different industries, but these people are hard to find and they can afford to charge a premium for their skills. Organisations can no longer continue to recruit people as they’ve always done – they need to be looking in new places, geographies and from new pools of talent. Businesses also need to make use of data to understand exactly what skills they need, and where they will need them, to focus their future hiring efforts.”