HR departments lack 'good understanding' of automation impact on skills

30 January 2018

According to a new study, around a third of global companies with revenues over $100 million are planning to upgrade their HR infrastructure. However, four in every ten in the US, and a quarter of those Europe said that they currently lack a “good understanding” of how automated processes could impact their skills requirements.

A colossal process of digital transformation is set to sweep global industry, as automation makes increasing numbers of jobs redundant. Recent research found that most types of work will be impacted, with certain types, seeing up to 60% of their normal workday displaced by more efficient robotic or software processes.

The impact on everyday workers, and the wider economy, remain key unknowns. The long-term trend for workers’ wage growth, around two thirds in the US haven’t seen a pay increase in 40 years when adjusting for inflation, suggests that workers are unlikely to be compensated, even while available work dwindles.

Reskilling workers with a wider or broader skillset, compensating for changes in in-demand skills, is cited as one way to reduce the impact of changes in the work environment. However, given the potential scale of changes, as well as the speed of implementation – key questions remain around whether retooling people at scale is achievable, or even desirable.

Potential skill gap on organisation agenda

Wider conversations around the future of work, and why we exist, will need to broached, as economic activity and a right to exist, which remains deeply ingrained in a wide range of religious and ideological sensibilities, become estranged from each other. The role of businesses in wider society, too might need to shift, with society trumping business – with the fruits of the latter increasingly shared, even among those whom do not work – providing space for freed arts and science.

New analysis from McKinsey & Company considers how businesses might initially invest heavily in reskilling their current workforce, as well as the wider impact of such changes on the work world. The analysis involved data from 300 executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues.

Businesses surveyed are beginning to perceive importance in addressing potential skill gaps related to automation and/or digitalisation within their organisation’s workforce. This is particularly the case in the US and Europe, compared to the global response, in part due to the more advanced nature of the respective economies, and their focus on automation and digitalisation.

Across all companies and economies surveyed, 7% cited addressing potential skill gaps related to automation and/or digitalisation within their organisation’s workforce as their top priority, with similar numbers to the US, also 7%, and Europe, 6%. However, the numbers begin to spread when considered within the top 5 priorities, to 20% globally, 22% in the US and 23% in Europe.

Private sector organisations key to retraining

A key driver for the change, the consultancy noted, is due to increased urgency for enterprise-wide transformations, which, has seen around a third of executives seek to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their employees. However, the next five years are set to see increased focus on transformations, which will, in turn, impact on staff.

Skills gap

When asked who should take the lead on addressing any potential skill gap related to automation and/or digitalisation over the next five years, respondents, by a wide margin, believe it should be corporations themselves, with 64% saying so in the US and 59% across Europe. Educational institutions are largely not seen as key, with their remit the development of human potential in its widest sense, not economic agents (human resources).

While retraining is on the minds of executives, the research also shows that large number of people may need to find a new job – if one still exists for their skillset. The research found that in the US, 27% of respondents who have the skillgap in their top 10 priorities, will focus mainly on retraining, while 35% say they will look to retraining and hiring, with a further 30% mainly focused on hiring.In Europe, meanwhile, 45% say that they will mainly focus on retraining and 49% on a mix of hiring and retraining.

How can your organisation resolve skill gaps?

According to recent research, the digital skills gap is set to grow as employers are presently failing to meet the expectations of their employees for retraining. Almost six in every ten organisations in Britain alone say they are currently working to respond to such a skills gap, as they bid to successfully transform their business models. However, high numbers of staff feel that their company’s training efforts are not enough, meaning that the gap may continue to grow.

However, this report notes that, while automation and digitalisation is likely to create considerable impact on wider economies and the social fabric itself, business leaders too find themselves in the dark as to the actual impact of the changes, as well as the kinds of skills that will be needed over the coming decade. With around a third planning to upgrade their HR infrastructure, while 42% in the United States, 24% in Europe, said that they currently lack a “good understanding of how automation and/or digitisation will affect our future skills needs.”

Companies are also increasingly concerned about their right to exist, with for-profit motives, key to the very definition of business, increasingly seen parasitic, rather than cohesive to society.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.