Future-Proofing the Workforce

A new study, co-created by the Adecco Group and The Boston Consulting Group, explores what the future of skills acquisition looks like for today’s workers and companies.

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Companies and workers could not be more in agreement: more needs to be done to acquire the skills necessary for a future that will be transformed by technology. 

However, despite that common acknowledgement, a new report from The Adecco Group and Boston Consulting Group reveals that neither employers nor the people they employ are doing enough to ready themselves for a future where many jobs will change and some will disappear completely.

The report, Future-Proofing the Workforce: Accelerating Skills Acquisition to Match the Pace of Change, involves survey results from 4,700 workers in nine countries along with in-depth interviews with executive leaders. The report reveals the worrisome gap between what companies and workers know they must do and what is actually being done to acquire the new skills necessary to keep pace with the relentless impact of technology.

“What is needed is a shift in mindset,” said Judith Wallenstein, a senior partner at BCG and a co-author of the report. “They need to adapt a more flexible approach, setting a path to re-/upskilling that can be adapted to changing circumstances.”

The report found that workers are very cognizant of the impact of technology on their jobs and, consequently, the obligation to acquire new skills to meet future workforce demands. Nearly nine in 10 worker respondents (89%) believe their jobs will change at some point during their careers as artificial intelligence, automation and digitization transform the nature of work. One quarter of respondents believe some aspects of their jobs will change every two to three years and another 10% believe their jobs will be in constant flux, making it very difficult to keep up. Only 11% believed their jobs will not change at all. 

As a result, workers are hungry to acquire new skills: 87% of respondents across all nine countries have considered acquiring new skills. Younger workers (ages 18-24), who believe they will see regular change in the nature of their jobs, are more bullish on acquiring new skills than older workers (ages 45-64), who see less future change in their jobs.

Employers, as well, appear to be fully aware of the challenge they face in re-/upskilling existing employees to meet future job demands. However, they are not always offering their employees the opportunities necessary to achieve their re-/upskilling aspirations.

Respondents believed overwhelmingly that they are chiefly responsible for acquiring new skills; nearly two-thirds (62%) acknowledged that they must chart their own future skills course. However, at the same time, workers continue to look to their employers to create the opportunities for re-/upskilling. 

Nearly six in 10 respondents believe employers should be responsible for developing training opportunities, while 46% believe their employers should provide the training. Those results certainly show that employers have a role to play in helping their employees achieve their re-/upskilling needs. 

“In terms of coping with the transformation of the world of work, reskilling and life-long learning are essential,” said Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group. “The report underlines the importance of businesses, individuals and policymakers coming together to focus more on employability and life-long learning.” 

Visit The Adecco Group for the full report and key learnings by country.
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