Tech CEOs hesitant to upskill workforce despite anticipated impact of AI on jobs
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Within the next three years, only 42% of tech CEOs plan to upskill the majority of their workforce, according to a KPMG report.
However, the 2018 World Economic Forum projected that at least 54% of employees in all industries will need to be reskilled and upskilled if companies are expected to remain competitive. The Forum notes that, in order for companies to succeed in a workplace that is becoming more digital, agile and global, employees must be equipped with the right skills.
Other insights from the KPMG report:
- Technology company CEOs acknowledge that the effectiveness of certain key teams remains less-than-optimal, but many still do not have broad reskilling initiatives planned.
- Almost 70% of tech company HR executives recognize the need for workforce transformation, but only 50% have a plan in place.
So, why aren’t more tech CEOs reskilling or upskilling their employees — and is this a problem?
Gerrit Brouwer, who has been at the helm of two tech companies, considers the lack of re- and upskilling a serious issue. Brouwer is co-founder of Keypath. He was also the co-founder of Appical, which he sold last year. “Companies are losing their competitive advantage in the market if they are not investing in training their workforce on AI,” he says.
And since tech companies are on the cutting edge of new technologies, why wouldn’t they make improving skills a priority? “I don’t think they fully realize that the future is already here, and new tools like AI, data analytics, and automation are being integrated into their competitors’ businesses,” says Sarah Boisvert, founder of the Fab Lab Hub.
Both Brouwer and Boisvert believe that traditional modes of learning and training are also problematic. “Traditional organizations are struggling to hire and retain millennials because their top-down and resources do not match — for example, traditional classroom training with outdated materials is simply not enough,” Brouwer explains.
Traditional upskilling or reskilling has always been expensive and time-intensive, and Boisvert says many tech CEOs assume that this is still the case. Another problem with the traditional programs: she says they don’t relate to the skills needed. “So, employees would come out of a six-month or year-long program and could not fulfill the job’s needs,” Boisvert explains.
“However, new skill-specific micro-certifications like Digital Badges offer affordable options that target exactly what the employer needs and are offered during convenient times,” she says.
Why it’s important
These days, competitors can be foreign or domestic, and Boisvert says companies have to reskill to survive. “While exciting disruptive technologies like AI, 3-D printing, laser machining, robotics, etc., are invading not just tech but all industries, it takes people to operate and service these machines.” She says that robots are not designing, programing and repairing themselves — at least not yet.
Tech CEOs may not realize it but reskilling and upskilling helps the company in other ways. “It brings more awareness and insights to employees regarding the clients, products, services and even employee well-being,” Brouwer says.
“Alignment allows employees to react faster to market developments and ensures companies are able to retain their key talent.” Therefore, if employees are trained in the right way, he says this increases the company’s competitive advantage.
In a tight job market, retaining employees and attracting new talent are essential to any tech company’s success. “I strongly believe that reskilling is necessary in the tech arena if you want your employer brand to grow and your employees to stick around with your company,” says Max Kunytsia, CPO at Chanty.
New technologies emerge every month and he says employers continue to ask for new skill sets. “I think it’s far better to give your employees the room to grow and teach them while they are at your company, rather than letting their knowledge go stale.”
According to Kunytsia, reskilling shows your employees:
- You care about them and their future career
- You want them to stay with you and not seek new challenges in another company
- You want to invest in retaining your existing employees instead of hiring someone new
However, it may not be necessary for every tech company to engage in extensive training.
Lilia Stoyanov, CEO at Transformify, says her company only relies on AI and machine learning to a certain extent. “Due to this reason, I don't plan to reskill the entire tech team as there is no business need for that,” she says. Stoyanov believes that CEOs of other companies that are not fully dependent on emerging technologies don’t plan on reskilling everyone, either.
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