Businesses Prioritize Technology Over Upskilling, Report Says

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Employers are putting their money where their technology is, investing more in systems than they are in upskilling, according to new research from Adecco.

The report comes just weeks after KPMG said only 42 percent of technology industry leaders plan to upskill their workforce, even though most analysts, if not most employers, believe that artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies will impact how people do their jobs. Earlier this month, Amazon announced plans to upskill some 100,000 U.S. workers—at a cost of more than $700 million—to prepare them for new roles in a technology-driven workplace.

Employers are investing more in technology than they are in upskilling, despite tech's growing influence and @Amazon’s lead. @Adecco_UK #HR #HRTech Click To Tweet

“The harder it is to hire workers from the outside, the more sense it makes to invest in training the workers you already have,” Jed Kolko, Indeed’s chief economist, told the Associated Press after Amazon’s announcement.

Adecco’s report, People, Technology and the Future of Upskilling, said 52 percent of UK business leaders plan to prioritize technology, compared to 24 percent who’ll emphasize upskilling.

However, the survey of 500 managers, directors and business owners found different management levels have different priorities. Just 28 percent of middle managers and 33 percent of directors prioritize investment in technology. However, 34 percent of middle managers and 45 percent of directors said their emphasis is on upskilling. 

Chart: Adecco

Leaders Expect Benefits Without Upskilling

Nor surprisingly, a clear majority of businesses, 94 percent, recognize that changing technology will impact the skills they need over the next three years. Middle managers are more likely than business owners—43 percent compared to 35 percent—to believe technology will require increased learning. Overall, only 43 percent of businesses admit their budgets are holding them back from providing necessary training. 

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As we’ve seen before, the closer managers are to the workforce, the more they believe technical change will make some kind of difference. While 41 percent of middle managers say technology will increase flexibility, only 28 percent of business owners agree.  

And it seems that even without training, business owners anticipate their workforce will become more productive (43 percent), efficient (41 percent) and effective (38 percent) because of technology over the next three years. 

Shelly Preston, head of Adecco Retail, called the emphasis on technology over learning “concerning.” The benefits business leaders are hoping for, she said, “will only materialize if their employees have the right skills to work alongside machines. The key to success is having a cohesive technology and upskilling strategy.”

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