HR Must Convince Tech CEOs to Follow Amazon’s Lead on Upskilling

Learning Brain

A minority of technology CEOs plan to develop their workforce, says a report from KPMG. Given Amazon’s plans to upskill a third of its workers over the next six years, industry HR leaders have an opportunity to refocus leadership’s attention and prepare their organizations to integrate advanced systems.

According to KPMG’s The Future of HR in the Technology Sector, just 42 percent of industry leaders see themselves upskilling their workforce, despite widespread expectation that artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies will impact how people do their jobs.

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KPMG noted that its findings contrast to a 2018 World Economic Forum report, which showed at least 54 percent of the workforce across industries will require significant re-training by 2022.

Companies that plan to integrate technologies such as AI, analytics and intelligent automation will have no choice but to reskill their workforce, said Tim Zanni, KPMG’s Global Technology Sector leader. “Despite these new market demands, many technology CEOs do not have reskilling initiatives underway.”

Who’s Leading on Upskilling?

HR isn’t exactly pushing for more learning initiatives, the report said. While almost 70 percent of tech HR leaders recognize the need for transformation, only 50 percent have plans to help workers refine existing skills or develop new ones.

And here’s an interesting nugget: In general, tech leaders believe AI will create more jobs than it eliminates—with the exception of HR. Only 47 percent of tech HR executives believe AI will drive job creation. That’s compared to 65 percent of Millennials and 96 percent of Baby Boomer tech leaders.

That implies HR’s missing an opportunity. “HR executives who can overcome C-suite hesitancy and other internal obstacles to inspire their leadership to action have the opportunity to elevate themselves to trusted advisor and strategic business partner,” KPMG said. However, the report added, to achieve that lofty status HR must become fluent in emerging technologies.

Notably, only 35 percent of HR executives are “very confident” about their department’s ability to transform. Forty percent said their current culture is a major barrier, focused more on tasks than experimentation or innovation.

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An Upskilling Culture

Of course, KPMG has a prescription for changing this dynamic. It includes:

  • Making HR more valuable to the business by using applications and new skills to leverage new technologies such as AI and analytics.
  • Refine employee roles and train as necessary to align with future needs.
  • Prepare to integrate AI into a future workforce that combines human and digital labor and allows them to collaborate.
  • Value employees as “customers.” 
  • Become comfortable with new technologies.

On Thursday, Amazon said it will spend more than $700 million to upskill a third of its American workforce, its goal being to help employees move into new jobs across nearly all of its operations.

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