|25 October, 2017

Saudi CEOs urged to start skills revolution to unlock potential of digital age

In Saudi Arabia, 9 out of 10 workers (93%) are excited about the changes that technology is bringing and will bring to their work in the next five years.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A Saudi man explores social media on his mobile device in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A Saudi man explores social media on his mobile device in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
RIYADH - A study by Accenture Strategy cautions that in a rapidly changing digital landscape, CEOs must lead the charge in reskilling their people to be relevant in the future and ready to adapt to change. According to the study, "Harnessing Revolution: Creating the Future Workforce," CEOs must be mindful to put their people first and at the center of change to create the future workforce.

The stakes are high for businesses, workers and society as a whole. Development of human skills such as leadership, critical thinking and creative skills, as well as emotional intelligence, would reduce job losses due to total automation considerably. The survey of 10,816 working people in 12 countries and Accenture Strategy modeling shows that if the rate at which workers build these relevant skills is doubled, the share of jobs at risk of total automation in the US in 2025 would be reduced from 10 percent to four percent. The same progress in the U.K. and Germany would result in reductions from nine to six percent and 15 to 10 percent respectively.

In Saudi Arabia, 9 out of 10 workers (93 percent) are excited about the changes that technology is bringing and will bring to their work in the next five years. They believe there will be significant changes in how the next generation will work and are optimistic that the changes to come will result in more opportunities (64 percent) than challenges (33 percent). Over the next five years, 43 percent from the UAE expect part of their job to be significantly automated. In Saudi Arabia, this was higher at 50 percent.

Considering the progressive changes, almost all the workers (99 percent) in Saudi Arabia are ready to invest their free time to learn a new set of skills, so that they can remain relevant in their work. Four in five (81 percent) also consider learning new skills regularly as critical to remaining relevant in their working life. A high proportion (85 percent) have acted to develop new skills within the past 12 months, with most doing on-the-job training. In 63 percent of the cases, it was the employer who identified the learning opportunities for their workers.

Visar Sala, managing director and Accenture Strategy lead in the Middle East and Turkey, said: "With the rapid advancement of technology, truly human skills, from leadership to creativity, remain more relevant than ever. The winning organizations will be those that leverage technology to enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of their workforce rather than using it as a mere tool to cut costs. The fact that workers in this region are more optimistic and willing to adapt to changes helps significantly in shaping a dynamic workforce of the future."

Globally, people are surprisingly positive about the impact of digital technology on the workplace. In fact, fully 84 percent of workers surveyed for the study are optimistic about the impact of digital on their job. A clear majority think that technologies such as robots, data analytics and artificial intelligence will help them be more efficient (74 percent), learn new skills (73 percent) and improve the quality of their work (66 percent). In Saudi Arabia, the respondents also had a highly positive outlook on technology’s impact with 88 percent saying it will help efficiency, 87 percent stating it will help them develop new skills, and 89 percent thinking it will help the quality of their work.

Detailed in the global study, 87percent of working people expect parts of their job to be automated in the next five years, ranging from 93 percent of millennials to 79 percent of baby boomers. Of those who expect automation, 80 percent anticipate more opportunities than challenges in how automation will impact their work experiences in the next five years. Additional Accenture research shows that artificial intelligence alone has the potential to double the annual economic growth rates and boost labor productivity by up to 40 percent by 2035 in the 12 developed countries examined.

Additionally, the values of today’s workforce will require leaders to respond with a different range of rewards, benefits and support. According to modeling undertaken by Accenture Strategy and Gallup, non-financial factors, such as well-being, engagement, quality of life and status are equal, if not more important to workers than income and benefits.

"Creating the future workforce is now the responsibility of every CEO. Those leaders who make their people a strategic business priority and understand the urgency of this challenge will be the ones that make the greatest gains in growth and innovation," said Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy.

To help leaders navigate and shape the future workforce, Accenture Strategy has the following recommendations:

• Accelerate reskilling: From top to bottom, invest in technical and more human skills involving creativity and judgment, taking advantage of the fact that 85 percent of workers are ready to invest their free time in the next six months to learn new skills. Scale reskilling by using digital technology. This can include wearable technologies, such as smart glasses that provide technical advice and information as workers carry out tasks. It can also include intelligent software to personalize training that offers recommendations to support an individual’s life-long learning needs.

Redesign work to unlock human potential: Co-create role-based, gig-like employment opportunities to satisfy workers’ demands for more varied work and flexible arrangements. Develop platforms through which a range of resources and services can be offered to employees and freelancers alike in order to create a compelling community that keeps top talent loyal.

• Strengthen the talent pipeline from its source: Address industry-wide skills shortages by supporting longer term, collective solutions. These include public private partnerships designed to create a broad adoption of skills training. Work with the education sector to design curricula that develop relevant skills at the beginning of the talent supply chain. - SG

© Copyright 2017 The Saudi Gazette. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

More From Technology