Only 10% of firms have started upskilling employees as automation comes in

As automation begins to change the way people work, only a small percentage of firms have begun full-scale projects to give their existing staff new skills

Only 10% of organisations globally have begun full-scale upskilling programmes for their workforce to give them the abilities they need to deal with the impact of automation, according to a study by Capgemini.

The research found that 91% of organisations have started or completed a new training curriculum for their employees, but only a small number have been able to run full-scale training operations or put these curricula in place.

About one-third of organisations have not started putting in place the relevant partnerships or infrastructure to be able to deliver this new skills training, and 73% have not yet started a pilot for educating existing employees.

Claudia Crummenerl, managing director, people and organisation practice at Capgemini Invent, said that without providing the right education for staff, organisations will not get the most out of automation.

“Automation offers significant benefits to large organisations, but only if the implementation of technology is matched by the upskilling of people,” she said. “Too many big companies are lagging in developing training programmes and, as this research shows, are not realising full productivity benefits as a result.

“There is no question that automation is going to transform the workforce and existing job roles, but the crucial factor is that companies make faster progress to prepare themselves, and their employees, to realise the benefits of automation.”

While some workers remain concerned that automation will replace them in the workplace, many have found that an increase in automation will actually create jobs and allow existing employees to become more creative.

Many also believe that the only way to prevent automation technology from having a major impact on the workforce is to continuously give employees new skills.

Despite mass adoption of automation, more than half of firms’ HR and general management have said the impact of automation on the workforce specifically is not a key part of their considerations for their organisation’s wider strategy.

Almost 60% of executives and employees have said automation has not yet boosted productivity in their organisation in the way they expected.

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But Capgemini’s research found that firms with 50,000 or more staff that have implemented and are running an upskilling programme to complement the adoption of automation could save about $90m more each year than companies that are not giving existing employees new skills or do not plan to.   

For companies that are using a skills programme to teach employees alongside the adoption of automation, workers and executives are more optimistic about the impact automation will have.

Some 46% of executives and 52% of employees from organisations that are upskilling at the same time as adopting automation say it is improving productivity, compared with 42% of employees and 35% of executives in firms without upskilling programmes.

But some are not finding their new skills useful – 61% of employees said upskilling programmes have not helped them to do their work more effectively, and more than half said the skills they have learned have not made them more employable.

However, as upskilling programmes continue in organisations, employees become more positive, with 76% of those part-way through an upskilling programme feeling positive about their career progression, 48% claiming improved morale and 57% saying they are carrying out new responsibilities.

Overall, 62% of employees said internal skills programmes helped them to avoid losing their job and more than half said upskilling helped them to reduce the number of repetitive activities they were performing.

One of the most common use cases for automation adoption currently is to automate more mundane and repetitive tasks, allowing employees to use softer, more creative skills in the workplace.

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