January 17, 2017
WEF 2017: Why "responsive and responsible leadership" means futureproofing the workforce
By: Payal Vasudeva

This week, leaders from across the globe gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual get together. This year, one of the main themes under discussion is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” and Accenture will be using the event to launch our research into this critically important topic.

We believe that due to seismic shifts in technology and society, the future workforce is going to be radically different from that of today. The changes ahead will have a huge impact on individuals, organisations, economies and societies, and leaders will need to step in to ensure change is beneficial—both for the company and its people.

Business leaders that fail to act risk leaving scores of workers behind, and in the process damaging their organisation’s ability to compete.

The future workforce

The main driver for change is digital technology. We’ve found that technology is progressing much faster than organisations’ ability to change, and many leaders are lagging in their efforts to create a relevant and adaptable workforce.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the rise of artificial intelligence. It’s widely reported that many workers fear being made redundant by this new technology, but our research reveals exactly the opposite: we found that workers are optimistic that new technologies will improve their work experience by a ratio of more than 4:1 in the UK (6:1 globally).

Moreover, while 93 percent of the people we spoke to in the UK recognise that they will need to reskill to stay relevant at work, 75 percent believe the opportunities of automation outweigh the challenges. They see technology as a democratising tool that will increasingly allow them to work on their own terms.

Preparing for the workforce revolution

So, what practical steps can business leaders take today to prepare themselves for the changes that lie ahead? At Accenture Strategy, we believe there are three actions that are essential to responsive and responsible business leadership:

  1. Accelerate reskilling. Eighty-one percent of British workers we spoke to are ready to invest their free time in the next six months to learn new skills. Take advantage of this to invest in technical skills and truly human skills involving creativity and judgment.

  2. Redesign work to unlock human potential. Satisfy workers’ demands for more flexible arrangements through gig-like employment opportunities. Develop platforms to enable virtual collaboration, and connect employees and freelancers. Business leaders also need to build a better understanding of both the rational and emotional changes in today’s workforce to maximise the value individuals derive from their work

  3. Strengthen the talent pipeline from its source. Address industry-wide skills shortages by supporting longer term, collective solutions including partnerships with schools and other educational establishments.

Business leaders also need to build a better understanding of the rational and emotional changes in today’s workforce to maximise the value individuals derive from their work. In my next post, I’ll explore this topic further with reference to the findings of our Worker Values Index, which we developed in partnership with Gallup—so tune in again later this week.

Our full report, released today at WEF Davos, Harnessing revolution: Creating the future workforce, is now available. 

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