In a digital workplace, speed is the new currency. New roles are cropping up—even in the C-suite where Chief Digital Officers are being appointed—and fast-moving market entrants are shaking up the competition. But while our recent Accenture Strategy survey1 shows 89 percent of employers recognize that they need to take actions now to transition their workforce to succeed in the digital economy, half of that number admit they lack the digital skills and capabilities to do so. And they are dragging their heels in making it happen. Fewer than one-fifth say they already are a digital business and 79 percent are prepared to wait and see or be a fast follower to define a skills and talent management strategy for the digital age. Employers also admit they feel ill-prepared to be digital in terms of tapping into non-traditional talent, work processes and HR and talent practices. Employers clearly need to close the gap between where they want to be and where they are to secure the workforce of the future.
While employers are cautious, we found employees are upbeat about being digital.2 Here’s another warning shot for business leaders. Fail to capitalize on employees who are ready to embrace digital transformation and you could find them seeking out the arms of a competitor—armed with the new digital skills that 64 percent of them say they are proactively learning.
We believe employers have a terrific opportunity to act on their digital strategies, adjust skill sets, and prioritize workforce changes. As basic tasks become more automated, their workers can expect to take on higher value roles. Foundational skills will be in demand, like strong business acumen. And new specialized and unique jobs will be created. Employers know the benefits from being digital are more than saving costs—both business leaders and employees agree that improvements in innovation, agility and quality of work are all there for the taking.
Nobody said that being digital was easy. While business leaders’ aspirations are high—39 percent want to be a digital leader—there is much work to do which can’t wait. The workforce of the future was a key component of the Accenture Strategy Digital Forum, held in Brussels in May 2015, which saw contributions from business leaders and industry experts. Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness examined the role of policy makers and explored the impact on jobs, saying: “Going forward, a key priority is to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness and stimulate investment as a means to encourage job creation.”3