Accenture 2013 skills and employment trends survey: Perspectives on training

The Skills and Employment Trends Survey assesses hiring, staffing and training strategies at large US companies.


Executives at large US companies believe a skills gap persists for their businesses, and that many companies will not have the skills they need in the next one to two years. In a positive sign, many US businesses plan to increase their investments in training in the next two years.

The Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey was conducted with 400 executives at large US companies with annual revenues of $250 million or more. Respondents included executives from a representative national sample of industries, including:

  • Manufacturing

  • Transportation, communication, utilities

  • Wholesale trade

  • Services

  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing

  • Mining

  • Construction

  • Retail, finance, insurance, real estate

Departments represented include marketing, human resources, sales, accounting, finance, transportation, legal, R&D, IT, customer service, distribution and manufacturing.

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Key Findings

The Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey found that:

  • US executives at large companies confirm that a skills gap persists for their businesses, with nearly half (46 percent) concerned that they will not have the skills they need in the next one to two years.

  • In a positive sign, 51 percent of companies expect to increase investments in training over the next two years, and 35 percent of executives whose companies are facing a skills shortage admitted that they have not invested enough in training in the past.

  • While nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of executives identified training as one of the top ways for employees to develop new skills, only 52 percent of workers employed by the companies surveyed currently receive company-provided, formal training. By comparison, a previous Accenture survey found that only 21 percent of US workers said they received company-provided formal training between 2006 and 2011.

  • The survey also found that businesses are facing big consequences as a result of not fixing their skills gap. Among companies currently facing or anticipating a skills shortage, 66 percent anticipate a loss of business to competitors, 64 percent face a loss of revenue, 59 percent face eroding customer satisfaction and 53 percent say they will face a delay in developing new products or services.

  • The inability to train employees with needed new skills, or to hire enough workers with relevant skills, is also causing additional pressure and stress for the majority (87 percent) of companies’ existing employees.

  • For those executives who have or are anticipating a skills shortage, the biggest demand is for IT skills (44 percent) and engineering (36 percent) with R&D (29 percent) and sales (29 percent) close behind; these skills are particularly in demand among manufacturers.

  • When looking at hiring overall, the retail, transportation, telecommunications and utilities industries are most in need of leadership, communications, people management and project management skills.

  • Overall, nearly one-third (31 percent) of executives surveyed anticipate increasing their workforce over the next one to two years, while 62 percent expect their hiring to remain the same.

  • Among those who have or anticipate a skills shortage, 41 percent said it is because they cannot attract candidates with the skills they need to their industry, 38 percent would hire more people if they were getting qualified candidates, 26 percent cannot pay what candidates want and 19 percent did not anticipate the skills they would need.

  • Executives are continuing to use new methods of delivering training to employees. The survey found that 42 percent use mobile delivery for training, 35 percent use social media, 27 percent use massive open online courses (MOOCs) and 13 percent use gamification.


Key strategies for companies tackling the skills gap include:

  • Find a balance between formal and informal learning. As digital technology blurs the boundaries between formal and informal learning, companies should consider ways to strike a balance between the two and help ensure that they work in tandem. For instance, embedding learning in everyday work—shadowing others, mentorships, or learning from peers through online forums—can help formal online or classroom training become more relevant and more effective.

  • Embrace new ways to develop skills. Other recent scalable developments are helping training become more relevant, such as social media tools that facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing, gamification that immerses employees in virtual scenarios, and mobile training delivery that allows learning to take place wherever and whenever an employee happens to be.

  • Expand your candidate pool. Given the reported difficulty of finding qualified candidates, companies should consider dropping the notion of finding the “perfect” candidate based on a list of specific skills, education or experience. Instead, they could look for candidates with more generalist skills—even those outside their industry, in other geographies, or with adjacent or overlapping skill sets—that can easily be developed to perform the job.

  • Screen talent based on newly emerging data sources. Instead of screening potential candidates based on key words in a resume, exploit new data sources as part of the effort to get fuller and more predictive insights into future performance. For example, emerging websites offer samples of a candidate's work, assessments that gauge a person's cultural fit and motivations, or social media contributions that can reveal their interests.

  • Invest earlier in the talent supply chain. Leading companies are partnering with colleges and universities to review and revise curricula so relevant skills are acquired as part of their programs. Some companies are even setting up open access training programs to ensure that more people have the skills they need in specific regions. Once trained, the first right of employment is with the company that trained them.


"35% of US businesses have not invested enough in training to develop needed skills."

The Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey: Perspectives on Training research surveyed 400 executives at large US businesses to assess hiring, staffing and training strategies.


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