Written by Christopher Smith and

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A recent study undertaken by PwC, entitled “Upskilling Hopes and Fears”, surveyed 2,004 working adults from across the UK. The results generally illustrated a disproportionate difference between the willingness of employees to undergo training in order to adapt effectively to the increasing presence of technology in the workplace, and the proactiveness of employers to offer upskilling in this regard.

Of the 2,004 people surveyed, 73% said that they would take the opportunity to better understand technology if given the option by their employer. However, it was reported that merely 49% of employers were willing to offer staff further technology training that falls outside the realm of their normal duties. As a result, it is unsurprising that 58% of those surveyed fear that automation in the workplace endangers jobs.  Whilst many employers appear to be focussed on the numerous benefits associated with automation, PwC views the shortcoming from the majority of employers when it comes to upskilling to fuel this mistrust from employees. Of those surveyed, 56% believe that technology will change their job within the next decade, and 29% suspect that their job will become obsolete within the same period. Therefore, as 85% of those surveyed believe that their job will either change or become obsolete within the next decade as a result of automation, employers might look to ease mistrust by developing the workforce to adapt with the fast-changing world of automation.

The benefits of upskilling are well summarised by Dan Lucy of the Institute for Employment Studies, who said that ‘upskilling is one way to help create a culture that is ready and able to implement new approaches.’ This highlights how technology has, and continues to accelerate into the workplace, overhauling processes that many have become accustomed to in their working lives. However, the comparative inaction of most employers in the training of staff risks technology not fulfilling its potential in the workplace. People Management highlights the need for employers to encourage learning and development to ensure that staff have the necessary skills to facilitate the integration of technology into the workplace.

Staff are clearly willing to adapt in order to retain their employment, with 73% in the PcW study interested in part-time training and 49% in full-time training in technology-related courses. In a wider context, 54% of those surveyed expressed their willingness to learn new skills or retrain entirely to improve their future employability. Surprisingly to some, over a third said that they would accept a lesser position in another company or industry in order to remain in continuous employment, and 33% would accept a lower salary in return for job security.

These statistics highlight how employees are generally willing to undertake upskilling or other career changes to ensure job security. Given the phenomenal speed at which technology continues to develop, it is clear that it brings with it the added potential for higher efficiency and precision, amongst a host of other benefits. However, employers must capitalise on the willingness of staff to adapt, tapping into a motivated workforce and easing the integration of technology into the workplace, in order to reap its full benefits.

23rd September 2019