A new report by Professor David Collings and Dr John McMackin of DCU Business School has found that only 30 percent of respondents were confident about their ability to meet future skills needs arising from automation, digitisation and the rise of AI, summarised as the Future of Work.
Enabling the Workforce of the Future: The Role of Learning and Development launched today at the Irish Institute of Training and Development (IITD) National Conference in Croke Park.
The research was funded by Skillnet Ireland, the National Agency for Workforce Learning.
It finds that while preparing for the future of work is a high priority for 4 in 10 professionals in the field, many felt underprepared for the technological forces and skills needs required to grasp the Future of Work.
Participants in the research consisted of senior HR professionals working in leading companies in IT, finance, consulting, agri-food, banking and telecomms, as well as the SME sector.
Professor Collings said:
"A key finding in the report is that the pace of change in work resulting from advances in AI, robotics and other technology changes is so pervasive that the future of work is already here.
Organisations who fail to engage with these changes are likely to lose competitiveness very quickly. However, a key tension in this regard is the challenge of balancing shorter-term priorities in meeting current skills needs while keeping a watchful eye on the requirements of the future.
Those organisations who were more advanced in enabling the workforces of the future were proactive in engaging with the threats and opportunities resulting from advances in technology and specifically AI and robotics.
They had a clear sense of the potential value of digitisation to their organisations and their focus could be driven by a focus on sustainability, customer service or developing people capabilities.
Clear communication with employees was also central to the process of ensuring the success of such programmes,".
Commenting on the findings related to Learning and Development teams, IITD CEO Ms Sinéad Heneghan said:
"This report outlines the steps that organisations both large and small can take to futureproof their workforce and prepare for the skills needed in the coming decade.
These include aligning their L&D goals and resources from the top to the bottom of their organisations; planning ahead to avoid uncertainty for their businesses in the years to come, and regularly assessing the return on investment (ROI) for L&D within their organisation’’ she added.
The report also points to the potential impacts of these changes on jobs and skills.
For example, one organisation in the insurance sector has estimated that 15 percent of jobs could be eliminated within 5 year or so with a further 50 percent being augmented by technology in the next decade or sooner.
Reskilling employees becomes a priority in ensuring organisations and employees can meet these challenges.
The research proposes a six-step process for companies responding the Future of Work including:
1. Find your North Star and communicate it
2. Establish a skills baseline
3. Assess the impact of work changes on your workforce
4. Align Learning and Development Team and Resources
5. Plan and Implement
6. Assess and refresh
The research methodology
The study is based on research gathered in three ways:
- Three focus groups with 16 participants
- 45 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with L&D professionals, HR leaders and business leaders in 19 organisations globally;
- an online survey with 251 responses from L&D and HR professionals in Ireland.