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KPMG CEO Study: Workforce Development Requires a Balance of Urgency with Long-Term Vision

Digital transformation will affect the number and types of jobs available in the future, but just how it will all play out is still an open question. U.S. CEOs are split almost evenly (48 percent versus 52 percent) about whether technology will eliminate or create jobs, compared with 66 percent of CEOs globally who believe that technology will create more jobs than it will eliminate. This is one of the few cases when U.S. CEOs, who are typically more optimistic than their global counterparts, display a bigger dose of realism. “I don’t think that digitalization leads to jobs’ creation or job loss. I think it changes the required skill sets,” says Land’s End’s Griffith.

U.S. CEOs agree on the use of contingent workforce. Ninety-nine percent of U.S. CEOs indicate their company utilizes a contingent workforce in at least some capacity. As the gig economy becomes a more prominent element of our labor market, companies need to be thoughtful about how they reward full-time versus flexible employees. “An organization’s benefits for full-time employees should include unique growth opportunities, stimulating work and, where possible, infusion of a ‘gig’-like culture – with characteristics such as a collaborative work environment and an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Claudia Saran, KPMG’s U.S. People & Change leader.

Saran advises a surgical approach to hiring temporary workers to fill specific skills gaps, and then creating teams where temporary workers complement one another. Such an approach is the most appealing, considering the priorities of workers. In fact, a 2018 KPMG report, “The Changing Landscape of Disruptive Technologies,” reveals that the biggest group of U.S. executives (29 percent) believe that career progression is the top motivator for employees to be innovative, compared with just 13 percent who believe that cash is the best motivator.

Workforce development calls for continual training. “Retraining or continual development of employees is incredibly important for two reasons,” observes KPMG’s Vice Chair of Human Resources, Darren Burton. “One is that high-performing, solid employees are a better bet in many cases than recruiting and integrating new employees into an organization. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to first capitalize on the resources on hand. The second reason is that it is an important role of employers in the world today to retrain people, and to continue to provide them with new career opportunities.”

Are employers taking a long-term approach to their workforces? The chart below, which lists the most sought-after skills, reveals that they are more focused on tackling the burning platforms, looking for skills they need to pull in right away, such as emerging technology or cybersecurity specialists. They are less inclined to prioritize the importance of evolving workforce experts, who would help with the longer-term workforce development strategies. Sums up Saran: “With the right approach to workforce planning and shaping, organizations can develop the capabilities and skills needed for the future, cultivating a workforce that is as transformative and agile as work itself.”

workforce development chart 1

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