IBM survey: 120M employees need to be upskilled in coming 3 years
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

IBM survey: 120M employees need to be upskilled in coming 3 years

The skills charts have toppled.

A recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) revealed that the introduction and advancement in robotics and AI will need 120 million employees in the world’s 12 largest economies to undergo retraining or upskilling; including 50.3M in China, 11.5M in America, 7.2M in Brazil, 4.9M in Japan and 2.9M in Germany.

The study surveyed 5,670 executives across 48 countries to come to this conclusion. More surprisingly, only 41 percent of the CEOs surveyed said that they have the people, resources and skills to enable their employees to be reskilled.

However, the timeframe to close the skills gap is ever increasing. On average, it took merely 3 days to close the skills gap and retrain employees in 2014; while in 2018, this was 36 days — 10 times more in just four years.

What was most surprising about the study, is that the capabilities gap for keeping up with the digital transformation is not in relation to hard skills such as coding, softwares or analytics, which have been topping the skills chart since the past few years. It is the soft skills that employers are in need of most: openness to adaptability, flexibility, agility, working as teams, and time management.
“We’re working in a much less industrialised environment. The digital era requires that we work in an iterative way, that we work in teams, that we are constantly adapting to external signals and pivoting.”
Diane Gherson, IBM's Chief Human Resources Officer said to CNN

Amy Wright, Managing Partner, IBM Talent & Transformation, IBM, said, "Organisations are facing mounting concerns over the widening skills gap and tightened labour markets with the potential to impact their futures as well as worldwide economies. Yet while executives recognise the severity of the problem, half of those surveyed admit that they do not have any skills development strategies in place to address their largest gaps.

She added, “And the tactics the study found were most likely to close the skills gap the fastest are the tactics companies are using the least. New strategies are emerging to help companies reskill their people and build the culture of continuous learning required to succeed in the era of AI."

To help employers tackle this widening capabilities gap better, IBV also laid out a step-by-step guide in "The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap". It details how companies should adopt AI and analytics to infer the skills that exist within the company and share that information with employees to foster a culture of continuous learning and transparency.

It recommends companies take a holistic approach to close the gap through multi-modal, personalised programmes for individuals that are built on data.

While AI is still in its infancy, its growth trajectory is expected to be exponential. The effects it has on the workforce, especially as we are entering an economic slowdown period, is yet to be studied. Nevertheless, employers and employees cannot underestimate the need to develop soft skills, as that will be the defining differentiation between humans enabling machines to work, and the machines from working themselves.