Workers optimistic about automation but demand more training

Workers are optimistic about the impact of automation, but want more support from employers to build skills

More than two-thirds of UK workers think technological changes will increase demand for human work over the next three years – but many want more support and training to help them make the most of these changes.

According to Gallup’s Real Future of Work report, this optimism was shared by many countries around the world, with 58% of respondents globally saying they felt that science and technology would increase rather than decrease the number of jobs in their local economy.

When asked how likely it would be that their jobs would be replaced in the next five years because of technology, 80% of UK workers said this was either not at all likely or not too likely. However, 51% of UK workers said their employers could do more to broaden their skills to make the most of these technologies.

Around a third (36%) of UK employees who felt their skills could be improved said they had not taken part in training in 2018. Six in 10 UK employees felt they needed to develop their current skills, while 57% wanted to acquire new skills.

Employees who did receive training often had to initiate this themselves – Gallup found that 35% of employees in Europe who took part in training during 2018 had to set this up themselves. Just over a tenth of those that did not undergo any training said they had not been given clear guidance on the types of skills the organisation would need in the future. French employees were most likely to have unfulfilled training needs, it found.

Ghassan Khoury, Gallup EMEA managing partner, said: “In an era of technological change, most employees are optimistic about the effects those changes will have on their work lives. This research shows that there is a keen workforce looking to upskill and improve, however, many are not given the opportunity to build on their current skills or to learn new skills due to a lack of training and development by employers.”

Khoury added that there had to be more clarity over who initiates and pays for training opportunities: “This will require HR leaders to be increasingly focused on identifying training and learning opportunities that address organisational needs in a cost-effective way and help employees feel prepared for future changes.

“Leaders also must focus on creating the right kind of culture to enable employees adapt to change and embrace new technologies. Creating and sustaining a culture of agility and investing in training and development are key areas companies need to focus on, it’s a win-win for all,” he said.

Managers’ input is crucial in helping employees to build the necessary skills, according to Gallup. More than three-quarters of respondents who felt their manager gave them continuous feedback said that their company supported them to acquire the skills they needed. However, only 36% of employees in the UK felt that there was someone at work who encouraged their development.

On Wednesday 18 September, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee will publish a report looking at the impact of automation on UK businesses and workers.

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