Adecco, part of the Adecco Group UK&I – the world’s leading provider of workforce solutions, today launched new research which reveals that business owners say their strategy is to prioritise investing in technology (52%) over upskilling (24%) their workforce.

The research titled, People, Technology and the Future of Upskilling , which surveyed 500 managers, directors, and business owners at SMEs, found that this focus on investing in technology over upskilling is not necessarily shared across all roles in the business.

Just 28% of middle managers and 33% of directors prioritise investment in technology over upskilling. This is compared to 34% and 45% respectively who say their focus is on investing in upskilling its workforce over technology.  

The majority of businesses (94%) recognise that technology is transforming the skills their company needs over the next three years. It was revealed that middle managers (43%) are more likely than business owners (35%) to think that technology will require increased training and development for the workforce. Worryingly, 43% of businesses admit that they’re unable to provide relevant training due to budget restrictions.

When it comes to the benefits of technology on the workforce, nearly half (41%) of middle managers agree that it will increase flexibility; while only 28% of business owners believe this. Adecco’s 2016 humans vs robots  research revealed that the majority of UK workers (71%) agree with middle managers that AI will allow them to be more flexible and organised with their time.

For their part, business owners believe that the key benefits of technology on their workforce in the next three years will include increased productivity (43%); and that employees will be able to do their jobs more efficiently (41%) and effectively (38%).

Commenting on the results, Shelley Preston, Head of Adecco Retail, said:

“While it’s important to invest in technology, it's concerning that the majority of business owners prioritise this over investing in upskilling their workforce. Especially because all of the benefits they believe technology can bring to the workforce, including increased productivity, will only materialise if their employees have the right skills to work alongside machines. The key to success is having a cohesive technology and upskilling strategy.”

Preston continued: “There are a number of things organisations can do to move towards creating a sustainable upskilling strategy, that are cost effective. It’s important for business owners to work together with the rest of the organisation to create a long-term vision of the company they want and the skills they need to create it. Once this is in place, they can then access resources like apprenticeships and government grants to help them fund training.”

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About People, Technology and the Future of Upskilling: An independent research project commissioned by Adecco and supported by Opinion Matters on the 30th April 2019 to the 8th of May 2019. The research was completed among 500 UK hiring DMs working in companies with 50-250 employees.

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