Uncharted territories – how to bridge the skills gap to meet the challenges of emerging technologies

From Artificial Intelligence to Large Language Modelling, powerful new technologies have the potential to completely transform the business world – but only if businesses have a workforce with the skills to utilise these tools.

What are the main concerns of UK businesses as they race to benefit from new technologies?

Lack of expertise – 60%
The workforce lacks the skills required to fully embrace emerging technologies

Integration with existing systems – 40%
New technologies may be impossible to integrate or even be harmful to existing systems.

Data privacy, security and ethical concerns – 20%
Potential lawsuits, intellectual property disputes, systemic security risks and the lack of guidance over ethical usages may be roadblocks to large-scale new technology adoption.

Across the globe, businesses are facing an era of unprecedented change, moving into uncharted territories as new and unexpected technologies arrive with increasing speed. What was science fiction yesterday is suddenly commonplace today. However, even though these changes create endless opportunities and possibilities, the pace of advancement is bumping up against a hurdle; a skills gap between the enormous capabilities of these new technologies and the expertise that’s available within organisations to harness their benefits. In short, new technologies can only be as effective as the abilities of the people who use them. When skills lag, technologies fail.

What does this mean for businesses? Bridging the skills gap is crucial for organisations if they wish to remain competitive. Business leaders must understand the potential impact of new technologies on their organisation, then develop effective strategies to future-proof their workforce.

Myths and realities – the true shape of things to come

It’s difficult to train your workforce to meet a challenge when you don’t know much about it, or the information you’ve been given is inaccurate. Amid the frantic assumptions that surround many new technologies, myths often blend with reality to create false perspectives. Common misconceptions include:

  • Timing
    An unending series of technology upgrades and launches can support the idea that everything is happening at light speed. However, the rate of change in technology is typically far slower than the rate of adoption. The media may give the impression that large-scale adoption and resulting change will occur very quickly, but in reality, this takes time, and it is never uniform. Some industries will adopt an important technology very quickly. Others will lag far behind. This means some businesses may have more time to upskill their workforce than they think they do.
  • Technology will create unexpected, all-powerful competitors at short notice
    Many businesses worry they are going to be immediately outflanked by a new competitor wielding a game-changing new technology. However, in practice, it is very difficult for startups to upset a well-established incumbent, at least in the short term. This is because business success is not based purely on technology or the adoption of a technology; more often it’s based on the depth of an organisation’s skills and the longevity of the valuable partnerships they’ve built over time. Strong skill sets can offset or blunt threats from even the best emerging technologies.
  • Technology will put millions of people out of work
    Probably the most common misconception of all. Technology is often portrayed as a destroyer of jobs. In fact, it is likely that new technologies will create more jobs than they destroy. Technologies will augment, not replace humans in the workplace, making us more productive and eliminating many of the repetitive elements of work.

Bridging the skills gap

According to the World Economic Forum, 44% of the world’s current workforce must upskill or reskill their abilities to manage new technologies. What steps must organisations take to address the skills gap and ensure their workforce is prepared for the demands of the future economy?

  • Training for all, not the few
    Full engagement is essential for training programmes to succeed. This means demanding that all employees, including senior management, undergo regular upskilling training. Making the growth of their skills a job responsibility for all workers presents the task as a normal business expectation, reducing the potential for resistance and lower uptake.
  • Bite-size learning can be more digestible and effective than immersive techniques
    Humans have an attention span of less than nine seconds. The longer we concentrate on a task, the less effective we become. Training materials and programmes that deliver short, focused learning can have more impact than training sessions or content that run for hours and hours. Keep the lessons short. Make the results clear and decisive. More frequent but shorter training sessions will work better than all-day classes held weeks or months apart.
  • Stress the personal importance of upskilling programmes
    We take greater interest in developments that will impact us personally than we do if the changes only affect a third-party. Businesses must ensure their employees understand the personal value of upskilling to manage new technologies. What will they get out of it? Employees should know that better skills reduce their risk of obsolescence and can create more opportunities for their career advancement.
  • Recognise workforce diversity
    Training programmes must reflect the diversity of your workforce. Be aware that some of your employees will process reskilling and upskilling programmes differently, especially if they are neurodivergent. Flexibility must be factored into the programme structure and the environment or methods of delivery. Ensuring all your employees have the same opportunity to grow their technical skills is essential.

With greater power comes greater responsibility

Lastly, business leaders must consider the risks and ethical responsibilities that come with the adoption of the new and powerful technologies. Training employees to work with these new tools to increase productivity and efficiency is not enough. Workers must also be made aware of the potential pitfalls – practices that if managed poorly could lead to lawsuits or regulatory pressures – especially in sensitive areas such as cyber security and personal data management.

Catch our webinar on-demand to learn more about bridging the skills gap to meet the challenges of emerging technologies. 

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Experis – preparing businesses and workers for the technologies of tomorrow

Experis is committed to a world where fair and decent work is available for all, regardless of individual differences or the challenges of technology. From employee recruitment and retraining to reskilling and retention, we are ready to support businesses in their drive for a future-proofed workforce.

Please contact us to find out more about how Experis can help your organisation to secure and build the talent you need to succeed in today’s fast-changing business environment.