Workforce of the future

of Canadian executives say the lack of suitably skilled teams is the No.1 barrier to success in digital initiatives

Closing the say-do gap

Canadian executives are less likely than their global counterparts to focus on upskilling their people to work in the digital age. This is at odds with those who said the No. 1 barrier to success in digital initiatives is the lack of suitably skilled teams. More specifically, when it comes to cybersecurity and privacy, while 60% of Canadian executives said they strategically manage their risks related to cybersecurity and privacy, only 17% said skills in these areas are important.

Biggest barriers to success

Organizations need to invest in upskilling all people. As fast-moving fields like AI, automation and blockchain enter the mainstream, everyone will need to adopt an always-on approach to learning. Not only do people need to be trained on new technologies, but also these innovations lead to new business models that require teams to be nimble, adaptive and responsive. This further supports the finding in the 22nd annual CEO Survey that Canadian executives believe they can hire their way out of the skills gap, versus training up their existing staff.

Most important digital skills

Canadian executives rank strategy and planning as the digital skill most important to their organizations, while global leaders place user experience and human-centred design at the top of their list.

While Canadian executives are positive about their digital strategy and planning, they are less likely to say their organizations have well-developed digital skills. When asked to choose three skills that are most important to their organization, Canadian respondents only gave 2.15 digital skills, on average, versus their global peers at 2.5. Compared to their global counterparts, the above data shows that Canadian organizations have a shortsighted view of digital strategy. They underestimate the value of emerging tech and cybersecurity skills to their organizations.

This suggests they are less positive overall about the actual digital skill sets they have within their organization, versus their overall plan, about which they were more positive. Again, this speaks to the say-do gap of having a digital strategy, but when it comes to the skills required for that to be put in action, their teams are lacking. Canadian executives were far less likely than their global counterparts to list emerging technology, user experience (UX), and cybersecurity and privacy as digital skills to be most important to their organization.

The lower result in human-centred design approach (28% said it was important) also speaks to Canadian organizations’ lack of the main elements necessary to foster the cultural change and agility required to set them apart from their counterparts on the global stage. This is an opportunity for Canadian executives to take a lead on involving the entire organization in digital strategy, rather than leaving the issue to be led from the CEO down.

Which of these digital skills are most important to your organization?

Canadian executives rank strategy and planning as the digital skill most important to their organizations, while global leaders place user experience and human-centred design at the top of their list.

Training is a low priority

Interestingly, Canadian executives are significantly less likely than their global counterparts to say their organization trains their employees to work with new technology. The survey also showed they’re slightly less likely to train employees on changes to their jobs, with only 36% of Canadian executives saying they do so, compared with 40% globally.

While this could be due to the larger percentage of respondents from the energy, utilities and mining sector than last year’s survey, it could also speak to the broader view of the value of people and training. On the hiring front, Canadian organizations are also slightly less likely to hire employees experienced in relevant technology or disruption strategies.

Overall, when it comes to closing the say-do gap between perceived digital skills and technologies, and training and hiring to overcome this discrepancy, Canadian executives would appear to be more conservative than their global counterparts. This is in line with previous survey results, especially when it comes to investing in technology.

Which of the following does your organization do to successfully adopt technology?

Statistics showing what organizations do to successfully adopt technology.

The relationship between EX and CX

EX has been shown as critical to financial performance of an organization.

A higher digital IQ is connected to better financial performance. But the danger is that the digital strategy is inherently top-down and hierarchical. This doesn’t bode well for employee experience (EX) because workers aren’t included in the digital strategy. When employees are disconnected from both the digital and broader strategies of the organization, workers are less inclined to use the technologies at hand to make sure the customer experience (CX) is smooth and seamless.

EX has been shown as critical to the financial performance of an organization. Of the organizations with the best financial performance, the global digital IQ results showed that 91% had an executive in charge of EX. Canadian organizations are less likely to make the business case for having an executive in charge: only 74% of respondents said this was the reality. Similarly, when it comes to CX, Canadian organizations often make it the responsibility of human resources, rather than appointing a specific person to be in charge of the issue. This shows many companies are pushing CX farther down the list of priorities, despite the strong link to top financial performance among their global counterparts.

But there are some encouraging signs from the significant proportion of respondents (44%) who said they’re investing at least 5% to 10% of their revenue into digital, with CX in the top three. For those who focused their digital budget on improving CX, an overwhelming majority of their investments were toward mobile (88%) and cloud solutions (62%). As an increasing number of people use mobile over any other platform when browsing or shopping online, investing in helping customers to have a better mobile experience makes sense. And so does focusing on cloud solutions to improve their overall digital interaction with the company.

While CX was made a priority by those who invested in digital, EX fell farther down the list. Whatever the reason, the inability to tie a return on investment to EX has perhaps stalled Canadian executives in making it a bigger priority.

Key takeaway

Invest in the workforce

Unlike their global counterparts, some Canadian executives (as also seen in the 22nd Annual CEO Survey) think they can hire their way out of a skills gap or rely on educational institutions training the workforce of tomorrow. Many Canadian leaders still lack an appreciation of the importance of digital transformation and experience to their success, resulting in low digital maturity.

The reality is, they need to step up investment in upskilling their employees’ tech capabilities. From those organizations that have, they’ve already seen the payoff: 74% of those who reported an improvement in talent retention and recruitment because of digital investments said the level of improvement met what was expected, if not more.

For those who haven’t made that investment and want to get that reality check, they can see where their digital skills gaps are by downloading the Digital Fitness app.

Upskilling will result in a larger and more diverse workforce. By bringing diverse groups together, organizations can make sure they have the range of skills and viewpoints to solve their problems.

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Contact us

Jean McClellan

Jean McClellan

National Consulting People and Organization Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 509 7578

Kathy Parker

Kathy Parker

Partner, People and Organisation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 9014

Kim Vander Aerschot

Kim Vander Aerschot

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5893

Jennifer Melnyk

Jennifer Melnyk

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: 403-509-7324

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