We asked leaders of European private businesses to tell us how relevant key technologies are for their business and whether they are already using them. The most popular technology: Internet of things (IoT), by a wide margin. That corresponds to how European private businesses see digitalisation. Robotics followed, with Denmark reporting the strongest levels of usage (50%).
Our research suggests that some European private business leaders may be underestimating the effect key technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and 3D printing could have on their businesses, though. Some countries nonetheless stood out as early adopters. The UK already has a large ecosystem of AI companies, and more British leaders told us their companies are using AI (45%). Turkey tied with the UK in usage of 3D printing, also at 45%. And Norwegian leaders reported nearly as high a rate of usage of virtual reality (38%) as did leaders in the UK (40%).
Smaller countries are leading the way on using blockchain, with Portugal (32%) and Cyprus (30%) at the top of the list. The Portugal Blockchain Alliance is actively promoting blockchain through challenges in a range of industries, from insurance to energy, aimed at developing practical applications, and one-fifth of businesses there are also already exploring usage of drones. That ties with Denmark for the highest level of usage.
We see significant benefits to viewing digitalisation as a holistic strategy to transform an entire company – especially at a time when the economic cycle demands reinvention and renewal in preparation for the next era of growth.
However some owners and managers may not fully understand the scale of change required and how to fund and staff for digital transformation. Only 22% of European companies overall say their companies allocate more than 5% of their investments to digitalisation, compared to 35% in more technologically advanced parts of Europe such as Scandinavia.
Many are also relying on their current teams – staff who have made companies successful so far – to address digitalisation issues, even though a new profile of worker may be required.
Recruitment and staff management is crucial to the future success of any firm. But given the current environment, it’s more important than ever to find people with the right skills, or at least the right potential to learn new skills. For some companies, attracting technically skilled workers may require them to step outside their comfort zones. We have often noted that private firms in Europe tend to avoid the spotlight. Given growing competition for the best talent, being a “hidden champion” may no longer be a viable option. Companies should step out of the shadows to be visible and attractive to recruits.
Employer branding is crucial here and it starts with having a corporate culture that reinforces the brand – and that also supports change. In PwC’s latest Family Business Survey, we showed that great company cultures are built around clear and codified values. That’s also relevant when it comes to attracting and retaining talent to take your company to the next level.