People worries of US CEOs — plus five ways to ease them

Much can be done to ready your company and your employees for growth.

February 2018

5 ways to motivate and inspire employees for the future of work

When it comes to preparing their people for the future, US CEOs know there’s work to do. They’re increasingly concerned about finding the right skills for growth. And workers are worried about the effects of automation and other technologies on their jobs. Strong people strategies can help turn those fears about the future into excitement. Here’s our take on five ways business leaders can inspire and motivate their workforce for the digital age.

From our CEO Survey

Concern over key skills is up

Thirty-two percent of US CEOs we surveyed are now extremely concerned about the availability of key skills as a threat to business growth, up 21 points from 2013. There simply aren’t enough people with the skills businesses need, and that challenge is going to get harder to meet as business models evolve amid lightning-fast technological change.

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More can be done to develop skills in house

More companies are initiating upskilling efforts, providing new digital tools for work, and using their efforts to invest in new technologies as part of their overall recruiting and retention strategies. But there’s more work to be done. Though leaders worry about the lack of available skills, only 39% of US CEOs are implementing continuous learning programs to develop and recruit people for the digital age.

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Options for retraining? Depends on your location.

A PwC survey of 10,000 workers showed that 37% are concerned that automation is putting jobs at risk. In 2018, half of US CEOs said they have a responsibility to retrain employees whose tasks and jobs will be displaced by automation (53%). That’s far fewer than CEOs in other advanced manufacturing economies.

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5 ways to motivate and inspire employees for the future of work

1. Give workers clarity on what automation and AI means for them

Headlines about automation and workforce disruption are good for thinking about the future, but what is today’s reality? From our latest AI trends research, we know that business leaders aren’t adopting technology for technology’s sake. Instead, they’re acknowledging the now: AI may be the future, but what can automation and AI do for me today? Does the organization want to automate billing, general accounting and budgeting, and compliance functions? How about automating parts of procurement, logistics, and customer care? Automation and AI will likely be a part of the solution in all of these areas, and workers should not fear it. By becoming more transparent about how AI and other technologies are likely to be used, CEOs can promote clarity on today’s benefits.

When and if tasks and jobs change, employees will want clarity on how job expectations are different, based on the competencies to do them. A change in job design may also mean changes in job levels as well as compensation structures.

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2. Focus on the skills people have, not just the jobs they do

This is the year when the skills you have will take precedence over the jobs you do.

In 2017, we saw many leading companies take big steps toward identifying and tracking their company’s ‘skill footprints’ against models for where they want to be, and using that to think about their company’s leadership development program, performance management efforts, and career paths. Now they’ll use that data to stimulate internal job mobility, coaching and development, and new hiring.

Largely, employees think they have the right skills, for now, but they also signal a willingness to develop according to their employers’ needs. In our latest worker survey, three-quarters of people said they were ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future. Skills mapping allows employers to give more direction, by giving workers individualized coaching on how to develop their own skills.

What else will employers do with data on skills gaps? We expect to see more company-owned talent marketplaces pop up, where workers can market themselves by their skills or gain micro credentials to find a good match. A marketplace that highlights skill level opens new avenues for more efficient matching of contingent and temporary talent too, when employers need more flexible talent models. Adding non-employees requires careful attention, though, as contingent workers have different rights and present different risks than employees.

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3. Take charge of reskilling

The buzzword of 2018 just might be ‘reskilling,’ as business leaders and policymakers consider the implications of technology changes on the economy and society. Expect to see a range of skill development options that blend learning with work. It won’t be the same old one-size-fits-all corporate training we’ve seen in the past, either.

Now, development methods are more problem-driven, fun, and relevant. We’ll see a big emphasis on building digital skills, with personalized apps and micro learning platforms that help people improve their digital IQ. But soft skills won’t get short shrift—we’ll also see an emphasis on building those distinctly ‘human’ skills, like creativity, problem solving and innovation, with more programs that change the approach to work and help workers put new skills into practice.

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4. Deliver a holistic employee experience

Organizations are waking to reskilling, but the keys to hiring, developing, and retaining people with in-demand skills goes beyond that—it’s about the full experience with a company. This includes how employees feel about the purpose of their work, how they fit into the company’s culture, and how much they buy into the promise of the brand.

It also involves ways of working—from the ways diverse perspectives are part of problem-solving to how efficiently the organization is structured. In 2018, the work environment will continue to change significantly to help workers find new ways of working. Half of US CEOs (50%) said they are taking steps to modernize their work environment, rolling out digital tools to allow employees the flexibility they expect in today’s world, and creating collaborative physical spaces more suited for innovation.

Beyond that, there are dozens of interactions each worker has with your company in the talent management cycle. From applying online for a job, to onboarding, to receiving and managing benefits including health and well-being programs, the experience you’re giving to employees counts. Employees expect those touchpoints to rival the other service experiences in their lives and be digital, user-friendly, and engaging. In recent years, many companies and their vendors have invested in social, mobile, and cloud technologies, to streamline these areas, but results have been mixed.

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5. Be transparent on topics that build trust

While AI may be the next frontier when it comes to trust and transparency, leaders are making strides in becoming more transparent in other areas their people care about. In 2018, US CEOs are building trust with their workforce by being open and honest about their people strategies (66%), diversity and inclusion (63%), their compensation and benefits strategy (58%), and more.

Building trust also includes openly communicating about your firm’s purpose, vision, and culture, and communicating your values not only to employees but to other stakeholders too. What’s the most talked about issue with investors when it comes to talent? It’s workplace culture. More than 700 publicly traded companies talked about culture with their investors in 2016.

Building trust takes more than communication—it involves shared purpose, sharing the right levels of information, and reciprocity too. As questions about the future of work continue, expect employees, investors, and other stakeholders to seek new ways to strengthen trust.

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Contact us

Carrie Duarte
Partner, Workforce of the Future Leader, PwC US
Tel: +1 (213) 356 6396
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Jeff Hesse
Partner, Workforce of the Future Co-Leader, PwC US
Tel: +1 (312) 298 6881
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Bhushan Sethi
US Financial Services People and Organization Practice Leader, PwC US
Tel: +1 (646) 471 2377
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