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Employees need new or better skills, say HR professionals

Technology and human skills will be most important for future employees, learning specialists have said

Over a third of employees in the UK will need new or better skills to meet the demands of future roles, according to a poll of 200 HR professionals.

Aon, a global professional services firm, surveyed HR professionals across a range of sectors.

When asked what percentage of their employees would require re-skilling or need new skills, 27% of HR professionals indicated between 30 and 40% of their employees; 25% chose more than 40% of employees.

When asked if their organisation had a skills baseline (an understanding of existing skills, gaps and required skills), 33% noted that they had not yet started on their skills journey. Just under a third (31%) of HR professionals indicated that they were in the process of forming a skills baseline.

A further 9% said they had a baseline but were not sure what to do next.

The business consultancy Grant Thornton revealed today that mid-sized businesses said they most wanted the government to invest in skills training in the upcoming budget announcement on 6 March.

Its survey found that organisations are facing a shortage in operational (72%), financial (69%) and managerial (69%) roles. 

This comes after the Office for National Statistics found that 21% of employers struggled to fill vacancies last month (February 2024), which the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said could be remedied by tackling skills shortages.

Read more: How can quiet hiring help to tackle skills shortages?

Ian Luxford, learning and engagement specialist at the Motivation Agency, said that employees need better technical and human skills at work.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Priorities for upskilling need to look at two key areas: the technical world and the human world. 

“On the technical side, of course we are seeing accelerated changes in ways of working due to technological advancements, in particular AI, and a compelling need to use resources differently for climate or environmental reasons.”

Software provider SAS found that HR organisations were among those benefiting most from government grants for adapting to AI.

Luxford added that soft skills would be useful for work as technology evolves. He continued: “The real impact of technological changes is not yet understood, and this will continue to evolve fast. The most important skills for working with it are adaptability, resilience and continuous learning.”

“Workers in many roles need to be better at thinking away from the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ mindset and into a ‘what will work?’ one.”

He also noted the human demands for work are moving away from traditional workplace models, which would require new skills.

Read more: Managers should be trained on people skills to avoid harming employee mental health, CIPD says

He commented: “Traditional command and control or paternalistic working environments are losing relevance. Topics such as diversity and inclusion are becoming better understood as drivers of effectiveness and performance.  

“Critical future skills here are empathy and emotional intelligence, which have massive impacts on people’s ability to work together in any environment, particularly cross-cultural ones.”

David James, chief learning officer at learning platform 360Learning, told HR magazine that companies should know what skills will help their business to grow.

He said: “Companies that want to improve their upskilling and reskilling programmes need to start by creating a detailed skills map.

“This will help them understand what skills are needed for their business to grow and what skills – and proficiency – their current crop of employees have.”

James added that AI tools could help map employees’ skills and identify gaps.

He continued: “AI-powered tools can help teams map and benchmark skills almost instantly. 

“If the tool is integrated into a company’s learning platform, then the maps will be automatically updated once assessed. 

“This helps organisations to close their skills gaps and ensure employees are empowered to take on new skills and excel at work.”

Grant Thornton’s Business Outlook Tracker surveyed 600 mid-sized businesses in early February.