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Tech CEOs hesitant to upskill workforce despite anticipated impact of artificial intelligence on jobs: KPMG report

Tech CEOs hesitant to upskill workforce

Technology industry HR executives and business leaders, millennials disagree on AI jobs impact.

Phil Blackman

Chief Operating Officer, Global Corporate Affairs

KPMG International


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Despite expectations of how artificial intelligence (AI) will change work, only 42 percent of technology industry CEOs plan to upskill a majority of their workforce during the next three years, according to a new 2019 KPMG report: “The future of HR in the technology sector.”

The findings stand in contrast to a 2018 World Economic Forum report indicating that by 2022 at least 54 percent of employees in all industries will require significant re- and upskilling due to AI and other automation technologies to meet future workforce needs.

“Companies are enacting strategies designed to integrate data analytics, intelligent automation, AI and other emerging technologies, which will require shaping their workforce to ensure that employees have the right skills and expertise to succeed in an increasingly digital, global and agile workplace,” said Tim Zanni, KPMG Global Technology Sector leader. “Despite these new market demands, many technology CEOs do not have reskilling initiatives underway.”

The KPMG report analyzes the views of global tech sector CEOs, tech industry HR executives, and three generations of tech industry leaders and professionals (millennials, Generation X'ers, and baby boomers) on a wide range of critical business issues and challenges. Read the report here. 

In addition to hesitancy by tech CEOs, some reticence about workforce transformation also exists with HR. While almost 70 percent of HR execs at tech companies recognize the need for workforce transformation, only 50 percent have a plan in place. 

The KPMG report highlights different perspectives across the HR function and three generations of technology industry professionals and leaders about the impact of AI on jobs. Only 47 percent of tech industry HR execs believe it will create more jobs than it eliminates compared to 65 percent of millennials in tech, 88 percent of Generation X tech leaders, and 96 percent of baby boomer tech leaders. 

Regardless of the expectations that tech company leaders and professionals have about AI's impact on jobs, a key challenge for business leaders will be successfully integrating human labor with AI. “It is critical that organizations think about how they can integrate AI into their strategic decision-making process,” said KPMG in the  U.S. People & Change Director Rebecca George. “It is tricky because you have to balance the benefits of AI with the benefits of human labor as each one provides you with something different. You really have to consider the impact of both to create balance and ensure your company thrives.” 

KPMG's Zanni added that “it will be incumbent on organizations to improve the ability of their workforce to realize the value of cognitive technologies and transform their enterprises into innovation engines.” 

Following are recommendations for CEOs and HR leaders in technology companies:

  • Reshape HR and its value to the business, using applications and new skills to enhance the value of transformational technologies like AI and data analytics. 
  • Embrace training and refining employee roles as critical to the workforce of the future. 
  • Prepare to integrate AI in a collaborative future workforce that combines human and digital labor. 
  • Value employees as “customers” in an increasingly digital, global and agile workplace. 
  • Become comfortable with new technologies to increase connections and support an overarching people-based agenda as tasks and roles are redefined. 

About KPMG International

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 153 countries and territories, and have 207,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

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