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Four key forces driving the upskilling imperative (and why CEOs are worried)

What is clouding the view from the top? In one word, uncertainty.

PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, which involved 1,581 chief executives in 83 territories, finds that CEOs across the world (including APAC) are worried about four top-of-mind areas: growth, technology regulation, upskilling and climate change.

In this article, we focus on the upskilling agenda, where for the purpose of this survey, upskilling was defined as: "An organisation’s clear intent to develop its employees’ capabilities and employability, and to advance and progress their technical, soft and digital skills."

The four key forces that are driving the upskilling imperative:

1. Increasing job automation2. Decreasing talent availability3. Decreasing mobility of skilled labour4. Ageing talent

Browse through the gallery below for data on each of these four forces:

[gallery link="file" size="medium" ids="130636,130637,130638,130639"]


Evidently, to upskill or not to upskill is no longer the question - the availability of key skills has been a top 10 ‘extreme concern’ for CEOs for the last decade. So what are they doing about it?

In last year’s survey, the majority of CEOs agreed that significant retraining/upskilling was the most important way to close their organisation's potential skills gap. Yet this year, fewer than one in five leaders (18%) globally believe their organisation has made ‘significant progress’ in establishing an upskilling programme - thus keeping most of them worried.

In fact, the data showed that CEOs in regions with more mature talent pools (e.g., developed education systems and high talent mobility) are less likely to have made ‘significant progress’ in establishing upskilling programmes.

As such, North America seems to have made the least progress on upskilling, APAC lies fairly in the centre, while Middle East CEOs report making the most upskilling progress:


Finally, the good news - and this makes for a series of a strong arguments for CHROs pushing the envelope on upskilling.

Across the board, organisations that have made the most progress in upskilling (i.e. advanced upskilling organisations) admit they are benefiting from:

  • Stronger corporate culture and employee engagement (60%)
  • Higher workforce productivity (43%)
  • Greater business growth (37%)
  • Improved talent acquisition and retention (45%)
  • Greater innovation and accelerated digital transformation (51%)
  • Reducing skills gaps and mismatches (35%)
One reality is clear: increases in automation, changes in demographics and new regulations will make it much harder for organisations to attract and retain the skilled talent they need to keep pace with the speed of technological change. They will have to grow their own future workforce.

All images / PwC

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