European workers set to embrace digital technology at work, Accenture research claims

Forty-five per cent think the lack of digital skills are the biggest barrier to becoming a digital business and only 34 per cent feel well prepared in terms of recruiting those skills

The European workforce is optimistic about the impact of digital technologies will have on their working lives, according to new research from outsourcing company Accenture.

The Accenture Strategy research of more than 2500 workers and 500 business leaders in the European Union (EU) reveals that 57 per cent of workers think new digital technologies such as robots, mobile apps, data analytics and artificial intelligence will improve their working experience compared to eight per cent who think it will worsen it. Fifty per cent of EU workers believe that digital technology will improve their job prospects compared to 12 per cent who think it will limit them. Employees in Spain and Italy are significantly more positive about the impact of digital on their working lives than those in the UK, Germany or France.
The majority of EU business leaders recognise employee optimism about the digital work experience. Almost half (48 per cent) claim to have a digital strategy for talent development but they lack the confidence to deliver it. Forty-five per cent think the lack of digital skills are the biggest barrier to becoming a digital business and only 34 per cent feel well prepared in terms of recruiting those skills. And although nine in ten accept that is important to act now to transform their workforce for digital, only 34 per cent feel well prepared to change the skills and job mix of their workforce. 
The lack of confidence of European business leaders reflects their broader difficulties in developing the right digital strategies. Although 77 per cent expect to be a digital business within the next three years, the majority (55 per cent) do not have a digital strategy to support their overall corporate strategy. Most plan to wait and see rather than make the first digital moves in their sector. Sixty-one per cent say they do not want to be a digital leader in their industry. Instead, they intend to wait for digital concepts to develop further or adopt a ‘fast follower’ strategy.   
“Europe’s future competitiveness depends on digital skills and the disconnect between business leaders and their employees is worrying,” said Bruno Berthon, managing director, Accenture Strategy. “With employees positive about the impact of digital on their work, CEOs should begin to experiment with new digital talent strategies today as they develop longer term plans. Companies cannot afford to wait and see but must act now before their competitors disrupt their markets with digitally savvy workforces.”
European workers are acting on their enthusiasm for digital technologies. Sixty-two percent are assessing new skills that will be required of them and 64 per cent claim to be proactively learning new digital tools and skills.
Despite employee optimism, business leaders in the EU will have to be sensitive to the likely concerns about the digital working environment. Workers’ greatest worry is the pressure to keep up with new technologies to remain effective (cited by 78 percent of respondents). Seventy six percent are concerned that their employers will use the technology to track their every move and 70 percent worry that remote working will erode team spirit.
The young, better educated and those with higher level occupations are more positively disposed to digital technologies in the workplace, according to the research. For example, 69 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds think technology will improve the work experience compared to 53 per cent of those over 45 years-old. A minority (44 per cent) of those 45 years and older think digital will improve their job prospects, compared to 56 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds.  
“Digital will play to different strengths in different people,” said Céline Laurenceau, managing director, Accenture Strategy. “The millennial generation may be more tech savvy but older workers may be better attuned to new forms of collaboration, management and the provision of training. Employers need to ensure their digital talent strategies take these differences into account as they transform their workforces.”

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