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Thu 17 Oct 2019 12:42 PM

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Middle East execs need to re-skill, not 'buy' tech talent says Mercer CEO

Global HR consulting firm Mercer's president and CEO Martine Ferland said that technology is causing significant anxiety among C-suite executives in the Middle East

Middle East execs need to re-skill, not 'buy' tech talent says Mercer CEO
According to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 37 percent of executives are concerned about the effect that automation will have on their workplace, while 31 percent are concerned about skills shortages.

Organisations in the Middle East and elsewhere should consider re-skilling and training employees to cope with the demands of new technologies, according to Martine Ferland, the president and CEO of global HR consulting firm Mercer.

According to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 37 percent of executives are concerned about the effect that automation will have on their workplace, while 31 percent are concerned about skills shortages. Additionally, 44 percent of executives have expressed concern about employees’ expectations of a consumer-grade digital experience at work.

In an interview with Arabian Business, Ferland said while technology will change the work of various different sectors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that jobs will be replaced.

“We can throw a lot of investment in technology into problems, but at the end of the day its people that solve problems using technology,” she said. “Companies and governments will realise that digital fluency needs to come up from [all employees] if you want to win with new technologies.”

Buy skills

Many companies, Ferland added, are tempted to try “buy” the necessary skills by hiring from outside the organisation. However, she said that in many cases it may prove difficult because of how in-demand people with the necessary skills are.

“The market is quite source for these resources,” Ferland said. “Many of our clients in more traditional fields, like insurance, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, are trying to attract the same skillset that big tech does.

“Sometimes their value proposition might not be as appealing for people who have studied in that domain. I see a shift in which employers are saying that better learn to up-skill and re-skill.”

The Mercer statistics also indicate that more than half – 52 percent – of regional executives said they are actively working to map how technology or business shifts will change the skills and behaviours needed in their work, while 44 said they are identifying the gap between current and required supply for skills.

Notably, only 13 percent of C-suite executives in the region said their organisations are “change agile”, compared to 30 percent globally.

“There’s anxiety in the workplace about machines coming,” Ferland said. “We still need that expertise and experience that humans bring. Jobs will be augmented by technology, rather than replaced. That’s way more likely over the next three, four or five years.”

“When you think that way, human resources and training becomes much more manageable,” she added.