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Competitive edge in the age of Generative AI lies in rapid skilling

By , Talent and organisation lead, Accenture in Africa.
08 May 2024
Vanisha Balgobind, talent and organisation lead for Accenture in Africa.
Vanisha Balgobind, talent and organisation lead for Accenture in Africa.

South African organisations are faced with hard-hitting challenges such as loadshedding, high unemployment level, slow economic growth, soaring inflation rate, constant technological shifts, and the changing world of work – to mention a few. These challenges will require leaders to rethink how they run their businesses and reinvent offerings.

The Accenture’s recent study highlights that a key force of change for an organisation looking to reinvent itself, is continuous talent transformation with a renewed focus on integrating data and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to meet employees’ expectations and enable clients to prepare for the challenges, as well as opportunities of the future.

Our research shows that 94% of workers want to learn new skills to work with Generative AI, and about 34% of them are confident that their skills will be of use and value three to five years from now. From the responses, it was clear that top executives agree that adoption of new technology is likely to drive organisational transformation, and that data and AI foundation models will play an important role in their organisations’ strategies in next years. However, only 5% of these responding organisations provide AI training at scale. Some global organisations have started this reinvention journey, with 95% of Chief Experience Officers (CXOs) surveyed stating that they are increasing skilling investments over the next year to get this right. However, business leaders’ inability to upskill their workforces remains their number one challenge, with 51% of global organisations starting to see negative impacts from worsening IT skills shortages.

Closer to home, South African business leaders experience the same. The gap between the skills possessed by the workforce and those demanded by the job market are increasing, leading to high unemployment rates, especially for the youth, despite available job openings. This is mainly due to the misalignment between industry needs and educational curricula as well as disparate quality of education between urban and rural areas, leaving the youth with unequal access to skills development opportunities. In addition, the country is experiencing a significant brain drain of skilled workers, especially those in education, healthcare, and engineering, emigrating to other countries in search of better salaries, working conditions, career progression as well as political and economic stability.

We also need more technical skills especially in fields such as engineering, technology, and trade. Recent academic studies indicate that the demand for IT skills exceeds supply, mainly due to the gap between industry needs and the skills possessed by graduates, negative perceptions of Information and computer science professions among university students, insufficient attention to key technical and organisational issues in academic curricula, as well as a discrepancy between qualifications and competencies of graduates.

A study by Gartner creates a sense of urgency to address these concerns in South Africa, explaining that the rapid pace of technological evolution exacerbates the skills gap, requiring constant upskilling and reskilling of the workforce. Organisations who get this right identify key talent to upskill or reskill through predictive insights and tech-driven strategies. They invest in continuous data and AI skills development that is fun, practical and enables boundaryless collaboration. These organisations also manage fears and uncertainty of their people, preparing the workplace to enable shifts and boost the employee experience to retain talent. For such organisations, it’s about knowing what skills you have, what skills you need for now and the future, as well as how to close the skills gaps.

Bringing a skills-driven organisation to life requires thinking differently about talent, breaking old habits, and establishing new cultural norms. There are many ways to build the bridge from today’s world to the new skills-driven world, underpinned by organisational priorities, existing technology stack and cultural readiness.

Accenture is uniquely positioned to help organisations to cross this bridge on their journey to become skills-driven. Not only will our $1 billion per annum talent development investment enable us to train over 700,000 of our people in the fundamentals of AI and advance technology specialists in our data and AI practices, but we have also launched Accenture LearnVantage to bring the power of data and AI to our clients, through creating a highly personalised learning experience.

Accenture LearnVantage solves for current challenges by upskilling at speed and scale with sustained learning outcomes in a simplified way. This capability team, together with our ecosystem partners, provide clients with comprehensive technology learning and training services that will help them reskill and upskill their people in technology, data, and AI to reinvent their organisations and achieve greater business value. 

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