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Skilling the workforce for the digital age

Human-machine collaboration could boost revenues by 46 per cent, according to report

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Intelligent technology will meet human ingenuity to create the future
Intelligent technology will meet human ingenuity to create the future

Communications service providers (CSPs) must take immediate steps to reorganise and re-skill their workforces to collaborate with intelligent technologies if they are to capitalise on the significant growth opportunities these technologies promise, according to new research by professional services firm, Accenture.

The report, Reworking the Revolution: Are you ready to compete as intelligent technology meets human ingenuity to create the future workforce? found that three-quarters (77 per cent) of the senior executives (CXOs) in the communications industry surveyed believe that adopting intelligent technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) will be critical to their organisation’s ability to differentiate themselves in the market.


Accenture estimates that if CSPs fully invest in AI and human-machine collaboration, they could increase revenues by 46 per cent in the next five years and boost employment by 21 per cent.

Although the use of AI and automation within CSPs is accelerating – with nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of the CXOs surveyed saying they expect to automate tasks and processes in the next three years – the majority (63 per cent) expect intelligent technologies to create more jobs than they eliminate.

Additionally, 63 per cent of workers in CSPs believe that intelligent technologies will make a positive impact on their work, 77 per cent believe that the technologies will save them time on their tasks, and 66 per cent believe they will enable a better work-life balance.

Despite this optimism, however, only 25 per cent of CXOs believe that the workforce is ready to work with AI, and workers and CXOs alike agree that reskilling is a major challenge preventing its adoption. Only six per cent of CXOs plan to increase investment in reskilling programmes significantly, and almost half (47 per cent) of workers and 43 per cent of CXOs cite the lack of time to train during the workday as a major barrier to developing new skills.

This is a challenge that CXOs should address immediately, because the research found that while planning for the smart workforce, CXOs are already prioritising advanced workforce planning for future skill needs and redefining roles within the organisation. In fact, more than half (56 per cent) of CXOs have begun redesigning jobs within their organisations to some extent, and an additional 32 per cent have already done it to a large extent.

“There are a number of ‘no regret’ moves that CSPs are taking to move beyond efficiency, gaining the speed and broader organisational agility that are now strategic imperatives,” said Sevasti Wong, who leads the talent and organisation consulting practice in Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology operating group.


“There’s a huge opportunity to leverage AI and advanced analytics to drive new growth, but they will need to master what we call applied intelligence – the rapid implementation of intelligent technologies and humans working together in new ways. That’s why it’s critical for business leaders to align their workforces to new business models and invest in innovative reskilling programs to help their people create new value.”

In the report, Accenture makes three key recommendations to CSPs embarking on their digital transformation journeys:

  • Reimagine work: assess tasks, not jobs, then allocate tasks to machines and people, balancing the need to automate work and to elevate people’s capabilities
  • Pivot the workforce: to compete with the digital disrupters that are taking market share from the CSPs, the CSPs must shift to areas that unlock new forms of value and evolve the corporate culture from transactional to one based on innovation
  • Scale up ‘new skilling’: invest in innovative forms of reskilling to equip employees at all levels to work with intelligent machines.

“While the majority of CSPs are investing in intelligent technologies, only about one in six are planning to significantly increase spending on training programs to build new skills,” Wong said. “This indicates that they’re missing a huge opportunity to equip their people with the capabilities they need to work with intelligent machines and drive competitive growth."


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