Only 44% of enterprise leaders have staff retraining plans

An impending labor crisis is facing society, with only 44% of enterprise leaders having definitive plans to retrain staff impacted by their current automation investments


New York and London, April 12th 2018: The pressure to improve productivity by investing in emerging intelligent automation technologies is leading major enterprises towards an impending crisis – how will they redistribute employees impacted by digital labor? This is the core conclusion of the new HfS FORA Mandate White Paper,  “Retraining: are we just kicking the can of job elimination down the road?”.


At the New York City 18th HfS FORA Summit attended by 200 senior executives, March 7-8 2018, the majority of whom being senior enterprises leaders charged with managing business and IT operations, “Learning to Change” was the theme of the two days of debate. However, much of the findings of the discussion centered on the avoidance of coping with change, with so many executives “kicking the can down the road” as legacy job functions are continually eroded. 


The new 2018 State of Operations study, conducted by HfS in conjunction with KPMG, revealed over half the Global 2000 firms surveyed believe transactional roles will be significantly impacted by automation within just a two-year timeframe, with Robotic Process Automation being the leading initiative to reduce costs.  However, when the enterprise leaders at the HfS summit were polled on how they intended to retain staff impact by automation, a staggering 40% revealed they had no idea about what to retrain them to do.  About 44% plan to retrain them in emerging technologies such as data sciences, analytics, RPA and Machine Learning as well as more right-brained creative, partnering, and entrepreneurial competencies. But many voiced that these intentions were not being backed up by definitive plans and investments.  There was also a noticeable lack of awareness at the complexity of retraining impacted talent to learn new skills that would make them relevant to organizations operating in a much more digitized business environment.


“Emerging technologies like automation and AI are not the end game, they are just a means to get us from one state to the next”, commented Phil Fersht, HfS Research CEO. “Enterprises need to define what is their real endgame, otherwise they are stuck in a perennial loop of finding short-term fixes and losing focus. That is the biggest problem plaguing most enterprises today – they aren’t focused their long-term broader business goals and aligning their business operations to help achieve them. This is why we are heading toward a potential labor crisis”.


The new HfS FORA Mandate White Paper,  “Retraining: are we just kicking the can of job elimination down the road?” summarizes the following key issues impacting the future of business and IT operations:


  • Retraining staff impacted by automation will become a massive issue, which far too many executives are currently ‘sweeping under the carpet’
  • The end-game is about getting better data and aligning operations with the business goals. The end-game is OneOffice, where front, middle and back offices will cease to exist
  • It’s time to clean the data swamps
  • The skills shortage is acute in Machine Learning, and it’s only going to get worse
  • Companies need to understand whether they should change… and whether they can change
  • Developing the muscle-memory for digital needs to go deep into the organization
  • We need to engage effectively with the leading technology firms, rather than trying to perform highly complex tech-based tasks internally
  • People are really starting to connect “digital” to business, but it doesn’t help that there is no precise digital transformation end-game
  • We need to understand what is possible, what is impossible… and what is failure

Saurabh Gupta
, HfS Chief Strategy Officer, also leading several key discussions at the HfS FORA Summit, added, “We live in an exciting but scary world. A whole host of emerging technologies promise to drive real impact and solve complex business issues. However, enterprises continue to struggle with where to start and how to change. The frank discussions at FORA Summits and visionary concepts like the Digital OneOffice are starting to provide these answers”

Click here to download a complimentary copy of the new HfS FORA Mandate White Paper “Retraining are we just kicking the can of job elimination down the road?”, authored by the HfS analyst team and supported by the FORA Leadership Council



About HfS Research

HfS’ mission is to provide visionary insight into the major innovations impacting business operations: automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital business models and smart analytics.


We focus on the future of operations across key industries. We influence the strategies of enterprise customers to develop operational backbones to stay competitive and partner with capable services providers, technology suppliers, and third-party advisors.


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