The rise of artificial intelligence is deepening the skills gap of employees

Published On: 26. 4. 2023

As digitalisation and the rise of artificial intelligence continues, companies need to focus on training their employees more intensively. Even though investment in corporate training has increased by a third compared to the past two years, the skills gap continues to increase. What companies lack most in their workforce is knowledge of automation and artificial intelligence technologies, data analytics skills and the ability to speak foreign languages. This is according to a survey by ABSL, an association of IT, business and customer service companies.

“With the rise of artificial intelligence, continued digitisation and the adoption of new innovations, the knowledge and skills requirements of employees are changing. According to our survey, employees and, consequently, companies are particularly lacking skills in the areas of robotic automation implementation, data analytics, languages, and leading innovation projects and teams. These disciplines are not yet widely available on the training market, which is why two-thirds of centres develop their training programmes in-house. The only exception to this is foreign language training, which centres are more likely to outsource,”

says Jonathan Appleton, director of ABSL. According to the latest ABSL survey, a full 76% of centres perceive skills gaps. They invest an average of 18000 CZK per employee per year in training their people. Meanwhile, the number of hours of training provided to each employee has increased to 50 hours a year, a third more than four years ago.

Data over gold

The increasing use of modern technologies and the huge growth of digital content has resulted in a huge increase in data volumes in almost all companies and organisations. To extract real value from this data, they need to be able to read and analyse them. This is the only way they can effectively use it to make decisions, uncover new business opportunities, identify trends, optimize processes or improve the customer experience. The fact that data analytics is booming is evidenced by the fact that it is currently the fastest growing area of business services, even faster than the previously dominant IT development or support services. According to a survey conducted by the ABSL association, 70% of business service centres in the Czech Republic need to recruit experts for data analyst positions. However, data analytics skills are in short supply on the Czech market. A full half of job seekers and existing employees lack them.

“It is very difficult to find data analysts or data scientists on the Czech market, so we train employees who have demonstrated analytical skills for these positions ourselves with the help of internal training programs and support from a corporate data analytics center based in India,”

comments Jaromír Staroba, Director of the ABInBev Brewery Group Centre and President of ABSL, adding that the ability to analyse data brings tremendous value to companies, for example in 2022 ABInBev’s experts used data analytics tools to deliver projects that brought millions of dollars of value to the parent company.

Knowledge of languages is still insufficient in the Czech Republic

IT, business and customer service centres provide services worldwide in a total of 28 languages. Knowledge of languages at a minimum B2 (ideally C1) level is very important for employers, but it is often difficult to find employees with the necessary language skills. Although the situation is improving, language skills among Czechs are still not sufficient. According to the Czech Statistical Office, 40% of Czechs speak one foreign language, 24% of Czechs speak two foreign languages and only 7% of Czechs speak three or more languages. Students with higher professional and university education are the best equipped in terms of language skills.

“To provide best-in-class customer service, the languages skills are key for us. And providing education, teaching a job is one of our driver. Combining the both, we often recruit applicants based on their language skills, more than their previous experience in the field. We will then commit to teach the applicant professional knowledge,”

explains Vincent Leonardi, General Manager at BlueLink’s Prague customer centre. Learning a foreign language well is not a matter of a few weeks or months, so it is much easier for the company to teach candidates how to work with technology, for example, than to invest in time-consuming language courses. Most difficult for companies is to find employees with knowledge of German and Nordic languages.

Soft skills and people and project management

According to the ABSL survey, employers often lack soft skills and the ability to lead people or projects at their people. As a result, 65% of centres provided leadership programmes to their employees last year, up 16 percentage points compared to 2021. ABSL has also been a long-term supporter of centres in this area.

“In addition to our Fusion programme, which develops talented employees and their management skills, we have created a dedicated MBA programme in collaboration with the University of New York in Prague. This is the first and only MBA with a focus on Global Business Services available in Europe,”

says Jonathan Appleton. In addition to the MBA diploma, each graduate receives a diploma as part of the internationally recognised certification from the Hackett Institute. During the course of their studies, students explore topics such as strategic management in the digital age, finance, marketing, project management or human resources, and develop their management skills, including coaching and mentoring. All topics reflect the needs of the field and are strongly linked to practical examples and real-world experiences.

“Interest in these programmes has grown significantly with the acceleration of digitisation projects. We see roughly a one-fifth increase compared to 2021,”

adds Jonathan Appleton.

Employees want to learn

The good news is that even employees themselves want to learn. According to a survey conducted by Grafton Recruitment, over 90% of them are interested in benefits related to education and professional growth. A full 87% of employees are interested in an individual budget for personal growth and payment for international exams and certifications, and 66% would appreciate paid study leave. There is also a strong interest in language courses, with 72% of employees wanting to physically attend them, just as they did in the pre-pandemic period.