Belfast Telegraph

Two-thirds of Northern Ireland employers investing in automation to boost productivity

Managing director of Hays in Northern Ireland John Moore
Managing director of Hays in Northern Ireland John Moore
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Almost two thirds of employers in Northern Ireland are investing in automation in a bid to improve productivity in their workplaces, according to a new survey released today.

But the research, carried out by recruitment group Hays, found that most firms here admit they lack the skills needed to get the full benefits from new technology.

The 'What Workers Want 2019 Report' features input from 14,500 people, with over 500 responses from those working in Northern Ireland, where the company has three offices.

The research found that despite clear evidence of investment in digital transformation and automation, employers are struggling to find the right blend of technical and soft skills to support implementation.

Among Northern Ireland employers, 69% said digital transformation was a key priority for their organisation, 61% said they are already investing in or plan to invest in automation, and 48% believe this investment in technology will allow employees to add greater human value to their organisation.

But while there is enthusiasm for digital change, 56% of all employers expect a lack of skills among their current staff to be a barrier to implementing new technology and 33% said they are experiencing moderate to severe skills shortages when trying to hire people who have the right skills.

Only 7% of organisations said they had access to all the skills needed to make best use of automation technology.

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Close to half (48%) of the firms who recognised skills gaps in their businesses said they were missing both technical and soft skills.

The biggest technical skills gaps within existing teams were reported in project (56%) and change management (59%), followed by analytics (56%). When looking at soft skills, the top gaps within existing teams for employers are critical thinking and people management (both 61%), followed closely by problem-solving (58%).

The top technical skills in short supply when hiring new staff are data science (59%), data analytics (56%) and engineering (53%). For soft skills, emotional intelligence is shortest in supply (55%), followed by problem solving (48%) and critical thinking (42).

Managing Director of Hays in Northern Ireland John Moore said: "It is encouraging that employers are taking the chance to invest in automation and also that workers believe automation will let people contribute more of their human value to an organisation and are open to change. 

"But it is also a concern that employers currently lack access to the right skills to make the best use of this technology," he continued.

"To overcome skills shortages employers need to adapt their recruitment strategies to focus not only on technical skills and qualifications, but also hiring professionals who have the right soft skills and open mindset needed to make automation and digital transformation a success."

Belfast Telegraph