November 16, 2011

Accenture Study Finds U.S. Workers Under Pressure to Improve Skills, But Need More Support from Employers

Less than one-quarter receive employer-provided training

NEW YORK; November 16, 2011– The majority (55 percent) of workers in the U.S. report they are under pressure to develop additional skills to be successful in their current and future jobs, but only 21 percent say they have acquired new skills through company-provided formal training during the past five years, according to a study released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

The Accenture Skills Gap Study, which surveyed 1,088 employed and unemployed U.S. workers, found that while more than half (52 percent) have added technology skills in the past five years, few have updated other in-demand skills such as problem solving (31 percent), analytical skills (26 percent) and managerial skills (21 percent).

The study also found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of workers believe it is primarily their own responsibility, rather than their employer’s responsibility, to update their skills. However, only 53 percent of unemployed workers report they understand which skills are likely to be in demand in the next five years, compared to 80 percent of employed workers.

“There is an escalating talent crisis and employers should not assume that workers have the resources or knowledge to acquire all the skills they will need, “said David Smith, managing director—Accenture Talent & Organization. “Our study shows that workers are prepared to improve and expand their skills, but they’re not receiving sufficient support to develop those skills. In addition to investing in training, employers will have to become more transparent about their talent requirements and more creative about leveraging the skills they already have within their organizations.”

Employers’ role in closing the skills gap

The study suggests that employers may be hindered by not be having a complete picture of all of the skills they have within their organization to handle specific jobs. Just over half (53 percent) of respondents said their employers document their skills, but more than a third (38 percent) said their employers look only at specific job experience and education to match employees to jobs rather than looking at all of their talents and capabilities.

Limited ability to shift employees to different jobs within their organizations may also be preventing companies from fully utilizing their workers’ skills. Only one-third (34 percent) of respondents report that it is easy to move to another job within their company where their skills would best be utilized, and slightly less than half of respondents (49 percent) report that their employer does a good job of providing a clear understanding of the skills needed for different roles and career paths. More than one-third (36 percent) of workers say that they would be willing to move to another location where demand for their skills is strongest or where their skills could be put to better use.

“Many employers have hidden talent in their organizations that they haven’t effectively tapped,” said Smith. “New analytical tools can help managers develop a better, more detailed view of the skills in their organizations, and by creating more flexible career paths and HR processes they can more easily deploy employees to different roles where their skills are more relevant. The goal is to create a thriving and flexible market for talent.”

Career path choices also are contributing to the skills gap, according to the study. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of all workers say they’ve had to change careers at least once in order to meet the challenges of the job market. However, only 28 percent report that they had an understanding of the skills required in their new career before making a change.

Strategies for addressing the skills gap

Accenture has identified six strategies for companies tackling the skills gap:

Read more Accenture insights on Solving the Skills Crisis.

About the Study

Accenture conducted an online survey of 1,088 employed and unemployed U.S. workers to assess skill development. The resulting Accenture Skills Gap Study is part of Accenture’s ongoing research into the workforce challenges faced by employers today.

About Accenture

Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 236,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$25.5 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2011. Its home page is


Nancy Goldstein

For Accenture


Karen Mellen

For Accenture