There is a tension at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on the UK market. On the one hand, the increased use of smart technology, such as AI and machine learning could improve employee efficiency and help to solve the UK’s major employee output problem. However, there’s also a fear that it could leave individuals struggling to keep up with the jobs of the future. Businesses have a responsibility to help employees to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but how can they overcome the risks?

New research from Salesforce, carried out by YouGov, uncovers that the key to helping employees to thrive during this continued era of technological advancement, is to encourage a fundamental transformation of what we define as “education.” Businesses need to recognise that in 2018 and beyond, the ceremonial throw of a graduation cap is no longer enough to ensure someone is primed for the future workforce.

The study of over 2,000 UK workers, job seekers and students revealed that all three groups agree that continuous lifelong learning is essential when the pace of technological development is rapidly increasing. But, in many cases, they feel that employers continue to value traditional education paths, such as university degrees, most highly. The responses show that employers need to recognise and support other forms of learning and experience equally, alongside more traditional paths. This way, businesses can ensure that fair opportunities are provided to people of all backgrounds across the UK, while building a diverse team that is best-placed to thrive in the workplace of the future.

Despite reports on the risks, many workers see benefits to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • 63 per cent of workers believe that the development of their technological skills would have a positive impact on their company’s overall efficiency.
  • 18-24 year-old workers are most likely to see the benefits of improved technology skills, with 69 per cent believing it would improve their company’s overall efficiency – compared to 53 per cent of respondents aged 55 and over.
  • The South West and the North East come out on top with 70 per cent across each region believing this. They are followed by the North West at 68 per cent. London comes in fourth at 65 per cent. Workers in Yorkshire and the Humber region are least likely to believe in this potential positive impact (54 per cent), which is below the national average.
  • Across industries, those in the IT and telecoms sector appear especially likely to believe their company’s efficiency would improve with improved technology skills (79 per cent), followed by the manufacturing industry at 68 per cent.


Yet workers, job-seekers and students are nonetheless concerned that the Fourth Industrial Revolution could pose risks to their job prospects

  • More than one in three workers (37 per cent) in the UK believe there is a risk they won’t be able to get a job in the future if they don’t acquire further skills to match future technology.
  • This belief is highest among those in work, full time education or seeking employment in the 18-24 year-old age bracket (54 per cent).
  • The percentage of those who agree rises to 60 per cent amongst full time students.
  • Those in work, full time education or seeking employment in London are most likely to share this belief above all other regions, with nearly half stating this (47 per cent). People in the South East show the least concern, with just 28 per cent sharing this belief.
  • Those who have reached the highest level of education are the most likely to believe there is a risk they won’t be able to get a job in the future if they don’t acquire further skills to match future technology. 48 per cent of UK adults with a masters or PHD university degree believe this to be true, followed by undergraduate university students at 43 per cent.


Important digital skills, required for Fourth Industrial Revolution, are not being taught adequately in full-time education, including schools and universities

  • 31 per cent of people that left full-time education less than a year ago and 48 per cent of those who left full-time education between 1-5 years ago, say technology and digital skills were taught poorly the last time they were in full-time education.
  • Almost a third (32 per cent) of middle managers say they were never taught technology or digital skills while in full-time education.
  • Over half of adults in the UK (54 per cent) claim that they were neither proactively discouraged nor encouraged to pursue a career in technology by teachers or lecturers.
  • Just 11 per cent of respondents were proactively encouraged, while 7 per cent were even proactively discouraged by teachers and lecturers to pursue a career in technology.


In addition to school education, workers see that life-long learning is becoming more important to fulfilling jobs of the future

  • 82 per cent of UK workers claim that lifelong learning and continuous training in technology are crucial to ensure you can succeed in your career today and in the future.
  • 89 per cent of full-time students agree.


UK adults believe that employers need to play a role in providing lifelong learning, but that employers often focus too heavily on traditional education

  • 91 per cent of UK adults believe that it is important that employers provide training in technologies relevant to future jobs.
  • This puts employers at a level playing field with further/ higher education institutions; similarly 91 per cent of UK adults believe these institutions should provide training in technologies relevant to future jobs.
  • Respondents in the North West and South East were most likely to agree that it’s important employers provide access to training, with 94 per cent of respondents agreeing with this in these regions.
  • Over a quarter (27 per cent) of UK workers do not believe that the opportunities currently offered by employers are adequate enough to keep workers on top of technological skills throughout their working lives.
  • A mere 9 per cent of UK adults would consider taking up a traditional education courses (i.e. university degree, A-level, GCSE) to improve their technological skills. Yet respondents most frequently (31 per cent) answered that they believe that this level of education continues to be valued by employers above all other forms.
  • 43 per cent of adults who are in work, full time education or seeking employment claim they would be more likely to pursue on-the job training in the future, than any other type of training or education (including formal education), in order to improve their tech skills. 44 per cent of full-time students agree with this statement. Interestingly, current job seekers also say that they would be most likely to pursue on-the job training to further their technology skills in the future (34 per cent).


Alongside lifelong learning, UK adults believe that creating a diverse workforce is also key to business success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • Over half (52 per cent) of UK adults believe diverse teams are more likely to bring new thinking and new ideas to a business.
  • This rises to 62 per cent in London and 55 per cent in the East of England.
  • 70 per cent of full-time students believe this to be true.