BCG Henderson Institute

Corporate leaders frequently proclaim, “Our people are our greatest asset.” But when it comes to ensuring that this asset is fully prepared and capable, it’s clear that improving workers’ skills isn’t a top priority.

Even though leading companies spend up to 1.5% of their annual budgets on learning and skill building—comparable to what many firms spend on transformation programs or IT—their leaders do not discuss skill building in the same way they do other goals. Our research shows that few companies tie skill building to strategy or report on how they manage skills in the same way they do for other important assets.

This lack of prioritization threatens to become an existential problem at both the individual-company and macroeconomic level. The World Economic Forum has estimated that 50% of the global population needs new skills to meet shifts in demand driven by new technologies. By 2030, this figure may grow to as high as 90%. Failing to meet the demand for new skills could cost as much as $15 trillion in lost GDP. Governments have a huge role to play in closing the projected gaps, but business has an essential job to do as well—and it is in companies’ self-interest to step up.

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