Skills gap grows wider as COVID and capabilities collide, according to survey by Avado

63% of businesses that saw stable revenue or profit invested in employee development during 2020, showing commitment to sustainable growth

SINGAPORE, May 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Avado, the professional academy, has today unveiled research identifying a dramatically widening gap between business needs and people capabilities in a number of APAC countries over the course of 2020.

Of those surveyed, 63% of businesses who saw stable revenue or growth over the last year had increased their training budget, and 39% had invested in upskilling through external training pre-2020. Among those that saw a decline in profits, 43% said that their strategy was not fit for purpose. Simply put, the businesses that invested in developing their capabilities have weathered the storm far better than those who did not.

The research surveyed over 1,000 executive leaders and senior HR staff from progressive APAC organisations. Regions included Singapore, China Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and the Philippines. The research was further analysed by ambassador Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation. More than half (54%) of executive leaders agreed that their organisation had prioritised survival over capabilities, very similar to the 57% who agreed in the UK. However, there was a big gap among learning and development leaders, with only 44% agreeing in APAC compared to 69% in the UK. Nonetheless, throughout 2020 the majority of executive leaders (80%) and learning and development leaders (74%) agreed that it was important to their business in 2020 to have training conducted through external courses, suggesting that they were struggling with existing employee capabilities.

  • More than two fifths (43%) had recruited to try and fill capability gaps
  • Concerningly, 39% of executive leaders admitted their training strategy wasn't fit for purpose pre-2020; this increased to almost half (49%) in 2020, suggesting gaps have been deepened
  • Nearly half (48%) agreed a lack of skills negatively impacts mental health

Mark Creighton, CEO of Avado, said, "There is a definite opportunity for employers to invest more in their people to diversify the workforce and move the conversation beyond skills. The businesses that remain competitive in our recovering economy will be those that embrace a strategic approach to the development of capabilities, not just answer the challenge through recruitment. We must take urgent action to implement training strategies fit for the future that give existing employees, not just new recruits, the opportunity to contribute to business success."

In 2020, the rapid transition to digital exposed and exacerbated the imbalance between capabilities organisations need, and capabilities employees possess, causing friction across all sectors surveyed. Half (50%) of those surveyed worried that a lack of training investment would impact productivity in the long-term.

"Investment in capabilities matters more than ever to business growth and long-term productivity," said Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation and ambassador for this research. "To succeed in a future of profound change, we need to think well beyond skills. In fact, we will need a capabilities revolution."

Even in sectors which were not so negatively impacted by budget cuts, respondents agreed that the events of 2020 had widened the capabilities gap in their organisation. This was particularly pronounced in government and public services. The research also identified that more than half of people in this sector had looked at training outside their current industry and role, suggesting significant concerns for the future remain.

To be profitable long-term, businesses need to take stock of their priorities and their capabilities, moving urgently to put a strategy in place fit for the future. For more detail and a further breakdown of responses by industry, please view the full report here.

Note to Editors

The survey consisted of 15 individual questions, with respondents split evenly across five sectors: technology and telecommunication, pharmaceutical and healthcare, government and public services, financial services, and FMCG. This research was conducted twice, with identical questions, once in APAC and once in the UK.

The research, which was repeated in the UK with the same methodology and number of respondents. For more information on these findings, please view the full report here.

About Avado

At Avado, we believe in unlocking potential and changing lives. Learning with us makes real, lasting change happen for individuals, and entire organisations. Through our connected learning experiences in Data, Marketing, People, and Agility, we can help you drive real change.

Going beyond just technical skills, our award-winning programmes help teams find success in an ever-evolving world. With a strong emphasis on the behavioural and mindset shifts needed to embed new capabilities, we'll work together to develop leaders, teams and individuals through interactive learning experiences.

To find out more, visit


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