SINGAPORE (Feb 12): Middle managers are aware of the changes coming to their industries, but they may be overconfident in their ability to adapt, according to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The study, sponsored by Microsoft Philanthropies, surveyed middle managers from Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea across the retail, manufacturing and government sectors.

According to the study, 76% of respondents agree that their industry would be “very” or “somewhat” different 10 years from now, while 68% believe that they are prepared for the changes to come.

However, only about 20% of respondents are willing to undertake five or more hours of training per week, with most (31%) willing to put in one to two hours weekly for training, while 28.5% are willing to spend three to four hours.

On the other hand, middle managers were more accepting towards flexible work arrangements, another key aspect of the future of work, with nearly three quarters of respondents saying that they were interested in at least one or more of the options provided in the survey. The two most popular were “working remotely” and “flexible hours”, followed by “independent contractor/freelance work” and “changing teams on a project basis”.

The change in work also brings about a demand shift in the types of skills. Hence, EIU believes that the government, private sector and academia need to cooperate to ensure training and education curricula adjust to those shifts.

But these efforts will only be effective if the labour force avails themselves of these programmes.

The research shows that 68% of respondents believe that they are already prepared for their current role, but more needs to be font to inform them of the increasing need for lifelong education and training.

Chris Clague, the editor of the report, says: “For all the high-level talk about the changing nature of work, it seems not enough has been done to communicate to the workforce just how important it is that they prepare themselves. This research should encourage policymakers and executives, among others, of the need not only to provide education and training, but to get the workforce to take advantage of what is on offer.”