(As originally published on LinkedIn, 9 June 2017)

Tech and talent are top challenges for mid-market companies

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By: Francois Tellier, EY Canada’s Growth Markets leader, and managing partner of Transaction Advisory Services for Quebec

As I discussed in my previous post, these days, uncertainty is challenging businesses from every angle. But in Monaco at this week’s EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year forum, we’re tackling those issues head on.

EY’s inaugural Growth Barometer shows that positive attitudes are emerging. Despite geopolitical risks, increasing populism and the rise of automation, executives are seeing opportunities for growth. In fact, over one third of all companies surveyed globally – from the $1m start-up through to the $3b mature player – are planning to grow between 6%–10% this year. This is because almost 90% of global middle-market respondents see growth opportunities from today’s uncertainty.

According to the Growth Barometer, executives identified two challenges facing the middle-market C-suite: technology disruption and lack of skilled talent. Luckily, these challenges are also opportunities, and those surveyed tell us that tech and talent could help them overcome external challenges and remain agile.

In fact, the Growth Barometer shows that companies are using technology to attract and retain talent, improve productivity and increase profitability. Specifically, new developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are improving the recruitment and selection process for innovative start-ups to find specialist talent and fill gaps.

But are these developments in automation and AI disrupting the workforce? The report says no; an increase in automation does not equal a decrease to human capital. Instead, executives are being selective with adopting automation processes to bring efficiencies to some routine operations – but as a supplement to human talent, not a replacement.

Beyond technology and automation, companies are also looking to integrate internal skills and capabilities with a wider external network of people. By integrating networks, companies are able to gather people with diverse experiences and perspectives to build the knowledge and culture of their organization, while addressing challenges with skilled talent shortages.

A shining example of this is our Canadian EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016, Murad Al-Katib of AGT Foods. While acquiring 17 companies over seven years across five continents, Murad retained 16 of 17 management teams. He integrated, challenged and empowered each of them to build off each other’s diverse experiences and perspectives to better the company. Murad says the ability to inspire others to join you and contribute to the success of the organization is key.

The takeaway – while technology disruption and skilled talent shortages can create barriers, they’re not roadblocks to growth. By investing in technology and talent, companies can confidently drive growth strategies, focus on operational excellence and gain access to new markets. I see that first-hand, talking with some of the top entrepreneurs at this week’s EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year forum in Monaco. The consensus is, when faced with a background of seismic change, the show must go on.