Irish Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023

Our Irish Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 underscores the central challenge facing CEOs and other C-suite leaders: organisational reinvention and transformation efforts will fail without the cohesive support and energy of all your people.

Our Irish Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023, the fourth in a series that dates back to 2019, drew responses from workers from more than 28 industries, six generations, and organisations of varying sizes. The survey gauges workers’ perceptions of their job and employer, potential job moves, and the skills needed to succeed in an evolving global environment with financial constraints and rapid technological advances.

The Irish responses highlight the challenges Irish organisations face in navigating economic, societal, political and financial pressures. With one in five workers recognising that their organisation’s current trajectory will not be enough to survive beyond ten years, workforce transformation must be a top priority. Creating a strong organisational culture and an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship will be the key to unlocking your people’s potential. However, there is a gap between the perceptions of CEOs and workers when it comes to realising this.

Responses show that organisations could benefit from a skills-first approach to their workforce, potentially tapping into skills and capabilities they already have but are not yet using. 37% of Irish respondents have skills that are not clear from their qualifications, job history or job titles, indicating that organisations do not have sight of the full range of skills within their workforce.

Irish employers should be concerned that only 26% of workers agree that the skills needed to succeed in their job will significantly change over the next five years. Also, less than 55% of Irish employees feel confident that their employer will provide them with the required tools, resources and opportunities to build the skills needed.

Many employees don't have a sense of urgency about upskilling

Regarding your current role, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Note: percentages shown may not total 100 due to rounding and the ommission of "don't know'' responses.

In this context, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) should not be underestimated. Responses indicate that employees are willing to develop and learn new skills and are optimistic about the impact of AI on their jobs. Yet, there appears to be a lack of understanding or insight into what the impact of AI will be. Leaders’ ability to understand and capture this impact and share it with employees in a meaningful and real way will be key.

1. Employees are not on board for transformation

Leaders continue to guide their organisations through extremely turbulent times. They are facing momentous geopolitical change, the reverberating impact of a global pandemic on the workforce, ever-evolving cybercrime, the prioritisation of the climate action agenda and rapid technological advancements.

Our latest Hopes and Fears survey indicates that one in five Irish workers do not see their organisation surviving beyond ten years if it continues on its current path. While this compares favourably to the global outlook, it is not possible to say if this is due to a higher level of confidence in Irish organisations’ current strategies or a lack of worker insight into the challenges ahead. Regardless of the reason, if organisations are to navigate complex and ever-evolving external challenges, leaders must reevaluate their strategies and transform their organisations.

And leaders are responding. ‘The resilience revolution:  an Irish market overview of PwC’s Global Crisis and Resilience Survey 2023’ suggested that leaders must learn how to thrive in a ‘permacrisis’. As a result, many organisations have invested in transformation projects and large-scale transformation programmes to address specific challenges. Considering the pace at which organisations have had to pivot, reassess, strategise and operate, it is no wonder that they have lost some employees along the way—through resignation or, equally as worrying, their deepening loss of engagement. Our Irish Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 reports that only 24% of workers would publicly advocate for their company, 10% lower than the global sentiment.

Despite leadership efforts in the last year, employee retention continues to be a significant challenge, with more Irish workers planning to change jobs in the next 12 months—22% in 2023, compared to 21% in the previous year. While arguably a small percentage increase, it is interesting that efforts to retain workers are not yielding results and employee retention is increasingly difficult. While more than half of Irish employees are satisfied in their jobs, they seek greater autonomy. Only 42% of Irish employees feel they can choose to work in a way that suits them despite the large shift to hybrid working.

Retention remains a key challenge for leaders

How likely are you to take the following actions within the next 12 months?

2. A stressed and financially struggling workforce

The Irish Hopes and Fears 2023 survey found that 23% of workers have usually or often felt their workload was unmanageable. Navigating challenging workloads on top of societal, political and economic instability places a significant mental and emotional strain on workers’ health and wellbeing. Burnout should concern organisations, and efforts should be made to enhance workplace wellbeing and support employees in taking proactive steps to address it.

Lack of resources is the biggest factor driving unmanageable workloads for the Irish workforce

Which of the following factors have created unmanageable workloads for you in the past 12 months?

Ireland’s accommodation, cost of living and inflation crises are increasing hardship for workers. Eurostat’s comparative price levels of consumer goods and services indicated that Ireland was the most expensive country in the EU for consumer goods and services in 2022, a startling 46% above the EU average. Unsurprisingly, our responses show a significant increase in the proportion of people facing financial difficulty. 19% of Irish workers struggle to pay their monthly bills, 9% higher than last year.

Employees are struggling more financially

Which of the following best describes your current financial situation?

This increasingly negative picture should be of significant concern for leaders, as PwC's 2023 Employee Financial Wellness Survey indicated that the top cause of stress for employees is financial. Worryingly, this research also indicated that in addition to poorer emotional and physical wellbeing, financially stressed workers are more likely to be distracted, less engaged at work and more likely to look for another job.

Only 36% of Irish workers surveyed in the Irish Hopes and Fears 2023 survey feel that they are fairly financially rewarded for their work compared to 42% globally. It should not be surprising that 38% of Irish workers plan to ask for a pay rise in the next year. There is an opportunity for organisations to transform their total reward offerings to enhance total wellbeing. By aligning reward offerings to physical, emotional, mental, social, career and financial wellbeing that can be tailored to the needs of each individual, organisations can attract and retain the talent they need both now and in the future.

3. An opportunity to unlock talent through a skills-first approach

As the world of work is in a constant cycle of disruption and evolution, employers face the challenge of equipping today’s workforce with the soft and digital skills needed for tomorrow. According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2023, employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years, with cognitive skills growing in importance most quickly.  Employers must balance between creating a digitally enabled workforce and giving adequate attention to nurturing human-centric skills. In the 2023 Hopes and Fears survey, Irish workers anticipate that the most important skills over the next five years will be adaptability and flexibility, collaboration, critical thinking, and leadership skills. They also appreciate the benefits of AI technology, with 20% of respondents stating that it will create opportunities to learn valuable new skills.

The skills employees feel will be important in the next five years.

Net important results

*Net important is a summary of those who selected extremely and very important.

Meanwhile, PwC Ireland’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey indicated that 51% of Irish CEOs see skills shortages as one of the greatest threats to their business and are investing heavily in upskilling. The 2023 Hopes and Fears survey shows a disconnect between CEOs’ and employees’ understanding of the skills needed in the future, as only 26% of Irish workers agree that the skills needed to succeed in their job will significantly change over the next five years. Leaders must understand the skills needed in the future and effectively communicate this to their employees.

Over half of those surveyed proactively seek new opportunities to develop skills. Yet less than 55% of Irish employees feel confident that their employer will provide them with the required tools, resources and opportunities to build the skills required for the future of work. With workers eager and willing to learn new skills, leaders should take the opportunity to invest in their people and build the skills needed to succeed.

Interestingly, less than 43% of Irish workers feel they have the opportunity to apply the skills they already possess while 37% of Irish respondents have skills that are not clear from their job qualifications, job history or job titles. Organisations have an opportunity to move to a skills-first approach and unlock the potential of their existing talent pool. The skills needed for the future of work could be sitting within the organisation today, not being used and not known to leadership.

Additionally, as climate change and decarbonisation act as powerful forces in orchestrating business operations, there is ambiguity among the Irish workforce regarding the importance of green skills. Only 30% of the Irish workforce see strengthening their green skills as being of real importance over the next five years, 9% lower than the global average. This result is in contrast to the prioritised efforts of Irish CEOs in the area of decarbonisation.

4. Getting culture right for transformation and demystifying AI

Creating and sustaining an organisational culture that navigates rapid global change, leads people through crises and promotes an innovative and engaged workforce requires focused effort aligned with strategic transformation goals.

Having a diverse range of talented employees brings the potential for great innovation to an organisation. This requires a culture that fosters creativity and supports failure in the pursuit of success. Our Irish Hopes and Fears 2023 survey suggests that many companies discourage people from experimenting, challenging the status quo and sharing dissenting ideas. Only 27% of workers indicated that their manager encourages dissent or debate, while 36% indicated that their manager tolerates small-scale failures. This is a different picture from that painted by Irish CEOs, with 61% of leaders stating that they encourage dissent or debate and 43% saying that they tolerate small-scale failures. The leader behaviours needed to promote innovation and experimentation are not being felt by workers. This follows through to employee behaviours, with only 56% of Irish respondents agreeing that they bring new and innovative ideas to their team.

Poor company culture is a barrier to innovation

For each of the statements below, please indicate how frequently they occur (showing only ‘often’ and ‘usually’ responses).

Note: to compare the results with PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey, respondents who work in government and public services roles were excluded.

Conversations about AI technologies are moving into the mainstream, with one in five Irish respondents agreeing that AI will create opportunities to learn new skills. 22% believe it will increase their productivity and efficiency, and 16% see AI creating new job opportunities. However, there is ambiguity among the Irish workforce regarding the role of AI in the workplace of the future. Shockingly, 29% of Irish workers do not think AI will impact their job over the next five years. This highlights a lack of understanding by workers of the impact AI will have on most jobs in the near future. PwC’s article ‘Empowering your workforce: unleashing the potential of Generative AI’ addresses the impending effects of Generative AI on the workforce and workforce-related strategies. Leaders must understand the potential benefits and risks of AI technologies in their organisation, and interpret and communicate this to their people in a way that resonates with them.

Three questions every leader must answer

Is my workforce sufficiently engaged and empowered to deliver our transformation agenda?

People who are fully engaged, motivated and eager to contribute will be key to survival. The ability to effectively empower your workforce to lead transformation efforts and contribute to the best of their abilities will be a differentiator.


Do I know the skills we need to deliver our strategy, and do I know the skills that currently exist in the organisation?

Our research shows that there is untapped talent hiding in plain sight. People are willing to upskill but need clarity and insight into the skills required for the future of work.

How am I supporting my employees to manage retention and reduce the risk of burnout?

Irish workers are struggling financially, and this is likely having an impact on their work. Understanding this and putting supports in place can go a long way. Taking a total reward for total wellbeing approach can make a significant difference when it comes to employee experience and retention.

We are here to help you

The challenges facing Irish organisations are significant. There is an opportunity for leaders to unlock their existing talent to remain competitive and manage employee retention while ensuring that their culture is aligned with their business transformation strategy. Critical steps can be taken now; we are ready to help you. Contact us today.


Contact us

Gerard McDonough

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 87 224 1517

Laoise Mullane

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 87 160 6501

Louise Shannon

Senior Manager, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 86 043 8309

Follow PwC Ireland