Despite the major demand in the technology sector, there is a massive crisis in digital skills, which is expected to result in a huge supply-demand mismatch.
As our economies and businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the pace of digital upskilling required by the fourth industrial revolution is only going to get faster. Salesforce, a leading player in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), published the Global Digital Skills Index 2022 which highlights the growing global digital skills crisis and the need for action. India has scored 63 out of 100, leads the digital skills readiness, and has the highest readiness index among the 19 countries. The average global readiness score was 33 out of 100. However, in five years’ time, the preparedness is projected to drop significantly, unless urgent action is taken by organizations and the administration.
The Salesforce Index is based on over 23,000 workers in 19 countries reporting their readiness to acquire key digital skills. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) don’t feel equipped to learn the digital skills needed by businesses now and even more (76%) don’t feel equipped for the future. Despite 82% of survey respondents planning to learn new skills in the next five years, only 28% are actively involved in digital skills learning and training programs now.
Skills in collaboration technology are viewed as the most important digital workplace skill for workers today and over the next five years. But despite respondents’ prowess with everyday collaboration technology like social media, only 25% rate themselves advanced in those collaboration technology skills needed specifically for the workplace.
The Global Index identifies three major skill gaps:
- The everyday skills gap
The vast majority of respondents (83%) claim “advanced” or “intermediate” everyday social media skills and 76% say the same for everyday digital communication skills. However, only one-third feel prepared for the workplace social media skills needed over the next five years.
- The generational skills gap
Only 31% of Gen Z respondents, the first truly digital native generation, feel “very equipped” for a digital-first job right now. Not many Gen Z respondents believe they have “advanced” digital skills in areas like coding (20%), data encryption & cybersecurity (18%), and AI (7%). Other generations report an even steeper challenge.
- The leadership and workforce skills gap
When it comes to digital skills readiness and education, senior leadership and their workforce aren’t on the same page. A majority of senior leadership respondents (54%) said they are prepared with the digital skills necessary now. However, less than half of managers and individual contributors agree, signalling a disconnect within organizations.
150 million new technology jobs
LinkedIn data projects there will be nearly 150 million new technology jobs created over the next five years, ranging from software development to IT support. For many businesses, there is an assumption that these positions can partly be filled by tech-savvy younger employees, who can then share knowledge with older employees. But are the next generation really ready to meet the digital skills demanded by the jobs of the future?
Digital native, not a digital worker
Just 31% of Gen Z respondents to the Salesforce survey said they felt very equipped for a digital-first job right now, with few reporting confidence in having more advanced digital skills like coding (20%), data encryption and cybersecurity (18%) and AI (7%). However, Gen Zers were more likely to be preparing themselves for future challenges, with 35% currently training or learning new digital skills.
This was despite nearly two-thirds (64%) of Gen Zers saying they had advanced social media skills, suggesting that being a digital native doesn’t necessarily translate into having appropriate digital skills for the workplace. Unfortunately, very few young people have a clear picture of what a technology career looks like.
At the other end of the age scale, just 17% of baby boomers (those born 1946-1964) reported being very equipped for digital-first employment, with a worryingly low 12% engaging in digital skills training. Gen X (those born 1965-1980) didn’t fare much better, with only 22% being equipped with the necessary skills and the same figure participating in training. In fact, just 17% of all survey respondents consider themselves advanced in workplace digital skills, with half considering themselves beginners. So how can organisations better support all employees to grow their digital capability?
Growing your digital talent pool
It’s vital that businesses avoid ‘lazy assumptions’ about digital capabilities. Digital capability varies by region, income and by overall literacy. It’s genuinely a mixed picture and you risk alienating and upsetting staff by making assumptions about them. Asking employees for their digital confidence levels before starting training is good practice.
Be clear about the digital skills you need and require. Set standards and expectations for employees. Provide them with the time, resources, and support to build these capabilities. And most importantly, don’t neglect the wider skills of transformation – people and change management, teamwork, and rigour. Without these, you can have all the digital skills in the world but will still fail.
Continuous learning culture
Be clear about the digital skills you need and require. Set standards and expectations for employees. The truth is there is no single magic formula to success. Instead, a digital-first world of work gives businesses the chance to rethink what truly agile teams can look like. It’s also about building a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, allowing employees to evolve their skills as technology continues to change how we work.
This requires deliberate investment in upskilling, training and reinventing existing employees. The good news is that many employees are already on board with developing news skills. The Global Digital Skills Index report suggests that 82% of employees are planning on learning new skills to grow their careers.
Consider the potential of your talent pool, rather than what they already do. Focus on employees who already have digital capabilities and encourage them to teach their colleagues. Bring in external talent with new skills and encourage them to upskill existing employees.
Finally, give your employees a say in what the future of your business looks like. All generations of employees – whether Gen Z, near-retirees or everybody in between – need a sense of belonging and purpose. Providing digital skills training is about ensuring that all employees in a multi-generational workforce have the ability to develop, design and do well in future work.
(Abhijit Roy is a technology explainer and business journalist. He has worked with Strait Times of Singapore, Business Today, Economic Times and The Telegraph. Also worked with PwC, IBM, Wipro, Ericsson.)
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