How the supply and demand for skills are shifting

Ajay Sridharan, VP of Sales, India/South East Asia & Middle East, Degreed, provides insights on how organisations can support employee upskilling.
By: | March 2, 2021

By Ajay Sridharan, VP of Sales, India/South East Asia & Middle East, Degreed

2020 saw unprecedented changes in the workforce and the demand for skills reflected this. 60% of workers and managers feel that the COVID-19 crisis accelerated their need for new skills.

This rose significantly in some sectors (technology was 77%, financial services was 64%, for example) and roles (HR at 68%, marketing at 69%, and IT at 75%).

Simultaneously, the supply of skills faces a crisis of its own as, during the pandemic, almost half (46%) of workers say their employers reduced upskilling opportunities.

This will potentially hinder growth as we move into business recovery in 2021, as people will not be equipped with the skills they need to fulfill the business strategy and take advantage of new business opportunities.

What skills are most at risk.

The top 10 skills at risk according to the State of Skills 2021 are:

  1. Advanced IT and programming
  2. Leadership and managing others
  3. Advanced communication and negotiation
  4. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
  5. Project management
  6. Creativity
  7. Advanced data analysis and mathematics
  8. Critical thinking and decision making
  9. Adaptability and continuous learning
  10. Technology design and engineering

Interestingly, you will see a mix of social, cognitive, and technological skills that are in-demand. This reflects the changing nature of work in 2020. Widespread job uncertainty (and sudden business pivots) means that skills that can be applied across many projects and roles are more in-demand.

Likewise, the digital acceleration we experienced during the first global lockdown has increased demand for technology skills that capitalise on this and the data created by our new digital workspaces.

What you can do to help support the upskilling of your people.

First, you need to understand the needs of your organisation, what skills are required for the business strategy to succeed, what skills you have currently, what skills are missing, and what skills are being developed. From this, you will understand your most at-risk skills in your organisation and what should be prioritised in your upskilling strategy.

Next, talk to your people to understand their skill needs and career goals. Find the overlap between your business skill needs and your people’s aspirations – this will help you support them with upskilling that aligns with their career, but that also drives your business forward.

Additionally, look at how your people are learning, what content they are engaging with, the topics that are most popular, and the timings and format. This enables you to tailor learning to different preferences and this will make it more engaging (and likely that people will use your learning opportunities). For example, 55% of workers prefer to turn to their peers when they need to learn something new.

I would always advise that you take a person-centric approach to your upskilling. Careers and skills are very personal things and if you take a top-down approach, where skill requirements are dictated from above and upskilling becomes mandatory, you will get high engagement or learning retention.

The final step is to provide opportunities for people to practice their new skills. The forgetting curve theory suggests that people forget up to 90% of what they have just learned within a week. Regularly practicing a skill provides the spaced reinforcement needed to remember it and commit it to your long-term memory.

Opportunities to practice new skills can be offered through an individual’s current role, a stretch assignment or secondment, volunteering, mentoring, and redeployment into a new role or project.

To discover more about the State of Skills 2021 and how your organisation can prepare its workforce with the right skills, tune into my session at Learning Technologies Asia 2021.

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Join Ajay at Learning Technologies Asia 2021, where he will be presenting a session titled What You Need To Know About The State of Skills in 2021 on March 23, at 11.30am (SGT).