The State of Skills 2021: Endangered

By Degreed – Published December 2020 in DegreedSubscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

Let’s get into some specific examples of the skills gap with a synopsis of “The State of Skills 2021: Endangered,” a report by Degreed, “an upskilling platform that connects learning to opportunities.” As noted, in part, within Degreed’s creatively written manifesto, this company exists “to discover, empower, and recognize the next generation of the world’s expertise. The smartest, brightest, and most bold, the tenacious, willing, the unsung heroes, self-taught, the scrappy, driven, the passionate, daring, the unafraid. Experts.”

Degreed surveyed more than 5,000 workers, team managers, and business leaders and then organized their research to help employers and employees “focus their limited energy and investments on developing the most urgent skills.” They found that “demand is strongest for technological skills. However, they are also looking to develop their social and cognitive skills.”

Degreed asked survey participants “to select up to five skills they’d most like to develop from a taxonomy of 25 skills developed by McKinsey Global Institute for their 2018 study, ‘Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce.’” Out of this, they developed a good number of well-designed and sophisticated graphs, tables, and illustrations throughout the report – labeled by industry, job roles, and countries – listed within three broad categories:

  1. The supply and demand for skills are shifting.
  2. COVID-19 is endangering workforce skills.
  3. It’s not just skills at risk – it’s people, communities, and businesses.

Under supply and demand for skills, the following ten in-demand skills for 2021 were listed:

  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

Degreed then asked whether or not folks knew what skills they actually had, along with where they thought the most up-to-date data about their skills existed. In addition to illustrating results of these two questions, they had both good news and bad news. The good news was that “only 21% of workers believe the most up-to-date data about their skills exists in online networks and communities like Linkedin, Twitter, Dribbble, or GitHub; and 34% think it’s in their employers’ HR systems.” The bad news was that “more than a quarter (27%) of workers believe the most up-to-date data on their skills is hidden inside documents like resumes and CVs. Another 18% say real-time information on their skills doesn’t exist anywhere.” 

It was also noted that “there is no system of record for skills.” White technology can illuminate skills, “data indicates that efficient data architectures and advanced AI are not enough to fill in all the gaps in conventional HR processes.” The report then showed “how data on people’s skills gets into HR systems (and how it doesn’t).”

Under the second category of how COVID-19 is endangering workforce skills, Degreed explained how “the global health and economic crisis has had three big impacts on the state of skills,” as follows:

  1. It’s accelerating the need for new skills: “Six-in-ten say COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis have accelerated their need to acquire new skills.”
  2. It’s reducing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling: “Nearly half of workers (46%) say their employers have reduced upskilling and reskilling opportunities during the pandemic.”
  3. It’s making the workforce more stressed and vulnerable: “Nearly half (46%) of workers, managers, and business leaders believe their core job skills will be obsolete within five years. More than 36% expect their core job skills to decay within three years.”

Under the third category of people, communities and businesses at risk, Degreed delineated each:

People: We’re stressed out. “More than half of workers globally (55%) say that as confidence in their skills decreases, their stress levels increase.”

Communities: Stress compounds. “Stress doesn’t just affect those people and their families. It compounds into weaker consumer demand and adds new pressures on already strained communities and local governments.”

Businesses: There’s bad news. “Anxiety and stress over skills can also impede workers’ productivity and performance, and intensify ‘people costs’ like wellness, absences, and turnover. And that’s bad for business.”

In short, mental health and wellness are at risk; productivity and performance are at risk; retention and recovery are at risk; and employer brands and trust are at risk.

To wrap things up, Degreed declared that “hands can’t hit what eyes can’t see.” In other words, things change so rapidly in a constantly evolving world that it becomes difficult to keep our eyes on the fast ball coming at us. As we deal with change, “some skills decay in value while others grow and new ones emerge. And that means we all need to pay closer attention to the skills we have and the ones we need next.” Download Degreed’s report and explore their data.