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Upskilling For Business Recovery | Degreed State of Skills Report 2021

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the global skills crisis cost trillions of dollars in lost GDP. 

Now, millions fear that the crisis as we’ve known it is worsening — that the gap between high skill jobs and the skilled workers available to fill those positions is growing at a faster rate. 

Navigating this conundrum is one of the greatest talent challenges of our time. But few HR, business, talent, or learning leaders know where to begin, and workers appear equally uncertain.

That’s why we created The 2021 State of Skills Report

We surveyed more than 5,200 people around the world who shared their perspectives, helping us assess the effects of recent events on workforce skills and gauge people’s readiness to adapt. We crunched the numbers and learned that people are stressed. They feel less confident about their skills, which is making them less productive. And some are ready to look for new jobs if they can’t get the training they feel they need. 

Our team organized the results by job role, industry, and country, so business leaders, managers, and workers can focus their limited energy and investments on developing the skills they need most right now. 

COVID will lead to more upskilling

What’s changed since the pandemic began? 

The data shows that massive workforce shifts are underway. 

In 2020, workers around the world were displaced, and redeployments, furloughs, and layoffs will likely continue throughout 2021. It’s driving people to refresh their current skills and, more importantly, build new ones. In fact, economic uncertainty is accelerating demand for new skills among 60% of workers.  

More than a third (38%) of respondents feel less confident now than they did before the pandemic that they have the skills to do their jobs effectively. Nearly half (46%) predict their current skills will become obsolete in the next 3 to 5 years.  

Many businesses recognize that upskilling is vital to economic recovery. But as the pandemic persists, many upskilling budgets have been slashed. Nearly half of workers say their employers reduced upskilling and reskilling opportunities during the pandemic. 

Identifying the right skills to prioritize

If you’re wondering what skills will be critical as we move into 2021, take into account that it depends entirely on who you are, where you work, and what you do. To help you sort it out, the report includes detailed breakdowns of results. 

In-Demand Skills in 2021
Click to view larger.

Some trends stand out. Among those surveyed, demand is strongest for technological skills. However, people are also looking to develop social and cognitive skills. And we can find even more patterns as we drill deeper into industries and roles:

  1. Understanding supply and demand for your skills is critical. No matter who you are, from the C-suite on down, it’s helpful to know which skills are growing or declining in value in your country, in your business, and for your role. Yet 27% of workers say the most up-to-date data on their skills is hidden inside documents like resumes. Another 18% say real-time information on their skills doesn’t exist anywhere.
  2. Not all roles are equal. IT, marketing, and HR workers feel the most acute pressure to upskill and reskill.
  3. Country-specific implications. The lack of upskilling opportunities is especially serious in emerging markets — like India, Brazil, and Mexico — the same markets that feel the acute risks of obsolete skills.

This is larger than just upskilling

While this report outlines the increase and decrease of certain skills, it also reveals that much more is at stake.

People: More than half of workers globally (55%) say that as confidence in their skills decreases, their stress levels increase. And nearly half (46%) of workers say they are more likely to leave their employers if they don’t see a commitment to upskilling and reskilling.

Communities: Increased stress compounds into weaker consumer demand and adds new pressures on already strained communities and local governments. 

Businesses: A lack of skills is leading to a decrease in productivity and performance. 41% of respondents said that a lack of confidence in their skills means that their tasks take longer to complete. And 22% said their work was lower quality.  

Rather than upskilling workers or promoting career mobility, some businesses have opted for layoffs. But when organizations opt to hoard labor, it saves precious time, knowledge, and money essential for economic recovery. 

What’s holding organizations back from investing in skills? 

Good skill data is the key to upskilling.

Limited budgets are not the only obstacle to investing in skill strategies. Businesses can’t make informed decisions when they don’t have the data they need.  

Up-to-date information on people’s skills, if it exists at all, is often spread across multiple outdated HR systems used once or twice a year for things like compensation and benefits.  

Without this data, businesses can’t make smart decisions about the skills they need for growth. They don’t have the visibility into what skills their people have, what talent or skill gaps exist, or what skills their people need to learn.

By understanding the complete picture of your organization’s existing skills, and by targeting your energy and investment on the biggest risks, you can focus on the road ahead — developing your people and boosting your company’s odds of success. 

A time to act

The businesses that survive and flourish in the wake of Covid-19 will be different than they were before. They will have a solidified skill strategy in place and workers who’ve sharpened their current skills and built new ones to meet changing demands.  

Thriving after the pandemic will be challenging. But the State of Skills can provide a roadmap to prepare your workers — now and into the future. 

Download the full State of Skills Report 2021 here to read more! 

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