Skills are really climbing the agenda. They are becoming the workplace currency, and starting to replace experience in hiring and promotion decisions.
In addition, amid challenging economic conditions, companies are leaning into retention and looking at ways to upskill their existing workforce, rather than fill skills gaps by acquiring new employees.
But it is important to not just upskill and fill the gaps of the now, but also try and plan for the future.
Digital training experts Circus Street’s president Sarah Gilchriest tells UNLEASH: “Businesses need to both train and upskill for the gaps they currently have, and also anticipate as best they can the expertise they will need in the future.
“Although this is challenging, it can be made easier with careful planning, an agile training strategy and keeping your finger on the pulse of economic and industry developments.”
This begs the question, so what is the market saying are the skills that employers need to be prioritizing now, but also in the future?
Data and digital skills are in demand
Circus Street dug into the skills preferences of the 775,000 professional learners that use its platform through employers like Pfizer, Nike, General Motors, Coca-Cola, and explored how these had changed during and since the pandemic.
The research found that in 2019, marketing skills like social media, digital, SEO, performance and content dominated the top 20 list. These skills then become less and less important into the 2020s.
In 2020, customer experience and e-commerce skills rose to the top of the list, making up 25% of all courses taken on Circus Street. They dropped to just 8% in 2022.
2021 saw a shift to digital transformation skills – these had been top in 2019, but actually dropped to fourth place in 2020. Then in 2021, digital transformation was represented in the top three courses on Circus Street.
Talking about these findings, Gilchriest comments: “The huge spike in digital transformation is a great lesson for businesses to constantly monitor internal expertise, ensure knowledge is not siloed, address gaps and, when embarking on major transformation projects, to ensure they have the skills to get the most out of it.”
Interestingly, 2022 saw a shift away from digital transformation and towards data – these had risen from 9% of courses taken in 2019 to 33% in 2022. Four of the top five most popular courses taken in 2022 were linked with data and analytics.
This is consistent with Udemy’s findings that ChatGPT is the most in-demand skill in 2023.
Gilchriest shares: “Currently, demand for data skills is at unprecedented levels. This is due to a small data talent pool, huge interest in experimenting with generative AI and the ongoing need for businesses to become more data-driven.”
However, she warns HR professionals to not get too obsessed with the hype around generative AI and ChatGPT, and instead “understand the exact skills that would most benefit their business”.
The key is to keep doing this work; evaluating the skills gaps as they evolve and change.
Gilchriest concludes: “It is absolutely critical to see skills training as an ongoing, dynamic process – it is not one and done. People need the opportunity to apply their new knowledge and take refresher courses.”
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