Building future workforces with digital skills
Digital Strategy

Building future workforces with digital skills

The survey on skills of working-age people in the digital age indicates that organizations’ demand for digital skills has increased 200% in the past three years, and within the next five years, this number is expected to continue to grow rapidly. However, young workers are not ready for those changes (1).

When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, lots of businesses faced difficulties in responding to the sudden external influence, due to the lack of capacity to adapt and convert the traditional working model to online working model in a short period of time when there was no preparation in advance. In this context, the resilience and innovation of businesses in applying 4.0 technology show limitations in many aspects, of which a significant reason is due to the lack of labor resources to meet high demand.

The shift from traditional to digital skills

Facing market uncertainties, in response, recovery and breakthrough, industries are increasing sharply the investment in automation, including traditional ones such as agriculture. Under the impact of digital transformation, manufacturing companies not only restructure their organizations but also transform jobs within their workforce, by attracting technology-savvy workers, upskilling and reskilling for existing workforces to adapt and apply technology for their jobs effectively.

80% of all industries employed people with more digital skills, in which traditional industries demand 5 times more digital workforce comparing to other industries (2).

Figure 1: Annual growth of digital talent hires as a % of overall hires (2)

From the perspectives of applying automation technology, recent surveys show that in just the next 3-4 years, the rate of automation in workflows will increase with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. For example, in manufacturing, machines will gradually replace humans in performing more effectively manual tasks. As a result, the number of hours labors spend on these tasks decreases and more time are made for tasks that create higher value while the working time of machines will increase over time (3).

Figure 2: The working time of machines will increase in the coming years (3)

At the same time, new jobs created will need workers to embrace new skills related to working together with technology, higher cognitive and social and emotional intelligence. It is expected that nearly 50% of all employees require additional training by 2025 (4). Therefore, to keep up with the world trend of digital transformation, businesses need to build highly qualified teams with new skills.

Figure 3: The trend of shifting workforce skills in the future (5)

However, in fact, in the labor market, human resources with digital skills are quite limited and difficult to find. At the same time, companies have difficulty identifying the digital competencies they really need to determine digital skills requirements correctly.

Figure 4: Leaders in Asia Pacific stated that it’s difficult to hire digital talent with the right skills (2)
Figure 5: Digital skill of Vietnam ranked 97th of all 141 nations (6)

What are the digital skills needed for future workforce?

To prepare for the future, it will be necessary for businesses, leaders or workers to recognize and identify competencies and skills to learn, cultivate and enhance.

As of before, digital skills were understood as knowledge and know-how to utilize technology in work and life for better efficiency. However, with the current growing trend of digital economy and digital working environment, the concept of digital skills is broadened with the following five factors:

Figure 6: Five digital skills factors of future workforce (7)

The above digital skills and knowledge must be developed equally, aiming to form a digital culture in the organization, where most employees have the knowledge and capacity to confidently work in the digital environment with digital thinking, digital ways of working and digital tools.

In the context of the increasing demand for working with robots and automation machines, the digital skills of the workforce are “human” skills, which technology machines cannot replace, such as communication, problem solving, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, will be the skills that businesses need and seek in the coming years.

Figure 7: List of top 10 digital skills of workforces in the next 5 years (4)

What do businesses need to do to catch up with the world trend of improving digital skills for the workforce?

When compared to other countries in the region, Vietnam’s labor productivity remains relatively low and has not yet been competitive with neighbor countries in Asia such as Malaysia and Singapore. This shows the essential of improving the quality of workforce to improve productivity so that Vietnamese businesses can compete with large businesses of the regional markets.

For businesses, in order to plan for building a digital workforce, the first thing to do is to determine what skills are needed to support the achievement of their business goals and strategies. From there, businesses can provide suitable training and recruit talents with appropriate professional skills.

Figure 8: Steps to build the 4.0 workforce of businesses

Typically, digital skills consist of three categories:

  • Category 1: Basic computer literacy for daily work life
  • Category 2: Digital skills for the general workforce, enabling the efficient use of IT systems and general technology processes in sectors and industries
  • Category 3: Digital skills in the field of ICT

The majority of companies often focus on category 1 and category 3 to build organizational skills with two forms of training and recruitment, without focusing much on category 2. Therefore, as applied technology increases in various industries, focusing on training digital skills is not only necessary for new employees but also for current employees. In addition, the strategy to improve workforce skills should also emphasize the role of digital culture needed through training programs, internal communication, evaluation tests and feedbacks.

In order to form a digital culture in the business, the role of leaders is very important to create an environment that encourages employees with the spirit of learning, innovating, seeking to continuously improve their capabilities. Digital leaders are also guiding the digital transformation in businesses, from envisioning digital transformation strategies to developing programs for building digital workforce within the organization. So what are the skills a digital leader usually has?

Figure 9: Top 9 skills of a digital leader

These leadership skills will help the organization concretely form a future digital workforce to proactively adapt to long-term sustainable changes, facing constant changes from the market. Building a workforce to meet the market needs today is one of the priority tasks to improve the organization’s digital transformation capabilities. However, there will be no common formula for all businesses as the demand for digital skills will vary. Therefore, businesses will need to identify skills needed from internal special characteristics and based on industry trends in order to build a customized training plan. This action will determine the effectiveness of the training programs in practice as well as of future businesses digital culture.



Reference sources:
(1) ResearchGate. 2018. Young People’s Literacies in the Digital Age: Continuities, Conflicts and Contradictions.
(2) LinkedIn. 2017. The Digital Workforce of the Future.
(3) World Economic Forum. 2020. Davos 2020: Here’s what you need to know about the future of work.
(4) World Economic Forum. 2020. These are the top 10 job skills of tomorrow – and how long it takes to learn them.
(5) McKinsey & Company. 2018. AI, automation, and the future of work: Ten things to solve for.
(6) World Economic Forum. 2019. The Global Competitiveness Report.
(7) NCVER. 2017. Skilling the Australian workforce for the digital economy.

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