On these bleak rainy autumn days, Europe finds itself entering an even more violent second wave of coronavirus infections. It’s an unwanted outcome that may perpetuate the economic pain Europe has felt this year. Yet despite the turmoil, this disruptive event has shed light on something quite unexpected – the importance of digital skills.
Technology has helped the healthcare sector track the virus, aid banks at a time of heightened cyber threats and supported companies in meeting the immediate needs of a new remote workforce. Subsequently, it has reframed the way companies value digital skills. More importantly though, it has also raised awareness over how the digital skills gap continues to grow, and the dilemma that companies face because of it.
Closing the digital skills gap is now crucial for success
For most companies, the digital skills gap is nothing new. It has been around for decades, ever since the desktop PC arrived in the office. Since then, companies have constantly trained and retrained their workforce on how to use this new technology to make them more productive.
In the past, digital skills training was relatively easy. It simply involved sending staff on courses on how to touch-type or use Microsoft Office. Nowadays, however, the requirements are tougher and most workers are struggling to keep up. The digital skills gap is growing alarmingly wide and poses a major headache for many companies. But first, let us focus on what digital skills are.
What are digital skills?
Digital skills vary considerably. There are basic skills, such as being able to use an internet browser, connect to the internet and keep a password secure. Then there is also the ability to communicate digitally. Nowadays, apart from sending emails, other skills are required, such as using social media and using video conferencing platforms to communicate remotely. Being able to gather information from search engines is also important, together with filling in online forms and transacting online.
Today, if you are a skilled candidate, then the chances are that you are expected to possess these basic digital skills as a bare minimum. According to a 2017 study from the European Commission, 90% of professionals are required to possess at least basic digital skills, and this increases to 98% for managers.
However, there are certain digital skills that could help make a workforce even more dynamic. These include problem-solving without the need of IT support and being able to search online for solutions via internet forums. Added to this, the ability to keep data safely and spot malicious emails and cyber-attacks could be extremely valuable for companies. Another important skillset that has emerged is the ability to set up team sharepoints and cloud accounts, plus use cloud-based tech to run projects virtually.
The biggest beneficiaries from this trend will be the specialists
The candidates that are set to benefit the most are those planning to build a career on the digital skills they have developed. If successful, these individuals will future proof their career for decades to come as there is already a huge shortage of talent in this area. Companies across all industry sectors need these individuals and subsequently, these positions have become very well-paid.
For instance, there is strong demand for candidates with programming skills and experience in web app development. Another growing need is digital business analysis, where analysts and data scientists are being used to offer management teams valuable insights on how a company is performing. Digital design and data visualisation are also useful as they give companies an advantage when using tools such as Tableau and Power BI.
There is especially strong demand for digital skills in Switzerland
In Switzerland, the demand for people with high degree of digital skills is greater than the supply of suitably qualified candidates. Moreover, this gap is growing. The resulting deficit in skilled digital talent threatens to affect the ability for Swiss businesses to shape their own future. More broadly, it could also hinder the ability for Swiss companies to compete internationally against more digitally advanced rivals.
This digital skills shortage in Switzerland makes it a candidate's market for those with advanced digital skills that are in demand. For candidates, this places them in a powerful position to negotiate during the recruitment process. Subsequently, I believe the digital skill gap will overall, drive salaries even higher in Switzerland in the years to come.