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Key Factors to Closing the Global Digital Skills Gap

The annual World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, is the single most influential gathering of world leaders and business innovators on the planet. This year, one of the most pervasive themes at the forum centers around the role of youth in securing future economic prosperity.

Today, there are 3.6 billion people under the age of 35, and for this new generation the world is changing faster than ever before. A brighter future is possible, but only if young people are suitably equipped to navigate the dynamic landscape.

One thing that stands in the way of this process is the overwhelming global digital skills gap. According to the Coursera 2019 Global Skills Index, a whopping two-thirds of the global population is falling behind in critical skills, with 90% being in developing economies. IDC echoes this in their 2019 Futurescape report, stating that two million jobs in artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, cybersecurity and blockchain will remain unfilled by 2023 due to a lack of human talent. The truth is that the rate at which technology is evolving is faster than the rate at which skills are being developed.

Many global organizations have realized that a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management is no longer suitable for this complicated and ambiguous world and are leaning towards more creative and insights-driven tactics to plugging the gap.

Instead of favoring a localized approach, many are accessing the global talent pool. A good example of where this could work well is in a market such as Canada. According to the Robert Half Salary Guide 2020,  with its burgeoning startup culture and immigration policies, Canada is looking to attract skilled technology from across the world.

There are three factors that global organizations need to consider when searching for the right person for the job:

1 . Concentration of talent

In a world where connectivity allows for a flexible and global workforce, leveraging pockets of excellence across the globe can be a step towards closing the digital skills gap. Businesses, therefore, need to identify where concentrations of talent lie. A study by HackerRank identified the countries with the most comprehensive IT skills. Eastern Europe came out on top with the top four including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Countries with the best developers included China, Russia, Poland and Switzerland.

Innovation hotspots are another area of expertise worth investigating. The JLL Global Innovation Ranking report identified San Francisco in Silicon Valley as one such hub. Yet the top positions are not all dominated by U.S. cities, but rather evenly spread across the three main global regions, with Asia Pacific cities like Tokyo and Singapore presently having a stronger presence in these rankings than they would have had even a few years ago.

2. Labor costs and efficiency

Labor costs and competitive compensation also need to be taken into consideration when identifying talent across the globe. One study by CapRelo looked into the average salary of a Software Engineer globally. Unsurprising, Silicon Valley came out on top with $85,000 as an average salary for an American software engineer and the second-highest in the world, trailing only Switzerland’s $94,567. The key is to map out a company’s specific labor requirements while remaining competitive. It is important to assess the cost of labor in conjunction with skill levels and productivity – paying less in a different region may ultimately cost more if productivity and output are affected.

3. The changing business environment

The ever-changing business environment should also be considered when building a global labor force. In response to changing business needs, the 2019 Global Skills Index showed that the global appetite for developing technological skills is slowly increasing at the expense of traditional business skills. According to the report, the demand for business skills such as sales or communications has been diminishing, while the demand for skills in technology and data science has grown exponentially. In fact, technology enrollments increased 13% since last year, while business enrollments fell by 11%.

While the industry plays catch up, it is vital for businesses to proactively continue with training initiatives in foundational business skills with current employees. According to the World Economic Forum ‘HR4.0: Shaping People Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ report, the workforce rates the opportunity to learn among the top reasons for taking a job. The report goes on to say that 94% of CHROs prioritize the move from episodic training to perpetual reskilling to enable a nimble workforce and respond to the changing nature of work.

Ultimately, technology can provide global organizations with the opportunity to access a global workforce. By having the right knowledge around pockets of excellence and compensation needs, a new flexible workforce can emerge. The key is to also continue with the implementation of ongoing training initiatives to arm the workforce with the right skills in an ever-changing world. As a global organization, SYSPRO continues to invest in our global workforce to leverage the right skills for unique market needs.

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