How Do Countries Rate on Digital Skills?

Organizations around the world have been working hard to varying degrees to be ready for the digital transformation that is currently facing global economies. 

Their current readiness will ensure their future success as new technologies such as AI and automation force companies to re-imagine how they operate.

In this article, we examine the biggest challenges for companies and their workforces across geographies. 

The widening talent gap

There’s a big problem looming on the horizon for the digital and tech sector. The struggle currently being experienced in finding talent has the potential of turning into a full-blown crisis in the next few years.

According to a report 'Future of Work - The Global Talent Crunch', the cost of the labor shortage is expected to cost the U.S. technology, media, and telecommunications sector $162.2 billion in unrealized output

And the problem isn’t limited to the U.S. Every major player around the world, with the exception of India, is expected to have a shortage of skilled labor by 2030 totaling 4.3 million workers.

The effects of the crisis have a potentially broader impact since technology touches all the other sectors in the economy. To compound the problem, the need for skilled technology labor will not be limited to the tech sector, as other industries will also be in need of this specialized workforce.  

Ranking world leaders in digital competitiveness

For the second year running, the IMD World Competitiveness Center has tabulated a ranking of countries based on their exploration and adoption of digital technologies. The scores are based on three categories: knowledge, technology, and future readiness.

Knowledge examines the ability to understand and develop new technologies by measuring, among other things, the availability of talent and the quality of their education. 

The second scoring category is interested in the country’s technological environment, such as the available framework, the availability of capital for technological investments, and regulatory constraints. Finally, future readiness examines a country’s preparedness to exploit digital transformation. Here’s a snapshot of the results for the top ten countries:

  1. USA
  2. Singapore
  3. Sweden
  4. Denmark
  5. Switzerland
  6. Norway
  7. Finland
  8. Canada
  9. Netherlands
  10. United Kingdom

The United States leads the pack thanks to its improvements in technology and knowledge. “Gains in knowledge result from a strong performance in employee training and an increase in the share of scientific and technical employment,” notes professor Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Last year’s top performer, Singapore drops to the second position this year. Despite having the highest overall rating in the knowledge and technology categories, the country’s decline in future readiness resulted in its slip to #2. 

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What does it take for digital transformation?

The impact felt by today’s workers will depend entirely on how their industry is embracing change and preparing its employees for what's next. Transformation isn’t about an overnight shift, and organizations are responsible for communicating what those changes mean for their employees and what they’re prepared to do to help support those that may be struggling. - Danielle Clark, Adobe's Director of Ta​lent Development,

Having the right mix of skills within your organization will be critical for navigating your way through a digital transformation successfully. The required skills may vary or ebb and flow throughout the process, so the top priority is to be attentive and nimble.

As a leader, you need to be able to recruit a workforce with the right competencies at the right moment. You will also need to provide additional skills training to your current employees so that they can continue to meet your present needs and prepare for future business requirements.

Here are some of the top skills identified as crucial across industries:

Cloud computing

Without cloud computing, there can be o digital transformation. The dynamic and boundless resources made available by the cloud make a rapid business change not only possible but also far more viable. The more a business embraces a digital transformation philosophy, the more likely they are to gain the most benefit from their cloud solutions.

Analysis of big data

With the adoption of big data, businesses can gain an understanding of their customers' behavior now and better predict future behavior and trends so that they can plan for them and start implementing the necessary changes. Big data analytics also help to keep costs down and improve outcomes.

Cybersecurity

The protection of personal and confidential data must be of paramount importance to any enterprise. The trust of their customers and the success of future endeavors rely on the security, availability, and integrity of their data sources. They must have the ability to identify and address vulnerabilities in the cloud and on the premises.

AI and Machine Learning

Systems can improve processes automatically through experience and without programming through machine learning. These types of programs, which are a form of artificial intelligence, access and analyze data in order to learn from it. Today, few companies have the skilled IT professionals that can implement or support AI and machine learning applications.

Enterprise mobility management

Businesses all recognize the critical role and the extent to which mobility is a valuable tool in digital transformation. However, few of them adequately take enterprise mobility management into account in their large-scale planning.

Consider these facts presented by Holger Fritzinger, VP, Head of Solution Management, Mobile Apps and Platform with SAP at the 2018 Digital Transformation Online Summit:

  • 80% of executives say workers cannot do their jobs without smartphones
  • 70% of access to enterprise systems will occur by mobile device by 2020
  • 62% of employees delay completing tasks that require logging into multiple systems

Without a solid enterprise mobility management strategic plan in place, businesses will have a hard time integrating mobile in their systems and leveraging its power.

Change management skills

Cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and mobility all have the potential to reimagine how you do business drastically. Digital transformation is a new kind of change management where companies are constantly seeking and exploring new digital strategies to implement.

If your needs are going to change in ways that you can't necessarily fathom right now, that probably means that your business will need to implement some significant changes. Your ability to recognize that change and to communicate it effectively will be a critical skill. Your teams may need to evolve and even be dispersed, so your communications and intercultural skills will be put to the test as you work to keep the spirit of teamwork thriving.

Soft skills that will future-proof companies

Top 10 Skills in 2020

Creative thinking

Unforeseen problems will surely arise during the process, and to solve them, you will need creative minds. Creativity isn't limited to artistic endeavors. Creative people often can come up with innovative new ways of addressing an issue.

The creative process often initially involves quieting down the analytical part of the mind that tries to refute the validity of an idea. Create an environment where any idea can come to the surface, no matter how unlikely or improbable it is. Creative thinkers aren't afraid to take risks and generate lots of ideas in a brainstorming session and put off analyzing how good those ideas are until later. Creative people are lateral thinkers who have the ability to join two seemingly disparate concepts to form an idea or a solution.

Critical thinking

After ideas have been generated, that’s when it’s time to call upon your faculties of critical thought to try to poke holes in the ideas.

But the value of critical thought doesn’t end there. It’s needed in the analysis and synthesis of data in order to interpret and understand it using reason. It’s the cornerstone to complex problem solving, deliberation, and decision-making.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, understand, and moderate one's own emotions as well as those of others. It is becoming increasingly accepted that EQ, more than IQ, is a leading factor in a person's success.

Emotionally intelligent people tend to:

  • Work better collaboratively
  • Be better listeners
  • Have fewer conflicts
  • Show more compassion
  • Have a greater ability to communicate effectively

Since teamwork and the ability to communicate complex concepts to others are very important in a digital transformation, it’s easy to understand why having a high EQ is a significant asset.

Flexibility and determination

In an essential period of transition, it probably seems quite obvious to say that flexibility is a necessary skill. Nevertheless, it bears repeating that the ability to adapt to new realities, to reorganize when things don't go according to plan, and to stay committed in the face of setbacks are qualities that you need and that you should look for in your team members.

Final thoughts

The global landscape is in a constant state of change, as the need for skilled employees continues to outpace the supply. 

So it’s important to know exactly what qualities and skills your business will need to meet the new reality that lies ahead.

Clodagh O'Brien
Senior Content Specialist