21st Century Skills describe the skills that have gained new importance in the digitalised working world of the 21st century. The employer perspective on digital change has already been discussed in great detail. In this study, however, we focus on the employee side and examine changes in promising skills and how to adapt the recruiting process: How do employees perceive changes in working life in the course of digitization? How do they locate themselves and their competences in a digitalised working world? And how must a personnel selection look like in order to reliably record the most important skills of the future?

For this topic, the independent market research company respondi conducted a survey on behalf of viasto of over 1,000 employees in Germany, all of whom have a high school or university degree.


The same profession for the whole life? The old standard changed

Frequent job changes are nothing unusual these days. But doing the same or a similar job with another employer is no longer enough for many employees: A full 75% of all respondents are interested in changing jobs to a new field of work. Today, people no longer learn a profession and then practice it from the end of their training or studies until they retire – quite the opposite.


Digitization means constant change

The working world is becoming more dynamic. Employees obviously have a genuine interest in gaining professional experience other than that which might be envisaged in a traditional career. What at first glance could be labelled a typical characteristic of the restless “Generation Me”, but a closer look reveals itself to be a far more profound change in the world of work. Across all age groups, a majority of respondents express a fundamental interest in a change of occupational field. This desire is most pronounced among those under 40 years of age, with ratings of up to 87%.

The fact that these are not just empty words is shown by the statistics of the actual changes in occupational fields. Even in the cohort of young professionals aged 18-29 years, only about three-quarters of the respondents also work in the field of their education/studies. The share of those who never left their originally learned occupational field decreases continuously with increasing age to a value of 52% among the 60+ age group. This development towards more variability in working life is therefore not new and thus not only due to digitisation, but it is taking on new dimensions in a digitised working world.


The change in the demanded competencies

As the world of work changes, so do the demands for competencies in employees. Because if the average working life is no longer as straightforward as it used to be, employees today also have to have different skills than before or acquire them anew on the job. A job, including all its associated skills, should therefore always be understood in a changing context.


A dynamic, complex world of work requires adaptation

In addition, completely new professional fields are developing faster than ever before. For example, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future Jobs Report, almost two-thirds of today’s primary school students will later work in jobs that do not exist today. And this will be accompanied by the further or new development of required skills. What sounds like a very long-term development is happening enormously fast in many areas. The World Economic Forum, for example, predicted in 2016 that as early as 2020 a third of all required skills will consist of skills that were irrelevant at the time.

This reality of rapid change and changing demands is also faced by the employees surveyed. In a comparison between past and present working life, the competencies perceived by respondents as important increased by an average of 11%. The 18 to 29-year-olds even see an increase in required skills of 24%. The complexity of the world of work is therefore increasing from the employee’s point of view and today, more skills are required to be able to survive in it.

With the complexity and variability of the working world, however, not only the demands but also the opportunities for employees increase. On average, they state that they have learned a little more than two job-relevant competencies in their jobs. For employees, it is therefore already a matter of course to develop dynamically themselves in the fast-paced world of work.

Old and new 21st Century Skills

Not only the number but also the content of the most important competences in professional life was part of the survey. Nearly all of the competences surveyed were rated as more important for the future than in the past. The only exceptions: Expertise and customer orientation. The greatest increases were recorded in openness to new things, digital competence and innovative ability. Employees and applicants have therefore already adjusted to the fast pace and constant changes in the world of work. They consider precisely those skills to be particularly valuable that make them adaptable and digital.

But the bottom line is that 21st Century Skills is more than just digital competence. Of course there is no question that the importance of being able to use a computer intuitively has increased enormously. And indeed, a full 95% of those surveyed say that a certain digital competence is indispensable today. But it is a success factor and not the only or most important one. All in all, the employees surveyed show a broad spectrum of important skills, which, in addition to digital competence, come primarily from the areas of learning & innovation and career & life skills.


Many winners and a few losers

The study participants were also asked why they could imagine a change of occupational field. The most frequently cited reason for the idea of change, at 60%, was: “Change is simply part of it”. Employees therefore have little concern about the changed conditions of the digitalised labour market.

Other reasons given for a change of occupational field, apart from financial motives (39%), are above all the hope of a job with more demanding tasks (23%) or a lost liking for the current job (21%). In other words, employees themselves have an interest in change and thus benefit from the increased variability of modern working life.


Employees are self-confident

Most workers are coping well with the changes brought about by digital change and are moving confidently in the digitalised world of work. In the study, the participants were asked how confident they are about the demands of the future. Without significant differences between age groups or gender, an average of 84% of the employees said that they had the skills that would make them valuable employees in a digitized working environment.


The worry of being replaced

However, not all respondents have a positive attitude towards digitisation and the changes it will bring about. Some employees feel that they are dependent on rapid change. 5% of respondents are genuinely worried and a further 14% are slightly worried that their jobs could be put at risk by digitisation.


Successful 21st Century Recruiting in practice

It is clear that the digitalised world of the 21st century has a strong impact on working life. A profession is no longer seen as a life task, but as one of many possibilities. And what I learned yesterday, or what helps me advance in my career today, can be replaced tomorrow by even more important skills. Our study shows that employees are largely self-confident in dealing with complexity and have adapted to the dynamics of the digitalized world of work. In order to be prepared for the modern, digital applicant, personnel selection must now also adapt to the new requirements.

Competencies versus potential factors

A fundamental distinction that should be taken into account in any personnel selection is that between competencies and skills: competencies mean that one is competent today. Potentials, on the other hand, mean that you are competent today and tomorrow. Especially with the increasing importance of permanent change, potential factors should therefore become the focus of personnel selection.

Against this background, it is negligent to focus on classic hard skills in personnel selection. Everything that can be learned on the job anyway should be weighted behind the potential factors that make up a sustainably successful employee. Openness for new things, motivation to learn or initiative are common examples of such potential factors. Consider specifically for your vacancies which promising skills future employees will not be able to learn on the job. And you should pay attention to exactly these potential factors in recruiting.

Are you interested in how digital selection methods and a modern mix of methods can optimally equip your recruiting for the requirements of the digitalised working world? Then book a consultation with our experts about the possibilities of digital recruiting for your personnel selection.

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About viasto and our artificial intelligence in recruiting

Viasto is the leading innovator and market leader for video recruiting solutions. We are working with external AI experts developing useful AI applications for personnel selection processes in every field. The viasto interview suite, a web based software as a service (SaaS), enables companies to improve their recruiting. Using competence based interview structures, recruiting becomes more efficient, more flexible and more reliable. Viasto was founded in 2010 and is based in the technology hotspot Berlin. Our customers, for example Telekom, BOSCH, AXA and Beiersdorf trust our expertise and believe in the benefits of artificial intelligence in HR.