A workforce with a broad mix of skills is crucial for business success and national prosperity. Businesses with more skilled sta have higher rates of innovation and productivity. And academic literature has found a consistent relationship between human capital and economic growth.
But do we fully understand the workforce skills necessary for success? Formal quali cations and technical skills are only part of the requirements for modern employees. ‘Soft skills’ and personal attributes are just as important to success. Indeed ten of the sixteen ‘crucial proficiencies in the 21st century’ identified by the World Economic Forum are non-technical.
Soft skills are also referred to as employability skills, enterprise skills and they are transferable between industries and occupations. They include things like communication, teamwork, and problem solving, as well as emotional judgement, professional ethics and global citizenship.
Deloitte Access Economics consulted with key industry experts and analysed new detailed data from job matching tools, LinkedIn and Workible,
to assess both international and domestic demand for these skills and how well- positioned Australians are to provide them.
As technology, globalisation and demographic shifts continue to shape
how businesses compete, the importance of soft skills will grow. In this report, Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft skill- intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000. The number of jobs in soft-skill intensive occupations is expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations. That’s a big workforce change, similar in magnitude to other major trends, like the shift from ‘blue- collar’ to ‘white-collar’ work, and the growing participation of women in the workforce.
So does our workforce have the skills necessary to foster business success? It’s a challenging question to answer neatly. But overall, the evidence available suggests that, as a nation, we have a strong soft-skills base.
For example, more than nine in every ten employers think their graduates have the capacity for teamwork and the ability to understand different viewpoints.
But there appears to be a gap between demand and supply. A quarter of entry- level employers report having di culty lling vacancies because applicants lack employability skills. And these gaps can be significant across a wide range of soft skills. In a new analysis of data from Workible, an online search tool, we nd that demand for self-management, digital skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills (measured by skill requirements listed by employers in job listings) signi cantly exceeds supply (measured by skills listed by employees in résumés). The difference between demand and supply is as large as 45 percentage points for communication skills.
Despite the value that businesses place on soft skills, data from LinkedIn profiles reveals that less than 1% of Australians report having any soft skills on their profiles.
This under-reporting is consistent globally, and might be because we are uncomfortable with claiming skills without formal credentials, or because we underestimate the relative importance of soft skills.