Degrees Are Not Enough: Specific Knowledge And Specialist Skills Will Prevail

30 Dic 2020

Laura Colombo  |

Forbes Human Resources Council  | | Membership (Fee-Based) | Leadership

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist.

The development and improvement of interpersonal skills among workers is a key factor of a strong economy, individual success and social cohesion. The transition to the work of the future is often defined by new technologies, sectors and markets as well as by global economic systems, systems which have never been so interconnected.

The last decade has allowed unprecedented mobility among people and in this highly digitized job market, one predominant theme has emerged: the lack of contemporary skills among the global workforce.

What Perspective Is Emerging, And What Does This Mean For The Job Market? 

To understand this shift we must take a step back and look at the situation without assumptions. Let’s start with facts and numbers.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2020 survey about the future of work points out that, on average, 15% of a company’s workforce is “at risk of disruption” between now and 2025, and about 6% of employees are expected to be “fully displaced.” Companies are aware of the fact that within the next five years, 44% of the skills required by their employees to perform their roles effectively will radically change and many companies are trying to compensate for the skills gap by providing their employees the necessary training.

As a result of this phenomenon, the e-learning sector has taken off, especially in the delivery of micro-courses on specific topics, which employers and employees find immediately useful and applicable in terms of increasing operational capabilities. It appears as if training has taken a molecular shape — following systemic paths rather than linear ones.

Acceleration Is A Must 

As a result of the pandemic, millions of workers have changed their lives, inside and outside of the workplace, altering the meaning of well-being and productivity. Many companies have been forced to readdress and sometimes reestablish their strategy. The alternative would have been to die in a stalled and disrupted market.

From the WEF report, a word emerges multiple times in the text, in the tables and in the captions: acceleration. Technological development is requiring sudden and deep changes in the needs and behaviors of consumers and workers, operating methods and even in the very concept of work. To support companies’ competitiveness and employees’ growth, training will have to play a more important role by taking on new shapes and models.

New Skills For The New Normal 

In this new context, qualifications such as degree requirements, which have always been an essential element in the selection of a candidate and in the success of a worker, radically change their meaning and weight.

The global market of e-learning amassed $200 billion dollars in 2019 and, according to the Global Market Insights report, it will further grow 8% per year between 2020 and 2026. “Mobile learning, microlearning, social learning, and corporate MOOCs are the emerging trends boosting the e-learning market revenue,” according to the report and this has been stimulated to the max in the Covid era.

The Genome Of Skills

The latest trends in big data focus on the relationship between job descriptions and skills. Examples of this include a few of LinkedIn’s latest developments, such as the Skills Genome and Career Explorer, both of which aim to connect job seekers and employers based on skills rather than education or previous job titles.

Therefore, it is evident that the dominance of educational qualifications to professionally succeed seems to have been definitively overcome by the possession of certified and contemporary skills, consistent with what the market is looking for here and now. With this, a new leitmotif takes over: training for success.

The Best Long-Term Investment You Can Make

In the early 2000s, it was common to talk about “the economy of knowledge” — basic knowledge was easily accessible, and those with high-level education could easily have a successful professional career, irrespective of their role.

Almost 20 years later, the situation drastically changed: The new trend is no longer to embrace all knowledge but to distribute more specialist knowledge to different people within the organization, and specializations have become incredibly attractive to the job market.

On The Wings Of Competence

Today, in my view, the winning model could be the T-shaped model, a concept often credited to David Guest and McKinsey & Company, developed in 1991.

The T shape is a very explanatory image. It is the composition of two traits, one vertical and one horizontal, which together form the letter “T.” The vertical element represents the depth of knowledge, while the horizontal one represents the breadth. The first one serves to be conclusive in their specific skills, while the more general skills make the person a team player and feed curiosity and, consequently, innovation.

If you have vertical skills combined with soft and managerial ones, you place yourself on the market with a winning profile because you are specialized and, at the same time, resilient.

The Best Recipe: Hard Work And Self-Confidence

Training is not a silver-bullet solution, however, but a tool to make your dreams come true. Training is an investment in yourself, and it’s the best investment you can make. Aim at synthesizing ideas, simplifying concepts, learning quickly, adapting studies and experiments and using the specific skills of one sector in another one.

Whatever projects you’re working on, deepen your specific knowledge of the sector and acquire more general knowledge in order to meet your goals. Finally, in order to achieve your professional fulfillment, never stop learning and fueling your curiosity.

Laura Colombo

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist. Read Laura Colombo’s full executive profile here.

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist.