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How to win the talent war by avoiding it all together

By 2025, the World Economic Forum’s recent Future of Jobs report predicts 50% of the world’s workforce will need to upskill to keep up with technological automation and augmentation. By the end of the decade, digital transformation is anticipated to change more than 1 billion jobs. 

This raises the question: Are employees worldwide ready for this drastic change?

For the most part, the answer is “no”. The majority of workers worldwide lack the necessary digital skills to compete for in-demand jobs in this new digital economy. But it doesn’t have to stay this way.

Closing this global digital skills gap is possible and necessary. But it is also a complex issue that requires strategic partnerships between companies, governments, and nonprofits. The path forward is clear: Rather than fighting a zero-sum talent war, we can avoid it altogether by opening up opportunities to new groups of future technologists through programs that reduce barriers and improve access to digital skills, especially for populations traditionally underrepresented in tech. 

That’s why companies like SAP are taking bold steps to strengthen the environment for upskilling, and expanding career options for millions of workers. With its digital skills initiative, SAP has committed to helping millions of people upskill and boost their careers by 2025.

“We have to create fundamentally new ways to deliver skills into the workforce,” says Max Wessel, executive vice president and Chief Learning Officer of SAP. “We can do that by making role-based learning programs and certificates more widely available to new sources of talent, particularly by building public and private partnerships with global scale.”


The talent shortage is already dire

Around the world, it’s clear that skill-based learning programs and certificates are needed right now. Three quarters of the world’s companies are already claiming talent shortages, according to a ManpowerGroup survey of more than 40,000 employers in 40 countries. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of young people find themselves unemployed because they lack the skills to compete for in-demand jobs. The situation is especially difficult for women: They hold only 26% of computing-related jobs, a BuiltIn study found, lacking opportunity to learn the skills for such roles. The skills mismatch is already present and a lack of training and education is at the root.

“A certain number of new computer and data scientists graduate from university every year, and tech companies hire from a very small pool of applicants consisting of top-tier graduates and experienced developers,” Wessel explains. “Unless we rapidly expand the total number of people in the tech industry, the digital skills gap will continue to compound.”

Skill-based training certifications and learning platforms can make a crucial difference. By improving access and lowering the barrier to entry for education, programs like SAP’s digital skills initiative will help millions of people learn valuable skills that give them a competitive advantage in the job market. 

In addition to training programs and e-learning platforms, low-code tools have emerged as another important avenue for upskilling. “The low-code and no-code movement exists to make software development more accessible to new groups of individuals,” Wessel says. It helps employees learn relevant new skills, develop new apps at speed, and keep up with the latest industry-specific trends. 



How to spark the up-skilling revolution

Key stakeholders like employers, government organizations, and NGOs must work together and be the driving force behind the upskilling revolution. They can help bridge the gaps that separate the unemployed, and the underemployed, from acquiring the right skills and opportunities. 

These types of collaborations can deliver impressive results. When SAP partnered with government organizations in Europe and Asia to run a publicly funded, 26-week program that trained unemployed individuals in high-value skills, more than 80% of the attendees secured jobs by the time they completed the course.

SAP’s digital skills initiative is an extension of that mission to upskill the world, according to Wessel. “By 2025, we’re aiming to help 2 million people advance their professions with free access to self-paced, role-based learning journeys and related learning content,” he says.

The initiative is designed to emphasize sharing information about skills development across regions and countries. This is crucial to bridging the global skills gap, because online learning platforms can help connect people—especially younger generations—with options for training, career guidance and, ultimately, jobs around the world. Collaborations with learning platforms such as Coursera, for example, present a highly scalable opportunity for companies to offer courses that both reach a wide range of people, and don’t need to be built from the ground up.


Creating a more diverse workforce

Up-skilling the world comes down to an essential belief: That people making the move to tech-based roles, residents of underdeveloped regions, members of underrepresented populations, and unemployed or underemployed people are all sources of talent. They should all have frictionless access to educational content. 

“By allowing people to combine the pursuit of knowledge with the availability of career opportunities, we can create a more resilient, capable, and diverse workforce,” Wessel says.

It’s often in companies’ best interests to invest in learning programs and partnerships. They’re a great way for businesses to not only draw in new talent, but also build retention. After all, the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary, according to a Gallup report. But upskilling is a more efficient investment than hiring and training a new worker. It also helps create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce that is up to date on industry trends and innovations.

Closing the global skills gap won’t happen overnight. It will take real vision and strong collaboration to ensure inclusive, sustainable, and global progress. Such vision, along with a commitment to lowering the cost of learning certifications, and investments in easily available online courses, can secure the future for the digital economy and its workforce.


Find out more about SAP’s digital skills initiative