New Study Reveals Only 1 In 10 Global Workers Have In-Demand AI Skills

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Salesforce’s new digital skills survey shows that the vast majority of global workers think skills are more important than education qualifications or career background. Most people leaders (98%) believe the shift to skills-based hiring provides business benefits. Yet only 1 in 10 say they have AI skills — which is cited as one of today’s most in-demand digital skills. 

This article looks at the survey’s full findings, based on 11,000+ workers across 11 countries, and shares new data on how the workforce perceives the role that generative AI will play in the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Eighty-four percent of global workers consider skills-based experience more important than a degree when trying to land a job in today’s market.

However, there’s a disconnect between the skills companies are hiring for and those currently used by the workforce. While 4 in 5 global workers report using digital skills in their day-to-day work, few report skills beyond collaboration technology, digital administration, and digital project management.

In contrast, today’s fastest growing and in-demand skills as reported by workers include artificial intelligence (AI) and coding/app development — but they rank among the least used in workers’ day-to-day roles.

The good news? There appears to be less fear — and more excitement — among workers about the potential of emerging technologies to transform the jobs of the future. This, paired with workers’ reported desire to learn new skills, suggests that companies can help close the digital skills gap by providing continuous, skills-based training to their employees.

A global movement toward skills-based hiring

The shift toward skills-based hiring is evident at all levels. Most (82%) people leaders surveyed said that skills are the most important attribute when evaluating candidates. Only 18% said that relevant degrees are the most important.

Over half of people leaders (56%) cite talent retention as a business benefit to skills-based hiring. Increased workforce diversity (48%) and knowledge sharing (46%) also ranked highly.

Additionally, most people believe that prioritizing employees’ digital skills development will have positive impacts on wider business performance, citing increased productivity (47%), better team performance (43%), and improved problem-solving capabilities (40%).

Leaders and employees agree on the need for AI skills

Workers are excited about emerging AI technologies like generative AI. Sixty percent of global workers reported excitement about the prospect of using generative AI for their job. In fact, more workers were excited about its use in their workplace (58%) than worried about it replacing them in their job (42%). This is in line with interest from management: Globally, two-thirds of people leaders(67%) say that their company is considering ways to use generative AI.

Despite this excitement, recent research shows that while over half of U.S.-based senior IT leaders say their business is currently using or experimenting with generative AI, 66% say their employees don’t have the skills to successfully leverage the technology.

Workers agree that AI skills are important: Nearly one-fourth of global workers rank AI skills as among the top three most important digital skills right now. This number rises when asked about the importance of these skills over the next five years.

As needs evolve, workplace skills lag

Despite its importance to their future skill set, only 1 in 10 workers say their day-to-day role currently involves AI. A mere 14% say their role involves other, related digital skills like encryption and cyber security, and a smaller 13% claim to use coding and app development skills.

The industry indexing the highest for AI skills, specifically, is the technology industry, but even for this industry, less than a third of employees (27%) use AI skills within their role today. Outside of traditional IT roles, this number drops further; less than 10% of those in healthcare (8%) and the public sector (6%) report they use AI skills in their day-to-day role.

The path forward is upskilling. Nearly all (97%) global workers believe businesses should prioritize AI skills in their employee development strategy.

Upskilling is critical across wide swaths of these emerging technologies. As a result of the rise in AI and automation, people leaders say data security skills (60%), ethical AI and automation skills (58%), and programming skills (57%) will become increasingly important in the workplace. When asked what ‘soft’ skills will likely be more important as a result, people leaders ranked creative imaginative skills (56%), customer relationship skills (53%), and leadership skills (51%) highest.

Fortunately, companies seeking to boost emerging technology skills and focus on skills-based hiring have something going for them — workers want to expand their limited set of digital skills. Nine in 10 believe that businesses should prioritize digital skills development for their employees.