Navigation and service

Work & Society 2040

Focus on digital skills in innovative technologies

Insights into digital skills and their incidence. What LinkedIn career network data reveals about the changes in skill supply.

by Kristin Keveloh (LinkedIn) and Michael Maier (Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society)

New digital technologies contribute to an increasingly data-based economy, a growing number of digital business models, and the innovative use of AI applications. They offer opportunities while at the same time posing challenges for work and society. In particular, the use of new digital technologies triggers a transformation in required skills of employees. On the one hand, this change in skill bundles may arise from automation of tasks in certain parts of the labour market. In this case, workers expand their skills or develop new ones for tasks that cannot be performed by machines. On the other hand, the use of new technologies may also call for entirely new skills. How important are digital skills already on the labour market? And how quickly do new types of digital skills diffuse? A collaboration between LinkedIn’s Economic Graph and the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society investigates these questions.

The data from the LinkedIn network – one of the largest digital career networks – tracks skills in great detail. In contrast to data on skills collected via expert or employee surveys, this information is collected continuously, meaning that up-to-date data can be retrieved at any given point in time. This makes it possible to identify the latest trends in workers’ qualifications.

The LinkedIn career platform connects employees and employers, offering them a forum for sharing information, searching for jobs, and for engaging in further training and networking. All LinkedIn members can specify their skills in their profile. The member profiles are supplemented by job advertisements published by companies on the platform. There are currently about 750 million LinkedIn members and information on 14 million job vacancies worldwide.

By defining a taxonomy for skills, it is possible to analyse skills specified by the members on an anonymised basis. This taxonomy currently contains roughly 35,000 skills and, using algorithms, is continuously being updated through the addition of members’ new skills. The skills specified by members represent their own assessments but can be endorsed by their personal network.

The LinkedIn data does not cover all the various sectors of the German employment market to the same extent. Some sectors and regions are represented with more weight than others. Data are mainly available for the sectors “industry”, “professional, scientific and technical services”, and “information and communications”. In contrast to official statistics, participation in the LinkedIn network and the disclosure of information are voluntary. 

Digital skills can be divided into two categories: applied and expert skills (see fig. 1). Applied digital skills are those that are required, e. g., for using existing software or participating in online platforms. They also include quite general skills such as the ability to use Microsoft Office applications. Expert digital skills, on the other hand, require more detailed knowledge. They comprise skills such as the ability to modify existing software to accommodate complex individual business requirements or the development of new software. One particular category are expert digital skills, which are required for using innovative disruptive technologies such as AI, cloud computing, and blockchain.

 

The image describes different skill categories. General skill categories are at the top, such as soft skills, digital skills, business skills. Below these, digital skills can be divided into applied digital skills and expert digital skills on a third level. On a fourth and final tier, specific expert digital skills for disruptive technologies can be defined.

The image describes different skill categories at Linkedin. They are structured as followed: 

  • General skill categories
    • soft skills
    • digital skills
      • applied digital skills
      • expert digital skills
        • specific expert digital skills for disruptive technologies
    • business skills
    • industry-specific skill

Further information on the LinkedIn skills clusters can also be found in: World Bank Group, LinkedIn (2018), Data Insights: Jobs, Skills and Migration Trends Methodology and Validation Results, Appendix F.

Over the last few years, digital skills played an increasingly important role, which is reflected in the skills that LinkedIn members add to their profiles. It should be noted, though, that LinkedIn members are presumably more digitally savvy than the average employee.

LinkedIn members added digital skills to their profiles more frequently than any other skill types (e.g. soft skills or business skills) between 2015 and 2020 (see fig. 2). This trend is particularly pronounced with digital skills for disruptive technologies. Accordingly, digital skills for the application and development of completely new technologies, such as AI, augmented and virtual reality, or robotics, are added more frequently. However, the increase in digital skills slowed slightly in 2020. This comes as a surprise given the coronavirus crisis and, resulting from this, the greater incidence of digital work, e.g. mobile working. Despite a temporary small decline, the share of applied digital skills has generally remained stable.

The diagram shows percentage changes in the share of digital skills relative to all skills in Germany and relative to the base year 2015.

The image shows a line chart displaying the development of digital skills added by LinkedIn users in Germany. Time is displayed along the x-axis and the development measured in relative changes is represented along the y-axis. Based on a normalised value of 100 per cent in 2015 the relative change for digital theoretical skills for disruptive technologies in 2020 is at over 150 per cent. The relative change for digital skills and expert digital skills is approximately 110 per cent and that for applied digital skills is roughly 100 per cent.

Despite their increased incidence, digital skills form only a part of the currently most important skills mentioned in LinkedIn members’ profiles. The skills most frequently added in the last three years include, but are not limited to digital skills (table 1). What stands out is that in 2020, i.e. during the coronavirus pandemic, fewer digital skills figured among the most frequently added skills compared to previous years. In 2020 only five out of the 20 most frequently added skills were digital skills, compared with 11 out of 20 in 2019 and as many as 15 out of 20 in 2018.

However, a certain momentum was already evident in the development of skills in 2018 and 2019: for one thing, different digital skills are repeatedly among the most frequently added skills from year to year. For another, some skills are consistently in the top 20 in all three years. For example, agile methodology skills exhibited a relatively sharp increase in all three years.

Table 1: Most frequently added skills by LinkedIn members per year

Source: LinkedIn.
Rank
2018
2019
2020
1
Jira
Communication
Analytical skills
2
Communication
Analytical skills
Accounting
3
Agile methodologies
Business optimisation
Agile project management
4
Scrum
Git
Finance
5
Git
Digital marketing
Project coordination
6
Python
Jira
Strategy
7
Programming
Business-to-business (B2B)
Consultation
8
Machine learning
Design thinking
Sales management
9
Intercultural communication
Graphic design
Information technology
10
R
Machine learning
Training courses
11
Design thinking
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Engineering
12
Digital marketing
Coaching
Sales & marketing
13
SQL
Wordpress
Logistics management
14
Web development
Recruitment
Automation
15
Linux
Customer relationship management
Technical support
16
Data analysis
Intercultural communication
Digital transformation
17
Automotive
Scrum (software package)
Advertising
18
Windows software development tools
Agile methodologies (software development)
Account management
19
Coaching
Product management
Customer service
20
Software development
Photography
Data science

Overview of most frequently added skills by members, compared to the previous year. Digital skills defined by LinkedIn are highlighted. Further information on the LinkedIn skills clusters can also be found in: World Bank Group, LinkedIn (2018), Data Insights: Jobs, Skills and Migration Trends Methodology and Validation Results, Appendix F. Generic skills such as Microsoft Word or foreign language abilities are excluded from the analysis.

The ongoing change in skills in Germany is also evident from an international comparison (fig. 3). The relative penetration of digital skills measures how frequently they are added by LinkedIn members in comparison to other skills. Germany has climbed from eighth to fourth place since 2016. 

 

Table 2: International comparison of digital skills incidence

Source: LinkedIn.
Rank
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
1
United States
United States
United States
United States
United States
2
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
3
France
France
France
France
France
4
Italy
Italy
Italy
Italy
Germany
5
Spain
Spain
Spain
Spain
Italy
6
Netherlands
Germany
Germany
Germany
Spain
7
Australia
China
Netherlands
Australia
Australia
8
Germany
Netherlands
Australia
Netherlands
Netherlands
9
China
Australia
China
China
China
10
Sweden
Sweden
Sweden
Sweden
Sweden
11
Ireland
Ireland
Ireland
Ireland
Ireland

This diagram is based on the “skills genome” index developed by LinkedIn, which tracks the top 50 skills that are “both unique for and representative” of a given job title and then calculates the proportion of skills classified by LinkedIn as digital skills. The penetration of digital skills in a country is defined as the average proportion accounted for by digital skills in the skills genomes for all job titles in that country. To achieve an international comparison, the relative penetration of digital skills is defined as the ratio between the penetration of digital skills in a given country and the average penetration of digital skills in all countries. Further information can be found in the methodological notes of the OECD.AI Policy Observatory (OECD.AI) (https://oecd.ai/methodology).

Published on 27 Aug 2021 on the topic: Work & Society 2040

Did you like this article? Share it with others:

Related articles