As companies adapt to a post-pandemic future, the ability of individuals to demonstrate essential skills may become more important than their previous experience or positions.
This is in line with new insights from thought leaders at Microsoft and LinkedIn, who say that the rapid transformation of companies under the pandemic has changed the way companies are hiring and improving their employees.
“Skills will be the new currency in the post-pandemic world,” Ahmed Mazhari, president and corporate vice president for Microsoft Asia, told CNBC Make It.
Coronavirus-induced blockages forced employers to move quickly through 2020, implementing new technologies and flexible ways of working. As a result, “five years of acceleration have taken place in one year,” said LinkedIn Managing Director and Vice President for Asia Pacific and China, Olivier Legrand.
Workplaces will now need evidence that employees can keep pace with changes.
Skill-based hiring increase
In fact, this is already happening.
According to LinkedIn, more than three quarters (77%) of jobs posted on its Asia Pacific platform this year have focused on skills ahead of industry experience and specific positions. Meanwhile, individuals have been doubling up on self-development, spending 43 million hours on LinkedIn Learning in 2020 alone.
“The narrative around lifelong learning has been around for some time,” said Legrand. “But I think the impact the pandemic has had on jobs has changed it from a ‘good’ to an ‘indispensable’. “
This is due to the need for new skills – also known as the skills gap – and the interdisciplinary nature of jobs and sectors.
“Each company has to think about its own version of digitization, and that requires a new skill set,” said Legrand.
Chief among them are technology-related skills such as machine learning, software development, digital marketing and data analysis. Non-technical skills such as leadership, project management and communication are also becoming increasingly important, he added.
Asia’s fast-paced economy
This shift could accelerate innovation and, as a result, economic growth – especially in Asia, said Microsoft’s Mazhari.
“Spending on technology as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) will double in the next decade, from 5% to 10% globally,” said Mazhari. “We will see a greater part of the acceleration (in Asia) … because our growth rates are higher.”
International Data Corporation predicted that global information and communication technology spending will grow by at least 5% per year from 2021 to 2023, as companies and countries recover after the pandemic.
In the next five to 10 years, new technologies – such as robotics, artificial intelligence and artificial and virtual reality – will account for 25% of that expenditure, added the market research company.
“Many countries will skip many series of industrialization and technological progress, “said Mazhari, describing Asia as a mosaic of technological maturity, with China on one side and Cambodia on the other.
“In that leap, the need for more skills will be even more significant than today.”
Preparing the next generation
The vast continent of 4.3 billion people also has youth on its side, said Mazhari, noting that the youth workforce can adapt quickly to new technologies.
Asia is home to some of the youngest people in the world. In 2020, the average age of India’s population was 28.7 years, while Malaysia’s was 29.2 and Indonesia’s was 31.1, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. This compares to 38.5 in the US and 40.6 in the UK
As such, educational institutions should begin to equip students for a skills-focused future, he said.
“There is enough knowledge between Bing and Google,” he said, referring to Internet search engines. “What you don’t get are skills.”
“The infusion of skills would be the most critical change that education systems need to make, that governments need to implement quite significantly.”
To help this transition, last year Microsoft and LinkedIn committed to equip 25 million people with new digital skills through free online courses from Microsoft Learn, LinkedIn Learning and GitHub Learning Lab.
To date, it has helped 30 million people in 249 countries – about six million of which are in Asia, according to Microsoft.
Companies now plan to help 250,000 companies hire skills-based hiring in 2021 through new tools such as LinkedIn Skills Path, which allows employers to select candidates based on skills.
LinkedIn’s Legrand said that these applied assessments can reduce subjectivity among hiring managers and improve diversity and inclusion.
Don’t miss out: These are the fastest growing jobs in Southeast Asia, according to LinkedIn
Did you like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!