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The future of digital jobs: Which skills will be the most important to businesses?

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Digital skills have never been more of a priority in the workplace, and many hiring managers and global employers view this proficiency as the foundation of our future workforce. Future digital jobs will demand a baseline digital skill set for communication and collaboration among businesses and professionals working anywhere in the world. 

If you’re considering a new role, just starting out in your career, or looking to improve on your skill set within digital industries, you need an understanding of which skills are the most important. This knowledge is necessary to make sure you are attractive to potential employers. Without the right technical proficiency, you’ll find it difficult to compete for the best roles in an increasingly global employment market. 

We have surveyed 500+ employers and employees who work in digital-first or tech industries such as software development, digital marketing, AI, and VR to help you understand more about the future of the industry.

The survey questions were carefully designed to determine which digital skills are in the highest demand and to uncover how the digital age is expected to influence the future world of work. 

Social media is the most in-demand digital skill area 

The digital skill that 28% of respondents (employees and employers together) said was the most crucial is social media. 

Social media proficiency and excellence demands creativity, strategic thinking, and a clear understanding of how to effectively convey messages to large audiences via digital media. Communication skills, crisis management, and brand strategy knowledge will help aspiring tech industry employees build a foundation of aptitude.

Technical proficiency across important platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok may be critical depending on the nature of a specific market or brand. Employees with social media skills can help businesses reach new customers, increase brand visibility, and improve consumer loyalty.

The second most crucial digital skill overall is digital marketing (27%). This skill has a slightly broader impact than social media. Typically digital marketing expertise requires a strategic understanding of content production, SEO, PPC, email marketing, data analysis, and how to use all of these channels in alignment depending on the objectives and resources of an organization. 

This skill set helps businesses generate leads, increase demand, and attract traffic, and with the right strategy and execution – digital marketing skills will help people in all roles understand how their role can more effectively drive conversions.

The top 10 most crucial digital skills:

Digital skills% named a crucial skill
Social Media28%
Digital Marketing27%
Software development24%
Programming, Web and App Development19%
Software engineering19%
Digital Project Management18%
Data Science and Data Analytics18%
Digital Business Analysis17%
Digital Design and Data Visualization17%

When focusing on the results from just employers within the survey, the top three skills change slightly with a greater focus on operational roles such as Digital Project Management (21% of employers said this was crucial) and Digital Business Analysis (21%), as well as the need for specific skill sets around Digital Design and Data Visualization (20%).

Software development believed to be the most important digital job in the future 

With software development already being the third most crucial skill in the present day, according to our survey participants, this will be the most important digital job in the future, followed by software engineers and workplace managers.

The global demand for software engineers and programmers has been steadily rising over the past few years, and with digital innovation constantly driving change, workplace managers play an essential role in helping other employees manage changes within organizations. 

Below are the job titles that respondents believe will be important to businesses in the future.

Digital job% named an important job role in the future
Software Developer37%
Software Engineer36%
Workplace Manager32%
Digital Workplace Program Director26%
Head of Automation21%
Remote Control Center Supervisor20%
Head of Electronic Workplaces20%
Machine Learning Engineer19%

Take strong notice of innovation-focused job roles like head of automation and machine learning engineer that are flagged as important in the future. As technology advances, businesses are always looking for ways to improve efficiency and build a stronger platform to scale. 

Tools and tech that could set you apart from other candidates

With over one in five (21%) businesses not providing technology training, there is opportunity for individuals to set themselves apart by bringing in this experience to a new role and company. 

The job market is already highly competitive, and with easier access to global employment and the transition to remote work – employers are casting the net wider to search for the world’s best talent. If you already have knowledge of relevant priority tools used within digital-first businesses, you can set yourself apart from other candidates.

We also asked respondents which digital tools are used most within tech industries. The most commonly purchased tools are listed below: 

Tool% of respondents who pay for these digital tools in their business
Adobe Creative Suite29%
Google Professional Email23%
Canva20%
Jira17%
Slack17%
Loom16%
Miro16%
InVision14%
Sketch14%
Figma14%
Gitlab13%
Mural13%
Quixy12%
Notion12%
Prezi10%

Knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite could give you the edge during the interview process. With so many companies using remote and async work in their operating model, it’s no surprise to see digital communication tools like Slack, Gmail and Loom listed within the top 10. 

What can employers do to help employees build digital skill sets?

Technology is evolving rapidly and the tech stacks used by hybrid and remote teams can be significant in breadth and complexity. That means employers also have a responsibility to support their employees with improving digital proficiency, especially as some skills may be specific to the organization’s work streams. 

Growth-focused employers and HR teams can consider the following four practical tactics to support employees with digital learning.  

  1. It may seem obvious, but internal training should always be a top priority. A quarter (26%) of employers surveyed said they don’t provide technology training, and although lots of digital tools can be self-explanatory and provide useful self-help guides you must monitor and measure the effectiveness of any new tool or program introduced to your business. If your team is finding difficulties, create internal training modules or on-demand demos to walk new users through the skills they require to succeed. 
  2. Following on from this, with a lot of companies now offering remote working opportunities, it’s also important to consider virtual training options. Just because an employee can’t be there in person, doesn’t mean they should miss out on learning opportunities. Make sure you consider virtual training as part of your remote working policy and foster an inclusive workplace culture
  3. Not everyone learns and works in the same way, so you should give some flexibility to employees with the tools and tech they use. Many employers may allow employees to choose either a Mac or a Windows laptop as they may be more efficient with one over the other. Some teams and departments may wish to use different project management tools to maximize their output and simplify their planning. If this doesn’t negatively impact delivery or profitability, flexibility here can be important. 
  4. Finally, growth-focused companies have the responsibility to keep tools and equipment secure and updated. Our survey revealed that nearly 30% (28.8%) of employers still use tools/software that are 11-15 years old. With technology changing rapidly over the last decade, it’s worth exploring new tools and techniques to help both your employees and the overall success of your business.

It will come as no surprise that digital skill sets will continue to be in high demand in the coming years, so whilst it’s important for potential employees to consider this when it comes to seeking opportunities, it’s also important for employers to support both their business and people with keeping up with digital trends.