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

Salesforce’s ‘Digital Skills Now’ survey shows that the vast majority of global workers think skills are more important than education qualifications or career background. Yet only 1 in 10 say they use AI skills — 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 includes new data on how the workforce feels about the role generative AI will play in the jobs of tomorrow.

Eighty-four percent of global workers consider skills-based experience more important than a degree or industry-specific qualification when trying to land a job in today’s market. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between the skills companies need and those currently used by the workforce. While 8 in 10 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 degree/industry-specific qualifications are the most important. Most people leaders (98%) believe the shift to skills-based hiring provides business benefits. Over half (56%) cited talent retention as a benefit. Increased workforce diversity (48%) and knowledge sharing (46%) also ranked highly.

Additionally, most people leaders 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

Recent research shows that over half of U.S.-based senior IT leaders say their business is currently using or experimenting with generative AI, and 80% say they need to recruit or upskill employees in generative AI to successfully implement it within their company.

In this study, 60% of global workers reported excitement about the prospect of using generative AI for their job. Workers were more likely to be excited about its use in their workplace (58%) than worried about it replacing them in their job (48%).

In fact, 22% of global workers rank AI among the top three most important digital skills now. This number rises to 27% when asked about AI’s importance over the next five years. This increase is also seen in more traditional, non-technical industries:

  • Public sector (20% believe AI is important now and 28% think it will be important in five years)
  • Healthcare (20% say it is important now and 27% say it will be important in five years)

Workplace skills are seen as increasingly important as a result of the rise in automation and AI, according to people leaders. They say data security skills (60%), ethical AI and automation skills (58%), and programming skills (57%) will be more important with these technologies in the picture.

Currently, however, only 1 in 10 workers say their day-to-day role involves AI. Only 14% say their role involves encryption and cyber security skills and 13% coding and app development skills. The industry indexing the highest for AI skills is technology, however, 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.

Digital skills build resilience in workers and their employers

Companies seeking to change this landscape and focus on skills-based hiring have the wind at their backs. Workers want to expand their limited set of digital skills: Nine in 10 believe that businesses should prioritize digital skills development for their employees and 97% believe businesses should prioritize AI skills in their employee development strategy.

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