The State of Skills 2021:


A global data report by

Those who act fast have a game-changing opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

Right now, upskilling your workforce is a matter of survival.

Massive workforce shifts in 2020 have forced countless workers to refresh their current skills — and build new ones. If you’re wondering what skills are critical to you moving into 2021, it depends entirely on who you are, where you work, and what you do.

We’ve organized the following data by your country, industry, and job role to help you identify where skills are most at-risk of becoming obsolete. Our aim is to help workers, team managers, and business leaders focus their limited energy and investments on developing the most urgent skills.

Among the 5,000+ workers, team managers, and business leaders we surveyed, demand is strongest for technological skills. However, they’re also looking to develop their social and cognitive skills.

COVID has accelerated the need for me to acquire new skills.

Critical skills during COVID

The supply and demand for skills are shifting.

People and businesses will benefit from identifying the usefulness of their specific combination of skills.

“I need to tell you something about all your skills. As of right now, they mean precisely #!*%.”

Men in Black Agent, K (as played by Tommy Lee Jones)

Which new skills, if any, would you like to learn?

  1. Advanced IT and programming

  2. Leadership and managing others

  3. Advanced communication and negotiation

  4. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking

  5. Project management

  6. Creativity

  7. Advanced data analysis and mathematics

  8. Critical thinking and decision making

  9. Adaptability and continuous learning

  10. Technology design and engineering

  1. Everyone needs some technology skills

    Technology, programming, and digital fluency skills are in high demand today. But many jobs, like sales, only require people to use those skills in small doses or at basic levels.

  2. Everyone needs some human skills

    In the coming years, demand will skyrocket for cognitive skills like creativity or problem solving, and social skills like communication, entrepreneurship, or leadership.

  3. You need to see supply and demand for your skills

    No matter who you are, from an executive to a worker, you need to know which skills are growing (or declining) in value in your country, in your business, and in your role.

COVID-19 is endangering workforce skills.

The global health and economic crisis has had three big impacts on the state of skills:

  • It’s accelerating the need for new skills.
  • It’s reducing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling.
  • It’s making the workforce more stressed and vulnerable.

"I ask managers to imagine a documentary about what their team is accomplishing six months from now. What specific results do they see? How is the work different from what the team is doing today? Next I ask them to think about the skills needed to make the images in the movie become reality."

Netflix former Chief Talent Officer, Patty McCord

Nearly half of workers say their employers have reduced upskilling and reskilling opportunities during the pandemic.

Development opportunities are harder to find at work amid the global health and economic crisis. Nearly half of workers say their employers have reduced upskilling and reskilling opportunities during the pandemic.

It’s not just skills at risk — it’s people, communities, and businesses.

There’s much more at stake here than just skills.

When you don't feel confident in your skills, how, if at all, does this impact you?

Mental health for workers in the pandemic

"When we looked at our labor force through the skills lens, we found that we had two-thirds of our skills wrong. We were headed for disaster."

Head of Talent Management, Financial Institution
  • It’s people.

    More than half of workers globally (55%) say that as confidence in their skills decrease, their stress levels increase.

  • It’s communities.

    Increased stress compounds into weaker consumer demand and adds new pressures on already strained communities and local governments.

  • It’s businesses.

    Anxiety and stress over skills can also impede workers’ productivity and performance, and intensify “people costs” like wellness, absences, and turnover.

Go from endangered to in-demand.