Upskilling Becomes Critical for Career Success Globally: Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study 2023
Education does not follow a one-size-fits-all approach anymore. Traditional education has always been linear. But like everything else, learning has also evolved. Online learning has added an element of choice for learners as well as affordability, access, and convenience. And as per the Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study 2023, professionals are increasingly looking at continued learning as a choice that empowers them and their careers.
We approached a cross-section of the global workforce – 6,600 people between the ages of 21 and 65 across 18 countries and five continents. This study assessed how professionals are approaching learning and skill development amidst continued economic, geopolitical, and technological change.
What do the Findings Reveal?
The report highlights a resounding surge of interest and investment in online professional education, with all levels of the workforce — from early career to mid-career to executives — now viewing upskilling as critical to career success, especially in uncertain times.
- Data indicates that online learning is here to stay.
- Professionals agree that upskilling creates a competitive advantage.
- Stability is what professionals want as new technologies threaten to replace them.
- Employers must note that workforce learning drives stronger employee retention.
Other Key Findings
- Working professionals in India and China are leading the charge in investing in themselves.
- A majority of hiring managers agree that organizations should hire based on skills.
- As per hiring managers, management and digital transformation skills are the most sought-after skills.
- Organizations are looking for problem-solvers and critical thinkers while hiring.
- The workforce most covets a positive workplace culture.
- Professionals are looking for personalized career planning and networking opportunities.
would choose a job at an organization that invested in their education over one that did not
say their interest in upskilling increased due to macroeconomic conditions
believe that upskilling will help them stand out in the job market
Data based on responses from global participants.
Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study 2023: 4 Key Takeaways
The current economic environment in the world is a result of several macroeconomic factors at play – the Ukraine crisis, the energy situation in Europe, and the ongoing recession – which may lead to uncertainty for the workforce. In this scenario, global professionals are increasingly seeing upskilling as a way to navigate economic uncertainty. Besides, education is a force for empowerment and mobility that also helps them stand out in job searches and advance their careers. In the face of fierce competition, a majority of global professionals believe that upskilling is an important way of standing out in any industry. In our skill study, we found that:
Online Learning is Here to Stay
Online learning went from being a choice to a necessity when the world went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. The boom that followed was only to be expected. However, the interest in online learning, though piqued by necessity, did not end with the global lockdown. Emeritus’ Workplace Skills Study Report 2023 focuses on how pandemic-era remote learning caused a fundamental shift in learner expectations. Between May 2020 and January 2023, interest in fully online learning programs rose by 8.5%, and interest in hybrid learning programs rose by 17%.
The Four Pillars of Online Learning: Flexibility, Convenience, Affordability, and Access
While flexibility and convenience are core to online learning, the fact that online learning can offer a range of different price points is an attractive benefit to prospective learners. Moreover, the growth of online learning is closely tied to technological advancements. And as today’s learning platforms are getting better, online education programs can provide an enriching as well as engaging experience that drives real learning for professionals of all levels
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The Global Conditions That Encourage Online Learning
Renowned global institutions have embraced online formats, and affordable, relevant, and world-class online programs have steadily grown. Professionals understand they must remain qualified for evolving professional demands. There is a global awareness of the importance of upskilling concerning workplace relevance and staying ahead of the competition.
Given the current market conditions, professionals believe education is the key to financial security. Whether receiving a promotion, earning more, or obtaining a better job, upskilling through online courses is a way to maximize one’s employability and opportunities for career advancement.
Upskilling Creates a Competitive Advantage
Today’s professionals are very aware that the skills they need to succeed are changing rapidly. While the job market has always been a competitive space, there is a new player in the competition now — technology — that is advancing much faster than human colleagues.
Hence, a uniquely dynamic and fiercely competitive labor market impacts learner motivations. Being ahead, or at least at pace with it, is now an urgent need. This study indicates that an overwhelming majority of global respondents (80%) believe continuing education distinguishes them in the job market, and 78% believe it gives them a competitive advantage.
Data from the study suggests that two-thirds of hiring managers feel that professional education is crucial for employee development (67%) and also agree that organizations should hire for skills rather than degrees alone (69%).
If you have to do something new in your career, you have to learn new skills and polish your existing knowledge. Regardless of the situation, those who prioritize learning are more likely to succeed.
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Professionals Seek Stability as New Technologies Intensify Anxiety
ChatGPT can now write content, and Canva can produce creatives in seconds. As generative AI starts analyzing data faster and better than humans, the financial sector will likely be impacted. Tech-driven skill gaps are becoming a prolific global concern, as evident from the findings of the Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study 2023.
The fear of being replaced by technology is real, and 53% of respondents feel they will become redundant if they don’t continue developing their skills. Additionally, 50% feel they don’t have the necessary skills for career advancement. Upskilling is a professional’s shield against the impostor syndrome induced by rapid technological advancements.
The result: 61% of respondents said they would prioritize job and salary stability when considering new roles, underscoring the need for employers to provide clear growth paths. Job security and the opportunity to upskill follow stability in the list of motivations to upskill ahead of positive workplace culture and growth opportunities. This clearly demonstrates that people want safety when it comes to their livelihoods and income.
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Workforce Learning Drives Stronger Employee Retention
While the fear of losing one’s job to technological growth is real, the propensity to quit has not completely left the workforce. Professionals with competitive skills still have an advantage when switching jobs. 30% of global respondents said they would likely quit their current jobs next year. Another 52% plan to make a career change.
For employers concerned about employee productivity and retention, investing in L&D is critical: 82% of respondents report higher engagement when learning new things, and 74% favor organizations that invest in their education. So the best way for organizations to win the loyalty of their workforce is to invest in their upskilling journey.
What are the Key Motivations to Upskill?
Other Key Findings
Working Professionals in India and China are Leading the Charge in Professional Upskilling
The Emeritus Workplace Skills Study in 2023 indicated that among the 18 countries surveyed, India and China are approaching continued education with a sense of zeal. The spending on education in China is nearly 30% higher, and in India is nearly 20% higher than the global average. Two factors contribute to this trend: the economies of these two countries and the perception of education among each population.
First, both India and China have shown positive GDP despite the softening of the global economy in 2023. In fact, the two countries combined are slated to account for more than half of the global economic growth in 2023. The professionals in India and China are approaching expenditure on education with more optimism. Second, both countries have historically viewed education as an investment and not an expenditure.
Key trends that emerge from India and China in relation to education and the job market are:
Education Comes Third in the List of Priorities for Spending in India and China after Groceries and Healthcare-Related Expenses1
The expenditure on education is all set to increase globally. However, in India and China, the scope of this growth is massive. India is expected to see a 56% growth in spending on education in the next six months, while China is likely to see a growth of 46% for the same. In both geographies, the expenditure on education comes third only after basic necessities like groceries (food) and healthcare expenses like medications and expenses. The data indicates that education is a top priority in these geographies and will continue to grow in importance over the latter half of 2023.
India and China are the Most Apprehensive Markets Regarding the Automation of Work 2
The fear of being replaced by technology is a common trend globally. However, professionals in both geographies are concerned about technology replacing them and tasks being automated. According to the Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study 2023, 82% of professionals in China and 75% in India are concerned that technology will replace them if they do not continue to develop their skill sets.
This encourages professionals to invest in themselves. This is supported by the fact that the spending on education in China is nearly 30% higher, and in India is nearly 20% higher than the global average.
8 out of 10 Indian Respondents are Interested in Online Options to Pursue Further Education 3
While there is a general rise in interest in online learning all over the world, the growth of this interest is substantially higher in both India and China. In the former, 82% of professionals have shown a rise in interest in online learning options. China comes a close second at 75%, which is significantly higher than the global average of 63%. This number is reflective of countries that view education as an important option that drives career stability and advancement amidst uncertainty.
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89% of Chinese Professionals Experience Skills Gaps 4
Physical campuses have limitations on the number of learners they can accommodate. Online learning options can easily complement physical campuses by allowing much wider access to education. This is particularly relevant for India and China as these two geographies have a powerhouse of talent. However, the growing workforces in these countries need to be skilled at pace to learn the technologies necessary for the future of work.
As the Emeritus Global Workforce Skill Study 2023 reveals, China’s workforce is aware of their skill gaps and knows there is a need to plug these gaps. In India, 82% of respondents feel the need to develop certain skills to succeed in their current field.
An Overwhelming Majority of Indian and Chinese Professionals See Great Value in Investing in a Reputable Education Provider 5
Our survey found 8 in 10 Indian professionals agree that investing in a reputable provider—world-class university, premium schools, and well-known edtech platforms—will ensure a great return on their investment. Likewise, in China, 3/4 of workers are willing to spend more now on a prestigious provider than prior to recent global developments.
68% of Hiring Managers Agree That Organizations Should Hire Based on Skills
Therefore, it is no surprise that hiring managers are on board and increasingly inclined toward a more skill-based workforce. Our skill study found that:
Management and Digital Transformation Skills are the Most Sought-After Skills, According to Hiring Managers
The Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study offers a list of the following skills that hiring managers are looking for in 2023:
Organizations are Looking for Problem-Solvers and Critical Thinkers While Hiring
Technical skills can be taught. But a candidate also brings soft skills to the table when they join an organization. Hence, hiring managers these days give almost as much importance to soft skills as to technical skills when hiring. Along with data literacy and digital dexterity, the following are the most valuable soft skills to build the workforce of the future.
The consensus is clear: we need new skills for an evolved workplace. In addition to its importance in career progression, upskilling is an important way to future-proof one’s career against economic upheavals, job disruptions, and other shifts.
A Positive Workplace Culture is What Professionals Seek
The skill study revealed interesting insights that shed light on the need for a global transformative work culture. Professionals know what they want, and work-life balance is definitely on the list of what they desire. As per the report, the key trends in the job market for 2023 are:
63% of Professionals are Looking for Personalized Career Planning and Networking Opportunities
Due to the increasingly changing business space, professionals worldwide are more determined than ever to arm themselves with the right skills and knowledge. They prefer to invest their energy, time, and resources in development and training courses that will pave the way to a fulfilling, long-lasting career. But education is not a one-size-fits-all, and professionals identified which priority levers they believe will be most beneficial in accelerating their learning and development.
The Future of Learning is Here. And it’s Online.
“The Emeritus Global Workforce Skill Study 2023 results demonstrate that, despite economic uncertainty, individuals are turning to continue education and upskilling courses to create career opportunities,” said Ashwin Damera, Co-Founder of Emeritus. “In a uniquely dynamic labor market, the results also highlight the huge opportunity that education programs provide for companies to increase employee engagement, drive retention and attract new employees.”
About the Survey
The 2023 Emeritus Emeritus Global Workplace Skills Study is a deep dive into the prevalent sentiment on education in the face of global developments and continued macroeconomic uncertainty the survey, in its third edition, is a study of what people plan to do next and what they seek from educational programs.