Supply and demand in the job market: skills mismatch and new digital hopes

A very particular crisis affects the job market at the moment; it is not the usual lack of jobs, or a crisis of contracts (problems that are always present and serious). What we have seen in recent times is a deep gap between supply and demand; not only from a quantitative point of view but, more specifically, from a qualitative one.

The last year of the pandemic has contributed to generating a situation in which the data is difficult to understand. If, on one hand, the general level of employment is falling on the other, certain professional figures, especially those linked to the digital market, are becoming extremely difficult to find.
This is why MBK, always on the lookout for complete and eclectic talent, has investigated whether this mismatch is due to an actual lack of specific skills in the new generation of workers or whether, on balance, the offer of figures is unable to keep up with the development of the job market.

A European job market in difficulty

The current situation of the job market in Europe is, although heterogeneous and diverse on the whole, not too comforting.

However, since this is a very large and extremely varied political and geographical area, we have taken four countries for a more specific analysis: Switzerland, Italy, France and Germany. The choice was neither random nor arbitrary; we chose to examine four realities that are close to each other both geographically and, in some ways, culturally.

employment rate in the job market
Employment Rate in the markets under analysis (Source Eurostat)

The data collected show that there have been two different types of employment decline at European level: one relating to the number of people employed, the other relating to total hours worked.

While, on average, the level of employed people (’14-65 years old’) fell by around 6 points, the number of hours worked fell by a smaller, though still worrying, amount (around 0.5%). The figures for youth employment (16-24 year olds) are on average not too positive (with the exception of Switzerland, with 60% of young people in employment). Another interesting fact is that in both age categories there is a difference, though not a substantial one, between a ‘mediterranean’ group (France and Italy) and a ‘continental’ one (Switzerland and Germany); this fact is certainly not new, and has anthropological and social roots going back a long way.

One figure is growing: the demand for digital professionals; and this In spite of the decreasing percentages in the last two years, mainly due to the pandemic situation.

A shift towards digital

This shift in demand is a direct consequence of the evolution of the market; the transition to an increasingly dematerialised economy, almost 80% of which is realised on the Internet, has increased the need for specialists in the various digital professions. This change brings with it a number of social micro-revolutions; the educational system will in time have to conform to this type of training, also becoming as dematerialised as possible. The dynamics of interchange and relationships are profoundly changing, without however affecting personal relationships (the online workflow makes physical relationships outside working hours more necessary). As we have also explained in another article, the consumption habits of citizens are also rapidly adapting to the above-mentioned trends.

The new figures required by the digital market

The exponential growth of this market has required the creation (or in some cases the evolution or adaptation) of various professional figures; these are the much sought-after digital professions. However, there are other types of professionals, not always radically linked to the IT market, who are seeing their fields of employment expand.

The return to what is now known as the new normal, i.e. the post-pandemic recovery of work and life rhythms, has confirmed and accelerated a result that many had predicted: the future and present of the job market are essentially digital.

Among the most sought-after professional figures in the last two years there are several that MBK has integrated (or strengthened the contribution of) in the company; of these, at least two have matured completely in the digital sphere, one is linked to IT and two benefit from the contribution of the first, although they work outside the digital ecosystem:

  • full stack developer – in recent years, this figure has had to integrate classic IT knowledge with new technologies, especially in the case of interaction with marketing (think of mobile and its presence in the customer’s life). The increasingly pressing demand for tailored solutions, designed to meet the needs of the company, requires very high levels of preparation and ‘creativity’;
  • HR specialist – the presence of a human resources manager is no longer that of a conflict mediator, recruiter or payroll officer; it is increasingly a key figure in the corporate landscape. In addition to the new challenges brought about by remote human capital management, there is a particular emphasis on the employee experience, i.e. on monitoring and managing internal staff sentiment; knowing how to keep this under control ensures more appreciable results at corporate level. It also reduces turnover and increases productivity and the company’s image in front of investors and new candidates;
  • logistics manager – this is no longer a transport and procurement manager; we are talking about a very important figure who combines the needs of the supply chain with the means of IT, marketing and procurement in a smooth, fast and functional way. The set of soft skills required to complete this profile is generally the result of very heterogeneous and strictly practical experience. It is not easy to find profiles in line with the needs;
  • marketing specialists – this category includes several professionals who work almost 100% in the digital sector: CMOs, SEO analysts, UX designers, copywriters, graphic designers; they are extremely interchangeable figures, whose profiles often intersect and complement each other. They rarely work in separate compartments, more often all operations are conducted in teams and according to shared projects. Their training is difficult to identify, although universities are now equipping themselves. More often, however, we are talking about professionals born in very different fields who have bent to the market out of passion and curiosity, and who have trained independently, whether in the company or not;
  • customer care – here, too, the issue of specific studies is unfortunately not simple. The figure of the customer care manager in fact requires, in addition to large doses of empathy, a predisposition for lightning-fast problem-solving. Until a few years ago, everything was simply solved in a physical branch or by talking to the customer on the phone; today many customer service operations must be carried out with a digital interface.

The most interesting data we are constantly dealing with is this: the university, but in general the world of education, has not yet fully adapted to the demands of the market.

New Digital opportunities in the Job Market
New Digital opportunities in the Job Market

A qualitative mismatch

This does not mean that studying is useless; a basic academic preparation is in most cases essential.

However, it is also true that a significant part of the skills required by companies today is essentially linked to personal experience. All this generates a rather problematic paradox: on one side young workers are required to have skills that university can hardly provide, on the other side they are not given the opportunity to acquire them because more experience is required. It is clear that, in this climate of skill mismatch, many young people fail to enter the job market, and many recruiters fail to find suitable staff.

We asked Federico Valvasori, CFO of MBK Fincom and ProduceShop, and one of the company’s candidate selection managers, for his opinion:

“One factor we always focus on is having contact with the people we select; the assessment of hard and soft skills in fact, in our opinion, must pass through a sort of direct “verification”.
A CV can certainly tell us a lot, and give us the information we need to make an initial selection. Sometimes, however, we choose to go beyond the CV; we verify particular sensations that, perhaps from a message or a call, have revealed a talent that has not been fully expressed in the description.

In almost all cases we are right: often going beyond the preparation or the title, we have hired formidable talents with a background prepared totally independently, who have turned out to be key elements for the company. An economics graduate with a passion for IT who becomes an IT manager, a translator who loves writing becomes a SEO copywriter, a former accountant who manages logistics: sometimes the combinations are curiously interesting, but they help us to understand how the recruiting dynamics of many HR (some of whom we have dealt with) are too tied to the document and less to the resource.

In addition, for ProduceShop, we tend to select young profiles, often with no previous experience. Motivation, willingness to work, and the ability to adapt to an environment that is constantly developing and changing are characteristics that are found especially in the early stages of a worker’s life.
The context of ProduceShop is also innovative and tends to be unconventional. Hiring staff who have already been trained by other companies can lead to a lack of fitting between people who will have to work in a more visionary and forward-looking organization and others who have worked in companies, even important ones, but in the early 2000s and probably already consolidated.

In this way, there is a risk of missing out on good employees; but above all those motivated by an interest and knowledge developed not only through study.”

In conclusion

An important piece of advice for the new generation of workers and graduates is this: companies are not only looking for the title; many transversal skills, or many primary skills, can now be easily acquired independently, taking advantage of and deepening the new knowledge required by the digital world.

Take advantage of online courses, webinars, MOOC and studios; focus on personal branding and show in a practical and direct way how valuable you are. Underline how crucial your know-how is for the company you work for.
For recruiters: go beyond the CV, skills should be tested, not told.

Sources:
  • Corporate PR
  • ProduceShop Development dept.
  • ProduceShop HR dept. (https://mbkfincom.com/)
  • Istat
  • Eurostat.eu
  • Factorial
  • Ti.ch
  • OECD – Better Life Index Europe
  • Trading Economics
  • BFS
  • Il Sole 24Ore
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