The Future Skills Framework

18 Skills in 3 categories

In this study, future skills are defined as skills that will become more important for professional work and/or participation in society in the next five years – across all industries and branches.

In concrete terms, this means that future skills refer to a key subset of all skills needed in the future, on the one hand covering the next five years, and on the other in terms of increasing cross-disciplinary importance. Under this definition of future skills, all skills are excluded that are either industry or subject-specific, or whose importance will decline relative to other skills. They continue to be vital in many sub-sections of the economy, and thus remain a central focus of training and further training. The horizon of five years was chosen because it is long enough to realistically realize the effects of developments that can already be seen today. At the same time, it is also short enough to draw concrete conclusions about future skills despite the rapid technological development.

Under this horizon, digitization and new working forms will pose two challenges for businesses, both at the top and broadly (see graphic). First, the job portfolio will continue to shift toward IT roles, the recruitment for which will pose an increasing problem in the areas of transformative technologies in particular, for example blockchain technology and artificial intelligence. Secondly, the forms of work and activities will change for the vast majority of all employees, many of whom will therefore need a new set of digital and non-digital key qualifications.

Source: Stifterverband, McKinsey
Graphic: The dual challenge

Based on the statements of HR officers and drawing on current concepts, the Stifterverband and McKinsey have developed a Future Skills Framework that differentiates between two categories:


1. Technological skills

Technological skills cover those skills that are needed to shape transformative technologies. These include established transformative technologies such as the Internet (web development, UX design) as well as emerging fields (blockchain technology and smart hardware). One particularly important area is the ability to analyze complex data, and the related development of artificial intelligence. Those who master these technological skills possess the latest IT skills and are able to apply it. This category will create new job profiles across all sectors, for example data scientists. Even today, many job profiles are dominated by technological skills, particularly in start-ups.

Skill Description
Complex data analysis Analyze large data volumes efficiently using analytical methods to mine information; also covers developing artificial intelligence (AI)
Development of smart hardware/robotics Develop physical components for “intelligent” hardware-software systems (Internet of Things), e.g., robots
Web development Master programming languages for back-end and front-end development of web applications (mobile in particular)
User-centric designing (UX) Design products that aim to offer optimized functionality, intuitive handling, and an attractive user experience
Conception & administration of networked IT systems Apply a complex IT infrastructure with cloud functionality and interfaces to other IT systems, including continuous administration and further development
Blockchain technology development Build decentralized databases (“distributed ledgers”) using blockchain technology
Tech translation Moderate between technology experts and non-experts

2. Basic digital skills

Basic digital skills as a second category refers to skills that allow people to play an active role in a digitized world. These skills will be needed in future both in a person’s professional life and to participate in society (Digital Citizenship), and are increasingly demanded by employers. They include digital knowledge generation (digital learning) and confident handling of online data (digital literacy), as well as the ability to work collaboratively. Those who have mastered these skills can work in collaborative and agile teams, interact effectively, and make critical decisions in an increasingly digital world.

While only individual people require specific technological skills, the basic digital skills should be mastered by as many people as possible.

Skill Description
Digital literacy Command the most basic digital skills, e.g. careful handling of digital personal data, use of the latest software, interaction with AI
Digital interaction Understand others by interacting via online channels and respond appropriately ("digital etiquette")
Collaboration Collaborate on projects effectively and efficiently across distance and disciplines to achieve better results as a team than as individuals
Agile working Develop precisely what delivers added value to the customer working in a team responsible for the end product using iterative methods (rapid prototyping)
Digital learning Build solid knowledge on selected topics from a range of digital information sources
Digital ethics Critically examine digital information and the impact of digital actions, and take the appropriate ethical decisions

3. Classic skills

Classic skills represent the third category. These include skills and abilities—for example adaptability, creativity, and perseverance—that will gain in importance in working life in the coming years. Those who possess these classic skills will find new situations easier to handle and be able to analyze and solve problems in an increasingly volatile and complex working world.

In order for companies to survive in future, it is vital to deliver a mix of technological skills, basic digital skills and classic skills. It is not enough simply to employ employees who "only" have individual, specific skills. The challenge is to select or train people in such a way that they offer the broadest possible range of all future skills relevant to their working context.

Skill Description
Problem-solving Using a structured approach and reasoning, resolve concrete problems for which there is no ready-made answer
Creativity Develop original improvement ideas (e.g., for existing business processes) or ideas for innovations (e.g., for new products)
Entrepreneurial thinking & self-initiative Independently work using initiative as part of a project or organization
Adaptability Show an open mind to new technological developments, use them to the benefit of the organization, and apply them to different situations
Perseverance Complete tasks such as challenging projects with focus and responsibility, while overcoming resistance

Further info

This Future Skills Framework which covers the current competences required by business and society was developed by Stifterverband and McKinsey in the summer of 2018 in co-operation with companies. For further details see the dissussion paper "Future Skills: Which skills are lacking in Germany" published in September 2018.