Which „digital“ competences do we need in the future? A case study with generic value

I have already described the dynamics of digital transformation in several contributions (cf. Krapf 2017; Krapf 2016a). In a specific contribution, I also discussed the importance of elaborate (action) competences and their systemic safeguarding in the new age of automation. In an age in which machines are not only replacing our muscle power, but are also increasingly taking over our knowledge work through „Machine Learning“ and „Artifical Intelligence“. In order to generate (economic) added value for us as human beings in a future automated world, we must therefore have complementary skills to our machine employees. From this, the question of which „digital“ competences we have to acquire in concrete terms can be quickly derived.

This is exactly what we at Swiss Post wanted to find out. We wanted to know which „digital“ skills are important for our employees in the future. To do this, however, we first had to define what we mean by „digital“ competences. After all, a glance at literature shows that the range is conceived differently. While some models tend to refer to the use of digital tools and, above all, to the concept of media literacy (cf. e. g. Ferrari/Punie/Bre?ko 2013; Meier 2016), other models include „digital“ competences to the extent that they actually refer to „future competencies“ or „competences in a digital world“ (Mozilla 2016; World Economic Forum 2016). In our working group, which consists of specialists from different areas of human resources and organizational development, it quickly became clear that we had to take up and review both of these concepts for empirical analysis.


Figure 1: Digital competencies as a requirement of digital transformation
(own presentation based on Krapf 2016b; Krapf 2017)

Models on digital competences: one for „digital tools“, the other for the „digital world“.

When dealing with „Digital Tools“, we opted for the model by Meier (2016), which was developed on the basis of Ferrari (2012) and Ferrari/Punie/Bre?ko (2013), among others, and therefore already incorporates many (theoretical) findings (Daepp 2017, p. 14). Meier (2016) distinguishes between five areas of competence (handling digital information; communicating effectively in digital form; creating digital content; ensuring security; solving technical problems) which have basically been adopted for our practical analysis, whereby we adapted the individual descriptions of competence to our context (see below).

For the competency requirements in a „digital world“, we have oriented ourselves to the WEF model (2016). About two years ago, the WEF developed a model for the „21st Century Skills“, which it diversified into three dimensions with different areas of competence. In the first dimension, the WEF locates the „Foundational Literacies“. In the second „Competencies“ and in the third „Character Qualities“ (ibid.). For the empirical review at Swiss Post, we have used the last two dimensions to focus on „key competences“ and „personality traits“. We omitted the „Foundational Literacies“ not least because we saw them more specifically and better covered in our context with the model of Meier (2016). In the other two dimensions, we followed the original model in principle, but added additional competences from the literature (see below).

Empirical review: Which competences are important from the MA’s point of view?

We wanted to examine the models taken from the literature and adapted by the working group of PE/OE specialists to the post context in the organisation. The focus was primarily on which aspects of these models are relevant from the perspective of our employees. We interviewed over 3,000 postal workers on this subject. The tables below show the results for the competencies in dealing with „digital tools“ and for the „digital world“.

Competencies „Digital Tools“ (based on Meier 2016)


Figure 2: Skills in dealing with „digital tools“.

Competencies „Digital World“ (based on WEF 2016)


Figure 3: Competence requirements in a „digital world“

*1 = unnecessary; 6 = irreplaceable

Interpretation of the empirical review and adaptation of the model

The surveys have shown that the competencies studied are of great importance for Swiss Post in the context of digital transformation. The differentiation between competences in dealing with „digital tools“ and competences in a „digital world“ seems to prove itself. In the „digital tools“ dimension, the assessment of the MA varied considerably more according to function and/or area than in the „digital world“ dimension. This is not particularly surprising in retrospect, as the „digital tools“ and their significance are strongly influenced by function and business area, while the rather diffuse „digital world“ and its generic competence requirements are (still) somewhat more independent of the specific context. In the meantime, the combination of competence requirements with regard to „digital tools“ and „digital world“ has also been carried out by other authors (cf. e. g. Seufert 2017) and confirmed to us that the consideration of both aspects or understandings is relevant.

Based on the insights gained from the surveys, we have decided to adapt the model and change it graphically (see below). To this end, we have defined the competence requirements from the „digital world“ as an external framework, since these seem to be relevant across all areas and functions and can thus serve as a general orientation. Competences on or with „digital tools“, on the other hand, have to be developed specifically depending on the area and function. For this reason, these competence requirements were put into the inner circle without formulating them in concrete terms. The arrow symbol around the inner circle of the „digital tools“ should indicate that the competences in dealing with such instruments are constantly changing and therefore less constant than the generic competences in the „digital world“.


Figure 4:“Digital competences“ – a generic competency model
(Krapf & Daepp 2017 quoted in. Daepp 2017, p. 47)


Conclusion: We know where to go, but not yet how

As a conclusion, or rather as an interim conclusion, we can state that we now know which competences need to be developed. The more difficult question, however, is how these competences can be developed. We are currently working on this question and I will be happy to publish new findings and reports on my experiences here. In the meantime, reading by Daepp (2017), who has scientifically accompanied the review of digital competences for the post-context, is recommended to develop empirically supported measures (p. 48); (2) Quick-Wins through the use of existing training courses in dealing with „digital tools“; and (1) Consciously reflecting on what can be learnt from the results; and (2) To develop empirically supported measures (p. 48).


This article has been fully translated by the AI of DeepL.com
Dieser Artikel wurde vollständig von der KI von DeepL.com übersetzt



Daepp, U. (2017): SkillChange Digital Transformation. What (new) competencies do Swiss Post employees need in the course of the digital transformation? unpublished Bachelor thesis: University of St. Gallen.

Ferrari, A. (2012): Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks. JRC Technical Reports. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Ferrari, A. /Punie, Y. /Bre?ko, B. N. (2013): DIGCOMP: A framework for developing and understanding digital competence in Europe. JRC scientific and policy reports. Luxembourg: Publications Office.

Krapf, J. (2016a): Agility culture for coping with digital transformation. https://joel-krapf.com/2016/06/21/agilitaetskultur-zur-bewaeltigung-der-digitalen-transformation/. June 30,2016.

Krapf, J. (2016b): Generative competence management for digital transformation. https://pt.slideshare.net/JolKrapf/generatives-kompetenzmanagement-zur-digitalen-transformation-62952121. 6 April 2017.

Krapf, J. (2017): Agility in response to the Digital Transformation. In: Synergy – Fachmagazin für Digitisierung in der Lehr, H. 3, S. 36–37.

Meier, C. (2016): Digital Transformation and L&D. Contribution to the ZGP Symposium on 02.11.2016 in Zurich. https://www.scilblog.ch/blog/2016/11/10/digitale-transformation-und-ld-beitrag-zum-zgp-symposium-am-02-11-2016-in-zuerich/. June 24,2017.

Mozilla (2016): Web Literacy 2.0. http://mozilla.github.io/content/web-lit-whitepaper/#21st-century-skills. April 29,2016.

Seufert, S. (2017): Digital competences. First results in the project „DigiCompToTeach“. https://www.scil-blog.ch/blog/2017/06/22/digitale-kompetenzen-erste-ergebnisse-im-projekt-digicomptoteach/. June 24,2017.

World Economic Forum (2016): New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology. Geneva: WEF.

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