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Digital competences of the workforce – a research topic?

Matthias Murawski (Department of Business Information Systems, ESCP Europe Business School Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Markus Bick (Department of Business Information Systems, ESCP Europe Business School Berlin, Berlin, Germany)

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




Considering working in the digital age, questions on the consequences for the individual workers are, so far, often neglected. The purpose of this paper is to deal with the question of whether the digital competences of the workforce is a research topic. The authors argue for the thesis that it is indeed a research topic.


In addition to a literature analysis of the top IS, HR, and learning publications, non-scientific sources, as well as the opinions of the authors, are included. The authors’ thesis is challenged through a debate of corresponding pros and cons.


The definition of digital competences lacks scientific depth. Focussing on the workforce is valid, as a “lifelong” perspective is not mandatory for research. Digital competence research is a multidisciplinary task to which the IS field can make a valuable contribution.

Research limitations/implications

Although relevant references are included, some aspects are mainly driven by the opinions of the authors. The theoretical implications encompass a call for a scientific definition of digital competences. Furthermore, scholars should focus on the competences of the workforce, including occupations, roles, or industries. The authors conclude by providing a first proposal of a research agenda.

Practical implications

The practical implications include the alignment of multiple stakeholders for the design of “digital” curricula and the integration by HR departments of the construct of digital competences, e.g. for compensation matters and job requirements.


This paper is one of very few contributions in the area of the digital competences of the workforce, and it presents a starting point for future research activities.



Murawski, M. and Bick, M. (2017), "Digital competences of the workforce – a research topic?", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 721-734.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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