10 Skills That Every Employee Will Need by 2020
The world of work is evolving every day, every hour. New technology has allowed us excel at a rate that we once thought was impossible. The change in our everyday working lives is becoming more apparent. Technological advancements make way for an exciting future. However, with this change means that there will be a greater need for today’s workforce to learn new skills. You see, the skills that we use today, may not be the skills we need in the future. Therefore, keeping up-to-date with industry news and trends could be the key to your success for the future. It’s time to start planning!
So as we look towards the future, it raises the question — what skills will we need to thrive in this brave new world? By surveying the chief HR officers at some of the world’s leading companies, the World Economic Forum has released The Future of Jobs report revealing the top 10 skills you’ll need by 2020.
10. Cognitive flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is all about being a mental gymnast. If you think of your brain as a gymnast’s floor, and imagine all the different apparatuses (e.g. the rings, parallel bars, and balance beam) as the different ways of thinking (e.g. the creative brain, mathematical brain, critical thinking brain etc.) — cognitive flexibility is how quickly (and easily) you can swing, leap and twirl back and forth between different systems of thought.
The more limber you are, the easier it becomes to see new patterns and to make unique associations between ideas. It sheds new light on the concept of having a ‘nimble’ mind!
So how do we flex our cognitive muscles? By learning new things and in particular, learning new ways of thinking. If you’re ‘not a creative type’, make it a point to learn an instrument, take up hip-hop dancing or try your hand at an art class. If you’ve got the soul of a creative, but your eyes glaze over when you hear words like ‘financial markets’ or ‘the economy’, make it your mission to read The Economist or The American Economic Review.
With robots infiltrating the workforce and job automation flagged to become increasingly commonplace, social skills will be more important than ever in the future.
Why? Because we’re far better at social interaction and negotiations than robots are (for the time being, anyway).
Even people in purely technical occupations will soon be expected to show greater interpersonal skills, and being able to negotiate with your colleagues, managers, clients and teams will be high up on the list of desirable skills.
8. Service orientation
As the WEF report points out, businesses in the energy, financial services and IT industries are ‘increasingly finding themselves confronted with new consumer concerns about issues such as carbon footprints, food safety, labour standards and privacy.’
From a skills perspective, this means that businesses ‘will need to learn to more quickly anticipate these new consumer values, to translate them into product offerings and to become ever more knowledgeable about the processes involved in meeting these demands.’
Getting a grip on service orientation involves stepping into the minds of users and thinking about what they value, fear, and dislike; and developing new products or adapting services to future-proof your company or brand.
7. Judgment and decision-making
The ability to make sound judgment calls and the knack for strong decision-making skills is forecast to move up the list to nab the seventh spot by 2020.
This isn’t surprising considering the sheer volume of data that organizations can now amass, and the growing need for employees who can sift through the numbers, find actionable insights, and use big data to inform business strategy and decisions.
How can you improve your decision-making skills immediately? Start getting a whole lot more comfortable with data. First, figure out what questions or problems you want to answer, then set aside time to explore new data tools and technologies that can help you collect this information. Once you have these two things, you’ll want to make Excel your best friend, learn how to manipulate the data and mine it for all it’s worth!
6. Emotional intelligence
Co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry explains that emotional intelligence ‘is the other kind of smart.’ It’s that intangible ‘something’ that helps us tune into the kaleidoscope of human emotions, and measures how adept we are at adjusting our behavior depending on the mood of a colleague, partner, family member, or even our own internal feelings.
Emotional intelligence literally informs every interaction we have. As Bradberry explains in an article for Forbes, ‘It affects how we manage behavior, navigates social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.’
5. Coordinating with others
Social skills dominate the list again at number 5, and point to the emerging trend of companies putting more emphasis on strong interpersonal skills, and employees who play well with others.
Collaboration is crucial in any work environment and this is something that thankfully humans are still better at than robots!
‘Human interaction in the workplace involves team production, with workers playing off of each other’s strengths and adapting flexibly to changing circumstances,’ the WEF report explains. ‘Such non-routine interaction is at the heart of the human advantage over machines.’
Irrespective of how many jobs get automated and how advanced artificial intelligence becomes, employees will always be a company’s most prized resource.
Human beings are more creative, better at reading each other, and able to piggyback off each other’s ideas and energy. But being human also means that we get sick, we get demotivated, and we get distracted.
So it’s vital that in the future, managers and team leaders know how to motivate their teams, maximize their productivity and respond to their needs.
As the World Economic Forum senior writer, Alex Gray explains, ‘With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, employees are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.’
‘Robots may help us get to where we want to be faster, but they can’t be as creative as humans (yet).’
Creativity is predicted to become a key skill in the future, so before you dismiss yourself as a ‘non-creative’ person, remember that creativity is not the exclusive domain of artsy types like musicians and writers.
If you’re able to connect the dots with seemingly disparate information and throw all the ideas together to present something ‘new’, then you are a creative person.
The problem with the creative process is its inherent ‘non-process’ nature. There is simply no one way to creatively problem-solve something. In saying that, there are ways to unleash the creativity within you by exercising curiosity and self-expression on a regular basis.
Some other things you can do include giving yourself time to let your thoughts wander, making it a habit to sit down and create a body of work when you’re sleepy, and using limitations as a starting point for creativity
2. Critical thinking
Being a critical thinker will still be a valued skill set in the next four years, according to the survey. But what does critical thinking actually involve?
The answer is logic and reasoning. Critical thinking involves being able to use logic and reasoning to interrogate an issue or problem, consider various solutions to the problem, and weigh up the pros and cons of each approach.
While IBM’s supercomputer Watson and its legal-savvy companion ROSS are giving humans a run for their money in the critical thinking department, organizations in 2020 will see critical thinkers as highly employable, and a welcome addition to any team.
1. Complex problem-solving
Topping the list as the most desired skill to have by 2020 is complex problem-solving ability, defined by the report as the capacity ‘to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings.’
In a nutshell, it’s about having the mental elasticity to solve problems we’ve never seen before, and being able to solve them in a landscape that’s changing at breakneck speed and getting more complex by the minute!
In a world filled with what economists describe as ‘wicked’ problems — problems that are not ‘evil’, but considered wicked because they are near-impossible to solve due to incomplete, contradictory or ever-evolving requirements (think climate change, poverty or terrorism) — complex problem-solvers will be in hot demand.
As the report details, ‘More than one third (36%) of all jobs across all industries are expected by our respondents to require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills.’ This doesn’t mean that you’ll be expected to solve the world’s problems. Having strong complex problem-solving skills is about being able to see the big picture, zero in on minute details, and move things around to make a difference.
Thankfully this is not a skill that anyone is born with. It’s something that gets honed over time and is built on a strong foundation of critical and lateral thinking.