In the rapidly evolving landscape of the modern workplace, the skillset required to thrive is shifting dramatically. The rise of technology, automation, and the changing needs of customers is naturally prompting organisations to reassess the capabilities they value most in their workforce. At the same time, professionals are grappling with how to remain employable and relevant in an era of constant disruption. As we navigate these changes, it’s going to be important to bridge the gap between the skills organisations recognise as valuable and those individuals perceive as necessary.
A disconnect between organisational priorities and employee perceptions
A significant disconnect exists between organisations and their employees when it comes to the skills deemed crucial for success. While organisations start to focus on building broader human skills, many employees believe they need to acquire advanced IT and technical expertise to stay relevant. It’s easy to see why that’s the case, with the growth in programming and artificial intelligence. However, in fact, it’s human skills, such as curiosity, insight, empathy, and resilience, that have come to the fore as a result of this trend towards automation. Individuals who have these skills will be more agile and able to respond to the evolving demands of the market.
Curiosity, the drive to explore and learn, is now as valuable as technical expertise. Insight, which enables us to analyse complex situations and uncover innovative solutions, is highly sought after. Empathy, a key driver of meaningful connections and understanding, is now considered a core skill. And resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks, is recognised as a crucial trait for navigating uncertain terrain.
Another disconnect lies in the responsibility for learning and upskilling. Working for myself for the past decade, I’ve had to (or, rather, chosen to) take responsibility for my own learning and development. Internal employees, however, often believe that it’s the sole responsibility of their employers to provide opportunities for reskilling. Fostering new skills will be essential for organisations hoping to thrive in the future but it’s naive and unwise to leave it up to your company. The current paradigm shift requires collective effort and active participation from both employees and employers, for everyone’s sake.
The essential skills for the future
The transition to a skill-driven future will require a transformation in corporate culture, management philosophy, and support for education and upskilling programs. So what are these human skills that are so important? Well, the recent Future of Jobs Report from the WEF suggests the following:
- Analytical thinking: A core skill that’s vital for problem solving and strategic decision-making.
- Creative thinking: Fostering innovation and adaptability to disrupted workplaces.
- Self-efficacy skills: Consisting of resilience, flexibility, agility, motivation, self-awareness, curiosity, and lifelong learning — traits essential for adapting to change and continuous growth.
- Technological literacy: Complementing human skills with an understanding of technological advancements (because, yes, tech does still matter)
- Dependability and attention to detail: Essential traits for producing high-quality work and meeting expectations.
- Empathy and active listening: Vital for building strong interpersonal relationships and understanding customer needs (and core to a more ‘coaching’ approach to leadership).
- Leadership and social influence: A crucial skillset for guiding teams through challenges and driving positive change.
- Quality control: Ensuring excellence in products and services delivered (because isn’t that what a business is all about?).
Embracing the value of human skills
In the pursuit of professional success, there has been a longstanding emphasis on “hard skills” and qualifications — technical expertise that aligns with the specific requirements of a role. We must now shift our mindset and recognise the immense value of what we’ve always weakly called “soft skills”, these “human skills”, in today’s dynamic work environment. Skills such as curiosity, empathy, resilience, and creative thinking play a critical role in adapting to an ever-changing landscape. As we navigate the era of automation and continued digital transformation, it is human skills that will empower individuals to respond agilely to evolving market demands and add the most value to their organisations.
As professionals, we must embrace the significance of these human skills and invest in our own development. It’s time to proactively cultivate curiosity, to hone our understanding of complex problems, to nurture empathy in our interactions, and to foster resilience in the face of challenges.
Organisations have a crucial role to play in supporting the growth of these human skills among their employees. Training and coaching solutions must be invested in to provide employees with the tools and guidance they need to develop in these key areas. By fostering a growth-oriented culture that values and prioritises human skills, organisations can unleash the full potential of their workforce.
And, if you’re interested in exploring how training in these essential human skills can benefit your team and your organisation, I invite you to send me a message to discuss how we can work together to equip your team with the skills and mindset needed to thrive in the future of work.
As we embrace the future and as the landscape of work continues to transform, let us invest in the skills that will propel us forward, fostering a dynamic and resilient workforce prepared to excel in the years ahead.