Jomel Alos, of Guthrie-Jensen Consultants, takes a look at the top 10 skills that will be needed in the workplace in 2020.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now unfolding before us, giving us a glimpse of what the digital, scientific, and economic worlds will look like in the near future.

There is a rise of new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), robotics, and the like, which are reshaping many aspects of human life—positively and negatively.

For one, automation of tasks in the workplace is seen to take about 15 million jobs from the British workforce and relegated to robots. On the other hand, the combination of computing power and big data is making it possible for companies to predict the most impactful trends and design innovative products, processes, and services in their niche market.

More specifically, for you in HR, the Fourth Industrial Revolution means organisational platforms and business models will continue to evolve in mind-blowing proportions such that major areas of HR – talent assessment, recruitment, and employee training and engagement – will also have to be revisited. This further means that you’ll need to find a new breed of talent whose skills stack up against the changing technological landscape well enough to preserve the superiority of the human species in the workplace.

When you recruit for talent, make sure the candidates demonstrate these top 10 competencies or skills:

1. Complex Problem Solving

Problem-solving has always been at the core of business operations, but the speed and level of technological developments happening in the digital world are also paving the way for more unique, complex problems in the workplace.

Take IT systems, for instance, which are perennially facing threats of cybersecurity attacks. It will be the responsibility of your complex problem solver employees to build an arsenal of relevant tactics that will address various issues in your organisation.

2. Critical Thinking

At the outset, employees should be able to demonstrate logic and reasoning to look into an issue or problem, consider multiple solutions to the problem, and pick an approach that will deliver the best results for the team.

The critical thinking skills of your employees will be complementary to any form of AI or robotics technology that you’re currently using.

3. Creativity

The most innovative products, services, or technologies of today came nowhere else but from the creative minds of their creators. Therefore, you should look for candidates who think in novel ways and are not afraid to challenge norms to bring something new, useful, and unique to the table.

4. People Management

When you have team managers who are concerned with the well-being of your staff, it will be easy for your employees to increase their productivity numbers. A high level of motivation equals more employee engagement, so make sure to hire managers who have great people skills and management style.

It’s also important for employees with leader roles to strike a balance between championing employee welfare and practicing objectivity in the workplace.   

5. Coordinating with Others

We now have a larger social work environment, where employees and teams collaborate with - rather than isolate themselves from - one another to get things done. 

To help promote team cooperation, you could evaluate future employees based on their assessment of interpersonal skills and track record as a team player.

6. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is also called "the other kind of smart", and rightfully so. This type of intelligence pertains to one's ability to empathise with people around them. 

Employees who have high emotional intelligence are not quick to pass judgment to their colleagues but are encouraging, especially to those who may be struggling in a technologically enabled work environment.

For leaders and managers, this means being able to manage employee behaviour, overcome social complexities, and make good decisions that are beneficial to all.

7. Judgment and Decision Making

Employees who can call the shots with sound judgment will be extremely helpful to your organisation. In data management, for example, employees should be able to use tools to collect information that will answer your most pressing questions about your customers, your workforce, and other criteria important to your business.

Those in the know of analytics can choose the kind of data that will enable your business to strategise company decisions. They should be able to separate the chaff from the wheat, so to speak, to implement actionable insights in core business areas.

8. Service Orientation

Service-oriented individuals are innately concerned about helping people with their needs. If you’re in consumer-driven industries, you need to hire employees who are quick to anticipate changing customer preferences and help you think of ways on how to provide high-impact solutions to your audience, with the ultimate goal of making things easier for end users. 

9. Negotiation

Negotiation or social skills will be critical in the future workplace even if job automation is expected to flourish in logistics and manufacturing assembly. Meanwhile, other departments will still show great demand for employees who can resolve potential conflicts through peaceful means such as dialogues and mutual concession.

10. Cognitive Flexibility

Someone who has cognitive flexibility will find it easy to shift from being a creative thinker to a critical thinker almost instantly.

Cognitively flexible workers have an absorbent mind—they can take in various pieces of information and ideas and make meaningful connections out of them.

To help your employees develop this skill, encourage them to go out of their comfort zones, learn new things, and think more outside the box.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution takes us at the threshold of a more dynamic, sophisticated, digital information age where technology’s impact extends across domains – cultural, social, business, politics, economics, engineering, medicine, and so many others.

But make no mistake about it, your organisation’s most valuable asset is still your employees whose skills and values are far greater than any other work of technology and relevant fields combined.

By Jomel Alos, project consultant at Guthrie-Jensen Consultants.