This is a 2-part article exploring the future skills needed to thrive in tomorrow’s world of work. It examines what skills, qualities and attitudes are needed for success, who is responsible for continual personal and professional development, the employee or employer, and shares examples of best practice by leading companies. This is part 1 focusing on what skills, qualities and attitudes are needed to succeed in the future world of work.

Part 2 will explore whether it is the employee, employer or both who is responsible for ensuring that employees develop the skills needed in future, and share examples of how employers are approaching this.

Factors affecting the world of work and future skills

The world of work is changing fast and the pace of change accelerating against the backdrop of a VUCA environment; a volatile, uncertain, complex and uncertain world, politically, economically and environmentally.

The digital age is here and will bring automation and artificial intelligence into many sectors.  Many low skill jobs will disappear so making thinking about and developing skills useful for the future absolutely essential.  The most marketable workers who thrive in the digital age will be agile, creative, critical thinkers, comfortable working in fast changing diverse environments and adept at learning and relearning technologies.

Organisations need to be agile operating in a global market, yet increasingly focused on the local area, with Brexit and other political change happening around the globe.

Skills have a shorter and shorter shelf life, organisations are experiencing a skills shortage, especially in growth areas such as digital and individuals need to continually learn and reinvent themselves. Individuals need to embrace lifelong learning. Soft skills like reliability, empathy and teamwork will become essential in a joined up world, and provide competitive advantage vs robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI).  

Artificial intelligence will replace many jobs, yet the human touch is essential to secure the best jobs.  

Will millennials’ itchy feet mean that the skills shortage will worsen, and organisations will need to ‘think out of the box’, beyond the obvious methods of finding talent, to find the people with the skills that they need to build a competitive advantage?   

So what are the future skills needed to thrive in a VUCA world, and what qualities and attitudes are needed to be successful?

Brexit and new immigration rules, the fall in the value of the £pound, plus stronger growth in their own economies will reduce the attractiveness of the UK to workers from Eastern Europe, magnifying skill shortages. ‘Brexodus’ of skills could have a very negative impact on the volume of skills as well as the ‘hunger to learn’ attitude that comes from necessity.  

For lower skilled workers whose employability is affected by increasing automation, upskilling is essential to avoid skills obsolescence.   

By 2025, over five million jobs will be lost to automation. Future jobs will look very different and involve more knowledge creation and innovation.  

Information surplus is the new reality, with millions of pieces of new content being created each day. The ability to be discerning and identify insights from an avalanche of information is essential.  

Skills, qualities and attitudes needed for future success

Industries need the right blend of technical skills and human strengths. With the digital age developing at a fast pace, and traditional roles being transformed with Artificial Intelligence, the spotlight needs to go on and stay on skills.  

35% of the skills that workers need regardless of industry will have changed by 2020 (Future of Jobs, World Economic Forum).

Jobs in architecture and engineering, computers and mathematics, management, business and financial operations and sales, with the associated skills needed to deliver these jobs are on the rise. Jobs in installation and maintenance, construction and extraction, art, design, entertainment, sports and media, manufacturing and production and office and administrative are in decline.  

A critical issue is that the way most people perform jobs is out of date, as is the way people are trained and educated. The current education system is a fixed series of steps which doesn’t prepare people for a world of work which is flexible. E.g. the skills acquired during a 4-year degree become out of date on average by the end of the degree. The old ways don’t work.  

Interesting research by UKCES and Warwick Institute of Employment Research, Warwick University examines the potential for career adaptability.

What do you think is key for career adaptability?  The answer from the research can be summed up as the '5 Cs' - career adaptive competencies:

5 career adaptive competencies:

  • Control - being proactive, decisive & taking responsibility for your career;

  • Curiosity - broadening your horizons by seeking options, possibilities and knowledge;

  • Commitment - passionately pursuing & taking action to move to the career horizon of your choosing;

  • Confidence - belief in yourself & that you can achieve your goal;

  • Concern - having a positive & philosophical attitude to mistakes or rejection.

In a nutshell, it helps to have a proactive personality, to be investigative, always looking for fresh challenges and willing to seek out new contexts and opportunities. How would you score yourself against these 5 career adaptive competencies? 

These skills are needed in a VUCA world:

 A skill is ‘the ability to do something well, or expertise’.

 A to Z of skills

Click here to view the full list of skills  

These qualities are needed in a VUCA world:  

Qualities differentiate human beings from robots, and are essential for coping in a VUCA world. A quality is ‘a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone’.  

A to Z of qualities  

Click here to view the full list of qualities

These attitudes are needed in a VUCA world:  

Possessing the right attitude is crucial for success in a VUCA world. An attitude is ‘a settled way of thinking or feeling about something.’  

A to Z of attitudes  

Click here to view the full list of attitudes

Summary and conclusions - Part 1 

The shelf life of skills is shortening and employees will need to ensure that they possess the skills required for a fast changing world of work, and that they keep them updated. In the advent of Artificial Intelligence, qualities and the right attitude are also important, to help employees achieve and sustain a competitive advantage.  

Possessing the right blend of skills, qualities and attitudes will set you apart from average employees and ensure that you secure the best jobs and contracts.

By Rachel Brushfield, Talent Liberator at Energise

Part 2 of this article by Rachel Brushfield, Future skills for tomorrow, will explore whether it is the employee, employer or both who is responsible for ensuring that employees develop the skills needed in future, and share examples of how various employers are approaching this business-critical issue.

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