Woman taking a picture with her smartphone to symbolise developing skills for the future

Developing skills for jobs of the future

These days, many employers are looking for different skill set in their workers, compared to the skills we’ve valued in the past. Here are our tips for developing skills for the future.
Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

As innovations in technology continue to drive changes to the workplace at a rapid rate, questions are being raised about the relevance of skills being taught in our schools and universities.

Are these skills really relevant to the future workforce? Are we providing children and students with the best opportunities to develop the skills they need for jobs of the future?

These days, many employers are looking for a different kind of skill set in their workers, when compared to the traditional skills we’ve placed value on in the past.

In today’s workforce, hiring managers place great value on employees who possess a good combination of technical ‘hard’ skills and less tangible ‘soft’ skills. What skills will organisations be looking for in another twenty years’ time?

The Future Workforce

There’s no doubt that we need to re-think how we’re preparing the younger generation for the new world of work. There’s a very real risk that the skills that are currently being taught in schools and universities will be irrelevant and outdated by the time those students enter the workforce.

This is not an uncommon viewpoint or concern. According to a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald, one in two Australians do not believe children have the skills they need for jobs of the future.

Anna Patty, Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald, reported that a new survey of 94,706 Commonwealth Bank customers asked whether "our kids have the skills they need for tomorrow?" – half the respondents said yes, the other half no.

The survey was part of the Commonwealth Bank’s Jobs and Skills of the Future Report, which explored the serious challenges that digital disruption would bring to the labour market.

The report, by futurist Ross Dawson, identified many exciting new jobs of the future such as:

  • "emotional intelligence expert" – to improve customer services
  • "bionic interface designer" – to help humans control technology
  • "sense-makers" – to make sense of technological change
  • "health and fitness optimiser" – to help people get fit
  • "data insights miners" – to translate vast amounts of data.

Throughout the report, it's clear that “uniquely human qualities such as imagination, creativity, advanced reasoning, emotional intelligence and social interaction would continue to be in demand.

In Patty’s article, Kylie Macfarlane, Commonwealth Bank General Manager Corporate Responsibility, pointed out that "some of the jobs that our children will be filling have not even been considered yet, so providing them with key skills and the ability to adapt to changing environments is fundamental to their success."

"Our future relies on giving our kids the skills and capabilities to navigate a fast-changing workforce, and the survey results show how important this is to Australians," Macfarlane said.

As technology continues to drive change across the workforce, people will need to develop a broader range of skills, and educators and employers need to start preparing for this upcoming shift now.

The Importance of Soft Skills

We’ve talked before about the importance of soft skills for your career, and how emotional intelligence can often be top of the list when it comes to setting an employee apart from the competition.

This shift towards greater value of emotional intelligence and soft skills in the workplace can be seen worldwide, with many organisations working to adjust to a new landscape.

Randstad Canada recently introduced a new concept of AQ – the agility quotient, which considers an employee’s ability to anticipate and interact with ever-changing social, cultural and economic conditions.

Randstad’s survey found that 87 per cent of respondents believe that soft skills, which are at the core of the agility quotient, are vital in the workplace. And according to the survey results, the most desirable soft skills for employees are:

  • Novel and adaptive thinking – being able to think differently through times of quick and immense change and adapt as needed
  • Social intelligence – understanding people's emotional triggers and being able to connect and engage in a meaningful and personal manner
  • Sense-making – the ability to connect the dots, generate ideas and create new strategies that draw from a variety of disciplines and experiences.

Interestingly, these top three soft skills were selected as the most important, regardless of level of employment, industry or gender – meaning that irrespective of your job description or rank within the company, developing your soft skills is always a smart move.

Developing the Right Skills for the Future

While the education industry must make sure young people are given the opportunity to develop the right skills for the future workforce, employers also have a responsibility to prepare their employees for these changes.

As an employer or manager, you can help your workers develop the right skills for the future workforce by providing them with effective, ongoing professional development training.

Unlike intellect, soft skills such as emotional intelligence and communication can be developed and expanded – so having access to the right learning tools is essential if you want your employees to hone and develop their skills and agility for future jobs.

Fostering a culture of learning within your company, investing in up-to-date training solutions, and committing to ongoing development and mentoring of employees will provide them with the opportunities and environment they need to succeed.

By taking positive steps to understand and move towards the future reality, you’ll be helping to set your employees up for success, while also keeping your organisation relevant and competitive.

Keen to know more about the increasing importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence in today’s workforce? You might also like:

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