Self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing these are no longer the fantasies of sci-fi authors or Hollywood directors. Instead, this is the reality of our future, and the future is almost here!
The World Economic Forum says we’re on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0), and you don’t need to have seen Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner or Steven Spielberg’s A. I Artificial Intelligence to know that this next one will change everything.
Industry 4.0 will be marked by lightning-speed advancements and mind-boggling change as it brings together advances in digital, physical and biological technologies.
Industries earmarked to revolutionize the future and generate billions if not trillions for the global economy include genomics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
So as we look towards the future, it raises the question of 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.
So strap yourself into the Delorean and rev up that flux capacitor. Let’s see what arsenal of skills the future demands of us!
10 Job Skills You’ll Need In 2020 and Beyond
10. Cognitive flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is all about being a mental gymnast. Suppose 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.). In that case, 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 make unique associations between ideas. It sheds new light on 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 critical 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. Negotiating with your colleagues, managers, clients, and teams will be high up on the list of desirable skills.
To find out how to become a better negotiator, here are five things great negotiators always do.
8. Service orientation
Defined as the ability to ‘actively look for ways to help people,’ having strong service orientation skills is all about spotlighting consumers and anticipating their needs in the future.
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 carbon footprints, food safety, labour standards and privacy.’
From a skills perspective, businesses ‘will need to learn to anticipate these new consumer values more quickly, translate them into product offerings, and become ever more knowledgeable about the processes involved in meeting these demands.’
Getting a grip on service orientation involves stepping into users’ minds and thinking about what they value, fear, and dislike, and developing new products or adapting services to future proof your company or brand.
7. Judgement and decision-making
The ability to make good judgement calls and the knack for solid decision-making skills is forecast to move up the list to capture the seventh spot by 2020.
This isn’t surprising considering the sheer volume of data 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
The overwhelming response from HR officers and company strategists was that when it comes to desirable skillsets, ‘overall, social skills—such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others — will be in higher demand across industries’ of the future.
Co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry, explains that emotional intelligence ‘is the other kind of smart.’ That intangible ‘something’ helps us tune into the kaleidoscope of human emotions and measures how adept we are at adjusting our behaviour depending on the mood of a colleague, partner, family member, or even our internal feelings.
Emotional intelligence informs every interaction we have. As Bradberry explains in an article for Forbes, ‘It affects how we manage behaviour, navigates social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.’
It’s a social skill that’s particularly important to managers and leaders, and you’ll be glad to hear that you can give your EQ (emotional quotient) a boost!.
5. Coordinating with others
Social skills dominate the list again at number 5 and point to the emerging trend of companies emphasizing interpersonal solid 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 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.’
4. People management
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.
Being a great manager has a lot to do with emotional intelligence, knowing how to delegate, and developing your management style.
As the World Economic Forum senior writer Alex Gray explains, ‘With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, employees will have to become more creative 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 an essential skill, 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,’ you are a creative person.
2. Critical thinking
According to the survey, being a critical thinker will still be a valued skill set in the next four years. But what does critical thinking involve?
The answer is logic and reasoning. Critical thinking involves being able to use logic and reason 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 give humans a run for their money in the critical thinking department, organizations in 2020 will see vital thinkers as a highly employable and welcome addition to any team. So try these strategies to become a more critical thinker.
1. Complex problem-solving
Topping the list as the most desired skill to have by 2020 is a complex problem-solving ability, defined by the report as the capacity ‘to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings.’
What does that even mean?
In a nutshell, it’s about having the mental elasticity to solve problems we’ve never seen before and solving 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.