Ever since the Industrial Revolution, history has seen technology replace human resources time and time again. Increasing globalisation, unstable economies and shifting values also contribute to the changing workforce. What will the workforce of the future look like? What will employers be looking for?
To put it simply, future employers will be looking for employees to do what robots cannot. No matter how technology advances, there are certain skills which only humans possess – these are the skills which will be most highly prized.
Sociability is already an important element in employability. Emotional intelligence makes an employee a more effective worker. The value placed on people skills will only increase as the workforce transforms. The ability to communicate well, negotiate peaceably and interpret situations are tools needed for the next generation of workers. Esteban Bullrich, the Argentinian Minister of Education, said this, ‘Companies will want soft skills, so we must focus on teaching them’. Soft skills are often interlinked with our character, behaviours and experiences. A focus on these flexible skills which are transferable between professions will be essential in a future workforce where employees are expected to switch careers multiple times.
According to a study by the University of Kent (https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/top-ten-skills.htm), team work is the second most desirable attribute in potential employees. Why? Because results are driven by collaboration. As the structure of offices and industries change, this will become increasingly important. The ability to collaborate effectively and take on both positions of leadership and compliance will be a highly valuable skill. Teamwork is an important skill to focus on developing now and in the future.
Complex problem solving
One of the predicted outcomes of the changing workforce is a blurring of job roles. This means that duties will be more diverse and team structures will change. As a result, the ability for complex problem solving will be extremely important. This means being able to ideate solutions to problems of logic, relationship, communication and more. Multilayered problems require creative problem solving and that is exactly the skill which will be required by future employers. Vikas Pota, the CEO of the Varkey Foundation recently made a statement about what the future workforce will require, ‘Skills that computers will never master’. While computers are excellent problem solvers – often complex human problems are beyond their capacity. That is why we need to be educating with a focus on creative problem solving so that we have a generation of workers ready to face the challenges of tomorrow’s workforce.
What will this future look like?
The World Economic Forum has made a series of predictions as to what this future workforce will look like. In combination with other sources of information, here are some of the potential changes that will become reality in the coming years.
- An increasing number of people will work for themselves, creating changes in the economy and requiring broad entrepreneurial skills.
- More employees will work from home with flexible hours. This means time management will become increasingly important.
- There will be less face-to-face time in the workforce and more digital interaction. Strong communication and people skills are essential to thrive in this situation.
- Projects and developments will occur at a faster pace than ever before.
- There will be a stronger emphasis on environmental concerns. Complex problem solving will be utilised to navigate these issues.
- Creativity will be more highly valued in all industries as job roles and aims change.
When you look around the commuter crowd at rush hour, what do you see? Probably a lot of highly educated, specifically trained employees – skilled in a particular area. In the future, this will look different. Individuality, ambition, creative capability and flexibility will become more prevalent values which employers look for. More than anything, people skills, teamwork and the ability to solve complex problems will be the tools used by employees to gain employment in the future workforce.