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What are the most in-demand skills for the future of work?

12 Nov 2018

The most important skills for the future are soft skills, not technical abilities, according to the Future of Work Global Research Study 2018.

Leadership agility and the ability to collaborate are among the most important skills in the future of work. That’s according to the Future of Work Global Research Study 2018 from Harmonics and OI Global Partners.

More than 1,000 global leaders from 28 countries around the world were surveyed, with half of the respondents from organisations with more than 500 employees.

While robotics, AI and machine learning will all dramatically impact jobs and the future of work, it is the soft skills that will continue to reign supreme.

Those surveyed were asked which three skills are most valued in their firm right now. The study showed that leadership agility was by far the most important characteristic employees must have to be competitive today, followed by coordinating with others. Creativity and communication skills were ranked third and fourth respectively, with very little in the difference, while an eagerness to learn and negotiating with others were next on the list.

Harmonics’ John Fitzgerald said there’s a direct correlation between leadership agility as the most valued skill and one of the key challenges that come with the future of work: adapting to change.

“The speed of change in the global economy means employers are almost always in a restructuring and change mode. Every organisation now wants agile people as they are more likely to adapt to change,” he said.

HR challenges of the future

When it came to the biggest challenges facing talent managers, attracting and hiring new talent was at the top of the list. “We are very much still in an employee-driven marketplace. There is, quite simply, a global scarcity of specialised talent,” said Fitzgerald.

Adapting to change was the second most cited concern for HR professionals, followed closely by managers lacking coaching skills. Fitzgerald said these same challenges come up every year, but they trade places.

However, what did surprise him was the popularity of annual personal development reviews as effective talent management activities, second only to leadership development programmes, because he said experience indicates these are not effective.

“We believe this high response relates to the lack of time managers have to coach their people. Employees need regular development conversations, and assessments need to be linked to an OD strategy to be effective. Training managers as coaches and one-to-one executive coaching can be much more effective interventions,” said Fitzgerald.

Roles at risk

According to the survey, the roles that are considered most at risk are finance and accounting roles, administrative and support staff, and middle-management roles.

“The decline of routine, repetitive work continues apace as a result of automation and AI. This is hitting both high- and low-skill occupations,” said Fitzgerald. “An eagerness to learn, and indeed relearn, has never been more necessary for those whose roles are at risk.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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