HR Insights
December 13, 2019

The top five skills that companies need most for the future of work

The nature of jobs is changing, and with it, the skills required for companies to be successful. Here are the top skills that will be in demand in the next decade of work, and how companies can develop their people to thrive in the future.

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Automation and AI are driving changes to the workplace. While these technologies bring organizational benefits such as higher productivity and performance, they are also changing the types of jobs needed and the skills required in the workforce.

McKinsey claims that technological skills will experience the most growth and demand, including both basic digital skills and more advanced technological skills. Demand for higher cognitive skills, social, and emotional skills are also expected to rise.

The lifespan of skills is also shortening. According to Deloitte, the half-life of a skill is currently five years which means throughout a 30-year career, an individual would have to update and refresh their skills six times. Further, 65% of kids entering elementary school today will have jobs that don’t exist. This means that organizations will need to work harder to stay on top of changing skills to address future workplace needs.

Ceridian’s recent Future of Work survey found that company leaders are realizing the importance of addressing the skills gap as they believe the workforce will look vastly different in the future. Companies across all industries must identify the skills that will be needed for the future and develop strategies to acquire these skills. As jobs change and organizations continue to innovate, the most in-demand skills, according to McKinsey, the World Economic Forum, and others, are industry-agnostic, human skills. Here’s a list of some of these key skills, and how companies can develop their talent to thrive in the future.

1. Critical thinking

The changing work environment is requiring employees to expand their capabilities beyond their current roles. Critical thinking – the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate possible solutions to a problem – is widely cited as one of the top skills needed in 2020 and beyond. 75% of American companies claim recruiting the right people with critical thinking is among their top workforce challenges.

How companies can address this:

Companies can support their workforce in developing critical thinking skills by setting up mentorship programs where employees with deep expertise in one area challenge team members to think differently when solving problems.

2. Complex problem-solving

Complex problem-solving is a critical component of all jobs in every industry, and that won’t change in the next few years. According to the World Economic Forum, 36% of jobs across all industries are expected to require complex problem-solving as a core skill in 2020.

An article in the Harvard Business Review explains that complex problems demand different areas of expertise. For individuals to possess complex problem abilities, they must have a versatile range of specialized knowledge.

How companies can address this:

Social learning is an effective way to help employees hone their complex problem-solving abilities. Organizations can provide the workforce with learning platforms that enable their employees to collaborate and share knowledge with one another using technology with social media-like features. Employees can discuss different ways of solving a problem in a Q&A forum, for example.

3. Leadership

To thrive in tomorrow’s digitally-driven world, leaders must guide their teams through change and disruption. Part of this is understanding how to leverage new technologies effectively, integrating the right digital talent into their teams, and keeping team dynamics strong.

How companies can address this:

Succession planning can play a key role in helping companies identify and develop emerging leaders with the right skills to navigate the future of work and drive continued innovation.

4. Strategic people management

The role of the HR leader has changed as the workforce has evolved. Today, HR is seen as a strategic partner in the business as they build people strategies that drive value and impact the bottom line. HR professionals need to know how to contribute to the financial success of the business by attracting, developing, and retaining the right talent.

How companies can address this:

Industry leaders are increasingly leveraging workforce intelligence to inform decision-making. Using technology, HR executives can better understand how efficient and effective their workforce is, identify gaps in future skills and roles, and develop talent management strategies that help drive business value and address organizational needs.

Related: What is Intelligent HCM, and how does it create value?

5. Collaboration

With intensifying competition in virtually every industry, organizations are under constant pressure to remain relevant in the market. To drive continued innovation and deliver next-level customer experiences, organizations must focus on breaking down silos and support knowledge sharing and agility.

Related: How a team-based model can help build the organization of the future

How companies can address this:

Companies can design a team-centric workforce where employees transparently share information and transition between teams based on project requirements rather than remaining in siloed departments with a top-down approach. One way to accomplish this is by leveraging technology to make communications more free-flowing amongst team members. In fact, 82% of businesses in an Accenture report claim they want to increase future use of collaboration tools. Tools such as learning experience platforms can help employees to easily share knowledge and interact, and more quickly get up to speed on their respective projects.

How is your organization preparing for the future of work?

The changing world of work will require employees everywhere to update their existing skill sets or acquire new skills. Ceridian’s recent Future of Work report indicates that while decision makers anticipate facing challenges with skills gaps, they may not be directing their focus to high value actions that create long-term success. Companies will need to develop long-term learning and development strategies to help their people acquire skills quickly amidst fast-paced disruption.

Download Ceridian’s Future of Work report to explore findings from our research and learn about opportunities to strategically navigate the workplace in 2020 and beyond.

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