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Ten Skills That Will Be Critical for Success in the Workforce

Ten Skills That Will Be Critical for Success in the Workforce

Global connectivity, smart machines, and new media are just some of the drivers reshaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive contributors in the future. We have identified ten skills that we believe will be critical for success in the workforce.

Sense-making

Definition: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed

As smart machines take over rote, routine manufacturing and services jobs, there will be an increasing demand for the kinds of skills machines are not good at. These are higher level thinking skills that cannot be codified. We call these sense-making skills, skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making.

Social Intelligence

Definition: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions

While we are seeing early prototypes of “social” and “emotional” robots in various research labs today, the range of social skills and emotions that they can display is very limited. Feeling is just as complicated as sense-making, if not more so, and just as the machines we are building are not sense-making machines, the emotional and social robots we are building are not feeling machines.

Novel and Adaptive Thinking

Definition: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor David Autor has tracked the polarization of jobs in the United States over the last three decades. He finds that job opportunities are declining in middle skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs, largely due to a combination of the automation of routine work, and global offshoring. Conversely, job opportunities are increasingly concentrated in both high skill, high-wage professional, technical and management occupations and in low-skill, low-wage occupations such as food service and personal care. Jobs at the high-skill end involve abstract tasks, and at the low-skill end, manual tasks

Cross Cultural Competency

Definition: ability to operate in different cultural settings

In a truly globally connected world, a worker’s skill set could see them posted in any number of locations.  They need to be able to operate in whatever environment they find them- selves. This demands specific content, such as linguistic skills, but also adaptability to changing circumstances and an ability to sense and respond to new contexts.

Computational Thinking

Definition: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning

As the amount of data that we have at our disposal increases exponentially, many more roles will require computational thinking skills in order to make sense of this information. Novice-friendly programming languages and technologies that teach the fundamentals of programming virtual and physical worlds will enable us to manipulate our environments and enhance our interactions. The use of simulations will become a core expertise as they begin to feature regularly in discourse and decision-making. HR departments that currently value applicants who are familiar with basic applications, such as the Microsoft Office suite, will shift their expectations, seeking out resumes that include statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning skills.

New Media Literacy

Definition:  ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication

The explosion in user-generated media including the videos, blogs, and podcasts that now dominate our social lives, will be fully felt in workplaces in the next decade. Communication tools that break away from the static slide approach of programs such as PowerPoint will become commonplace, and with them expectations of worker ability to produce content using these new forms will rise dramatically.

Transdisciplinarity

Definition: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines

Many of today’s global problems are just too complex to be solved by one specialized discipline (think global warming or overpopulation). These multifaceted problems require transdisciplinary solutions. While throughout the 20th century, ever-greater specialization was encouraged, the next century will see transdisciplinary approaches take center stage. We are already seeing this in the emergence of new areas of study, such as nanotechnology, which blends molecular biology, biochemistry, protein chemistry, and other specialties.

Design Mindset

Definition:  literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines

The sensors, communication tools and processing power of the computational world will bring with them new opportunities to take a design approach to our work. We will be able to plan our environments so that they are conducive to the outcomes that we are most interested in. Discoveries from neuroscience are highlighting how profoundly our physical environments shape cognition. As Fred Gage, a neurobiologist who studies and designs environments for neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons), argues, “change the environment, change the brain, change the behavior.

Workers of the future will need to become adept at recognizing the kind of thinking that different tasks require, and making adjustments to their work environments that enhance their ability to accomplish these tasks.

Cognitive Load Management

Definition:  ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques

A world rich in information streams in multiple formats and from multiple devices brings the issue of cognitive overload to the fore. Organizations and workers will only be able to turn the massive influx of data into an advantage if they can learn to effectively filter and focus on what is important. The next generation of workers will have to develop their own techniques for tackling the problem of cognitive overload. For example, the practice of social filtering—ranking, tagging, or adding other metadata to content helps higher-quality or more relevant information to rise above the “noise.”

Virtual Collaboration

Definition: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Connective technologies make it easier than ever to work, share ideas and be productive despite physical separation. But the virtual work environment also demands a new set of competencies.   As a leader of a virtual team, individuals need to develop strategies for engaging and motivating a dispersed group. We are learning that techniques borrowed from gaming are extremely effective in engaging large virtual communities. Ensuring that collaborative platforms include typical gaming features such as immediate feedback, clear objectives and a staged series of challenges can significantly drive participation and motivation.

To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these. Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.

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Guest Authors: 

Anna Davies, Devin Fidler, Marina Gorbis

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4 comments

  1. Excellent critical skills that are absolutely needed in today’s workplace.

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