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Building the Future skills

Written by
Petra Hovorková
Published on
June 25, 2021

The last edition of The Future of Jobs 2020 report by the World Economic Forum WEF (October 2020) found that COVID-19 has impacted the labour market faster than was expected. The report clarifies that what used to be considered by the “Future of work” for majority of online white-collars workforce, is already here!

From the executive summary (K. Schwab, S.Zahidi) I picked 3 points important for this article:

  • Job creation is slowing while job destruction accelerates (see top20 job roles increasing/decreasing demand across the industries)
  • The top 15 skills important for year 2025 show increasing need of Human skills than digital ones
  • The window of opportunity to reskill1 and upskill2 workers has become shorter in the newly constrained labour market, and is also missing the support from public sector

Adoption of New Technologies

According the survey done by WEF, high priorities in technology adoption that remain the trend established in previous years are mainly:

  • Cloud computing
  • Big data  
  • E-commerce

However, there has been a significant rise in encryption and cybersecurity, reflecting the new vulnerabilities of our digital age, and a significant increase in the number of firms expecting to adopt non humanoid robots and artificial intelligence (AI). AI is finding the most broad adaptation among the Digital Information and Communications, Financial Services, Healthcare, and Transportation industries. Big data, the Internet of Things and Non-Humanoid Robotics are seeing strong adoption in Mining and Metals. However, the Government and the Public Sector industry shows a distinctive focus on encryption and cybersecurity.

These all new technologies are set to drive future growth across industries, as well as to increase the demand for new job roles and new skills.

So, Technologies or Human skills?

Both, however, human skills will be more important in the digital future of work, because it will be primarily human skills, not technology alone, that will help us through the actual double disruption of Covid 19 and automation as defined by Future of Jobs.

As employers accelerate digitisation and automate repetitive tasks, the WEF findings indicate that by 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be nearly  50 / 50, but this does not apply that the quality or utility of that work will be the same.

This new job market divided equally between humans and machines will of course require us to work on those skills that can’t be replaced by a robot and distinguish us from algorithms. This is a trend which is beginning to catch the attention of many business leaders for their future competitiveness.

As cited from WEF report, of  the top15 skills slated to be  the most crucial in 2025, only two are directly related to technologies (skills seven and eight). The rest were strongly linked to critical and analytical thinking, creativity, resilience and emotional intelligence. Over 90 % of business leaders saw critical thinking, problem-solving and self-management as increasingly or equally important through 2025.

Developing human skills

Developing Human skills is a completely different game. Developing “hard” or technical skills requires the knowledge from the expert, such as a trainer or course instructor, to the learner. Human skills that are inherently social, cannot be practiced on one's own but mainly in the society. Moreover when it comes to technical skills and new competencies, people begin by learning the basics from scratch. For social and emotional learning, however, it is impossible. Here are three tools how you can help  more human skills in your people:

1. Peer Coaching

Peer Coaching is designed for learning human skills. In regular scheduled sessions, participants can talk and listen for an equal amount of time. With no third person present, only the listener can respond empathetically and provide feedback. Each has to find his or her own way to do so. Peer coaches build relationships with each other around acceptance and openness. This creates a positive effect and in turn, can increase trust, leading colleagues to further explore and develop their human skills together.

2. Shadowing

Shadowing is another powerful tool to surpass a lack of human skills. Younger colleagues “shadow” or observe the work of a senior-level employee. After that, they analyze the process to understand the consequences. Younger colleagues learn decision making, development of strategies, analytical thinking etc. This mutual discussion can bring a different angle into current patterns, can be

3. Reverse Mentoring

This approach is a mutual form of classic Mentoring where the more experienced employee passes the knowledge or skill to the less experienced, one regardless of age. It can be effectively used for the development of senior employees digital literacy from their younger “digiskill“-generation colleagues. This can also bring deeper human-skill insights for younger generations e.g. leadership, negotiation, complex problem solving or analytical thinking from their senior colleagues. This can be a way to facilitate growth for the younger generation while ensuring the upskill of the senior one.

Human after all

The main propeller for the digital future of work is not only to acquire technological skills, or maintain those jobs that will eventually become automated, but to build on those critical, human skills that make us human after all. In order to cultivate a productive, balanced hybrid workforce, t future leaders will have to be sensitive to the real needs their people will require in their work.

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