The pandemic has created enormous changes in the workplace. Regardless of their jobs, employees needed to adapt rapidly to massive changes ranging from working remotely to changes in operations and fulfillment. But job skills were changing even before the pandemic.
Gartner data found that the number of skills required for a single job was increasing by 10% per year. And one-third of the skills listed in an average 2017 job posting would not be relevant by 2021. Gartner also found that role-based skills planning wasn’t helping organizations develop the right employee skill sets. Grouping unrelated skills doesn’t build the skills that will create competitive advantage.
But several experts have ideas about what those necessary skills of the future will be. As organizations continue to operate in a pandemic and plan for the future, here are some of the essential skills that employees will need:
In the midst of so much change, employees are going to need to take ownership of their roles and be highly self-directed, much like entrepreneurs within their organizations, says Devin Fidler, founder and CEO of Rethinkery Foresight, a business and change management consulting firm. Fidler says employees, especially at the entry-level, are going to increasingly need “to captain their own careers, [and have] a sort of DIY kind of hacking mentality.”
As roles and organizations quickly evolve, the traditional training methods to develop necessary skills don’t exist in the same way. Employees are going to have to be active participants in identifying the skills, resources, and support they need to do their jobs and collaborate with their companies to get them.
Eighty-five percent of companies recently surveyed by McKinsey said they had accelerated digitization. Employees are going to have to be comfortable with digital technologies, says Julia Lamm, workforce strategy partner at PwC. Employees are not only going to need to be comfortable using digital technologies, ranging from collaboration software to videoconferencing, but they’re also going to need to accept its role in evaluating metrics. Analytics was the No. 1 area of digital investment for HR executives in a recent PwC survey.
This becomes more important as employees work remotely and workforce management can be more challenging. HR leaders and managers will be using tools to measure productivity. “How do you better make use of digital tools that are looking at deployment or looking at metrics?” Lamm asks. But it’s also important to remember that user experience is often a priority in such tools. As they become more ubiquitous, they will also likely be more seamless and easily integrated into workflows.
The ability to understand the challenges other employees and organizations are facing and help management—in other words, empathy—is also a skill that employers seek and need, says Brannon Lacey, president of recruitment process outsourcing firm PeopleScout. “That’s helpful for everybody, not just the people who are trying to make their way through the chaos,” he says.
Communication skills have always been critical and in-demand employee skills. But Lacey says these skills now need to extend across platforms. The rise of videoconferencing and collaboration platforms requires new skills. “You have to be better with your words, you have to use brevity and levity to be successful getting thoughts and concepts across in an effective and efficient way,” he says. And you also have to know when to use which platform and how to use video, audio, and digital communication in ways that don’t create more negative outcomes, such as Zoom fatigue or lack of engagement.
As many workplaces evolve to hybrid models or have other significant changes in how they operate, adaptability is an increasingly necessary skill, Lamm says. Being able to keep functioning, even when you’re a little uncomfortable, is important in a time when so many things may be in flux. Taking on stretch roles or taking on new challenges can help “build the adaptability muscles,” she says.
Lacey agrees. “You still need to be able to germinate that spark of innovation and produce results and be productive for the organization,” he says. But you may need to find new ways to collaborate virtually or achieve results when uncertainty or obstacles lie in your path.
Deloitte’s research has uncovered a series of dimensions that are increasingly important for workplace success. In addition to the intellectual ability to do the job, ability to adapt to change, and communication skills, motivation and persuasion also play a big role, says Art Mazor, global HR transformation leader.
“I might be the greatest risk-taker—a very important one of the capabilities that lives within that dimension of change capabilities—but if I’m part of an organization that is not really ready for being bold in the face of ambiguity, then I’m going to be a bit on my island by myself,” he says. Being able to both self-motivate and inspire others to see your vision, could be the antidote to inertia in the face of uncertainty.
Even as the new norms of work emerge, being able to adapt to change, find solutions, communicate, and persuade are skills that aren’t likely to become obsolete.