The world of work is changing: the workforce is becoming more casualised and work-based; with new technology comes new jobs; and robots are replacing people.
In such a shifting landscape, the real value that employees will bring will be in their soft skills, which lie in their capacity for creativity, execution, and problem solving.
For this reason, it’s worth your while honing some must-have skills more than others, according to The Impossible Institute co-founders and change leaders Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan.
Related story: 10 skills you won’t need by 2022 — and 10 you will
Following two years of research and interviews with leaders, futurists, economists and educators, this is their list of ‘evergreen’ or ‘forever skills’, clustered into three categories, that will be needed no matter how much technology changes the workforce,:
1. Insight generation
We’re overloaded with information – but it’s not necessarily making us smarter. “For all of this information, few of us are in fact better informed,” said Gregory and Flanagan.
“Data isn’t the answer, it’s input. This makes an ability to turn data into meaning and information into intelligence a critical skill, regardless of how the technology is gathered.”
2. Conversion of raw input
Human endeavour and accomplishment has all along been about converting raw resources into more useful assets, the change experts said. Where we used to convert coal into electricity, we now race to convert the sun and the wind into energy.
“The raw resources we seek to convert may change, however, an understanding of how resources might be converted is incredibly important.
“As we move from the production of tangible products to intangible assets and services, this skill will remain critical.”
3. Problem solving
This has been named by the WEF, IBM and EY alike as a skill that will be indispensable in future employability, the change and leadership experts said.
“Yet most of us consider it to be more of a unique talent that we are born with (or not) rather than as a skill that might be nurtured and developed.”
According to Gregory and Flanagan, a better definition of creativity is the ability to solve problems in never-seen-before ways.
4. Agility and adaptability
These words are a little overused, especially in the tech sector – but the ability to be “cognitively and behaviourally flexible” is important: you have to be able to “learn, unlearn and relearn”.
5. Influence and persuasiveness
These aren’t just skills needed by sleazy sales people, pointed out Gregory and Flanagan.
“In fact, we are all in the business of influence.
“Leaders will always have to persuade people that their cause is just, team members will always need to create alignment amongst their teams, and parents will always need to sell bedtime and broccoli.”
6. Team building
Building a team requires more than just influence: it demands from leaders the ability to understand, to moderate team dynamics, and to get team politics out of the way.
7. Engendering trust
With so much information, particularly in the era of fake news, it’ll be ever-more critical for people to sort the fact from fiction. Those who wield this skill well will see power conferred to them, Gregory and Flanagan said.
8. Translation between worlds and ‘languages’
No, this isn’t about sitting back-stage at the UN wearing a headset and translating to a foreign delegate.
“We are all, to some degree, engaged with the skill of translation,” the experts said.
“Translation is really an ability to make information available and useful as it travels from one context to another.”
What’s the first step of self-improvement? Self-awareness.
“However the next important step is self-control. The ability to regulate our own behaviour will be eternally important.”
10. Resource management
This doesn’t refer to fossil fuels or renewables – rather, it’s about managing human resources like time and effort.
Ultimately, it’s about developing your ability to make judgement calls and prioritise effectively, said Gregory and Flanagan.
11. Order and social cohesion
Much like influence and persuasion, a brilliant idea will be worth nothing if you don’t get people to unite and rally behind it. This will become more and more important as societies become more interconnected – and more difficult to navigate.
How well can you execute your strategies and tasks, regardless of how your data looks or how prepared you are? Your ability to perform will remain an in-demand skill that will withstand the test of time.
While it’s important to invest in updating your skills to stay relevant, it’s similarly important to invest in the skills that won’t change.
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