The Skills Employers Will Value Most Moving Forward


IFTF_FutureWorkSkillsSummaryWhile people are keen to follow the sharemarket, read investor reports and seek advice about where to invest their money, not so many adopt the same approach to their careers in tracking what the market will be doing and needing in terms of skills and expertise. Ironic really, given most of us generate our financial wealth from our day jobs, and the more desired our expertise, the greater the wealth we can grow. While it is not always about the money, we all have living expenses and we also want to ensure we remain current in the marketplace rather than obsolete.

Understandably in the past there was not a great need to manage our careers as actively as there is now. Looking at future work trends would have been unheard of as it was assumed a job or career was for life.  However as technology and globalisation disrupt how we work, the skills sought moving forward have shifted and will continually be evolving.

Daniel Pink writes about this in his terrific book ‘A Whole New Mind’.  The three key takeaways from the book are that we live in a time of abundance where people have too many choices. Following this any jobs / skills which can be automated by technology or off-shored are a threat to workers in the west. We are seeing this with a lot of IT and Banking positions however it is even extending to Accounting, Law and other professions that were in the past thought of as safe and untouchable. Identifying this Pink goes on to highlight the six essential attributes / skills that will be sought after in the future:

  1. Design – Moving beyond      function to engage the sense.
  2. Story – Narrative added to      products and services – not just argument. Best of the six senses.
  3. Symphony – Adding invention and      big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  4. Empathy – Going beyond logic      and engaging emotion and intuition.
  5. Play – Bringing humor and      light-heartedness to business and products.
  6. Meaning – Immaterial feelings      and values of products. (Wikipedia)

For a brief summary of the key concepts discussed in A Whole New Mind visit Wikipedia

Pink’s book first published in 2005 is few years old now though it seems to all have stood the test of time. A recent report released by The Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute, ‘Future Work Skills 2020’ highlights some of the same messages that Pink did.  The world and makeup of workers has shifted dramatically and will continue to do so.  In the report they look at the six divers of change:

1)      Extreme longevity

2)      Rise of smart machines and systems

3)      Computational world

4)      New media ecology

5)      Superstructure organisations

6)      Globally connected world

From these drivers of change they go on to look at what they predict to be the most desirable work skills in 2020 and beyond.  These include things like:


  • Social intelligence
  • Sense making
  • Novel and adaptive thinking
  • Cross-cultural competency
  • Design mindset

The skills and attributes that the world will grow to need ever more are not those that were traditionally prized. Having a high IQ is certainly not going to go astray however without the EQ to support this it may not be as valued as it once was. We are already seeing this with today’s employers. They are looking for employees that are the full package; that have the intellectual capacity, combined with the right attitude, people skills, creative and strategic thinking and so on.  Once referred to as the ‘soft skills’ these are no longer spoken of in a negative way – these are what will help shape the future of work.

For anyone thinking about their career moving forward I would encourage you take a look at the  ‘Future Work Skills 2020’ report and Daniel Pinks book ‘A whole new mind’.

Share your views on the topic.

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