The Institute for the Future is an independent nonprofit research group. Their mission is to work with organizations of all kinds to help them make better, more informed decisions about the future. They take a global approach to strategic planning, linking macro trends to local issues in such areas as:
- Work and daily life
- Technology and society
- Health and health care
- Global business trends
- Changing consumer society
Interestingly, a 2011 survey of more than 2,500 college students and employers reported that 65% of employers believe that the workforce skills keeping their company competitive today will be the same skills keeping them competitive 10 years from now. Only about 40% of our corporations are adapting their talent management strategies to develop a properly skilled staff. Workers with these identified skills will play a large role in bridging the gap in skill sets.
According to the Institute of the Future, there are ten skills defined as the key skills workers will need over the next decade. These are the skills that will help you thrive, even though radical technology changes, society changes, and the changing nature of work.
- Transdisciplanary – Being able to correlate material from diverse knowledge bases to extract tangible results. This can be for a new business initiative or on a much larger scale, such as resource scarcity or medicine. Companies want people that have an integrated depth and breadth and can transition easily between functions and corporate cultures. As the skill requirements dictate, they can work on many different projects across the organization.
- Sense-making – The ability to think critically about a challenge still trumps computer data. The key is to be able to dig deeper into the data and determine the meaning of the data. A computer cannot do this as well as humans can.
- Social Intelligence – Being able to read between the lines and understand what is actually happening to people. Social media is becoming an important channel in corporate communication. Being able to offer the “human” touch is an important skill when everything has moved to digital communication.
- Novel or Adaptive Thinking – Employees must be able to craft creative solutions in unpredictable situations that occur due to technology shifts or global economic situations.
- Cross-cultural Competency – More often, domestic work involves collaboration with colleagues overseas. This involves more than just language skills. We must embrace diversity and how it fuels innovation.
- Computational thinking – With a wider capability to gather and have access to data, we need to be able to analyze this massive amount of information and respond to it in a real-world manner.
- New-media literacy – People are becoming content providers for their workgroups, organizations, and social media contacts. We need to become familiar with how these systems function and the best practices around how we communicate with them.
- Design mindset – Over time, our work environments, cities, and our own bodies will be engineered for more efficient use. As we learn more about how things work, we will be designing tools to make our lives more efficient.
- Cognitive Load Management – Our workdays are interrupted more and more. As workers, we need to filter the massive amount of data and information we receive. We need to be able to adapt on demand, and plot correct responses.
- Virtual Collaboration – Today, we typically work in seas of cubicles. Over the next decade, expect to see more and more remote workers. This type of workforce needs people who can easily partner with remote colleagues and make the virtual workspace productive and enjoyable.
Putting all these skills together provides a very strong opportunity for innovation. Imagine what happens when you put a marketing person, a web person, a finance person, and an economics person together on a team. Something interesting is bound to occur.
If you are considering going back to school, you might consider a couple of items in your re-learning. For example, what would happen if you added a few liberal arts courses to that education? Many universities are starting to offer cross discipline education (typical combinations include technical and liberal arts). What about going against what you originally learned to widen your breadth of knowledge – If you originally went to school for history, maybe go after a degree in IT. Or, the other way – if you went for computer science, go back for a business degree.
A way for employers to embrace the growth of these skills without needing to send employees back to school would be to create or allow “challenge projects”. These would allow employees to reach out across disciplines and collaborate with subject matter experts from other groups with whom they don’t normally get to work.
You can read up on these skills and developing them in these resources:
- Asleep at the Wheel: Are College Students and Employers Ready for the Jobs of the Future?
- MediaX – Stanford University
- MediaX – YouTube Channel
- 2020 Workplace Blog (From writers of book by same name)
- The Future of HR – How to Achieve the 2020 Workplace today