You may not guess the future, but you can prepare for it!
We live in an ever-changing world. Digital technology, automation and disruptive innovation introduce uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in our daily life. Globalization and the "network society " change the way businesses and people relate and interact.
Labour market dynamics are consequently undergoing profound changes. Several studies predict a worldwide significant reduction in the number of jobs, mainly due to automation and robotics, and draw our attention to the need to upgrade or even develop new skills. Portugal is no exception. According to a study released last year by CIP[i], by 2030 there will be a reduction of around 1.1 million jobs resulting from the automation of repetitive tasks or the handling of data and information in all sectors of activity. Alongside job losses, new positions will be created, requiring different technical and behavioural skills. But this change in the required employees’ profile will have a greater reach. Just preserving one’s job will require us to update and develop new knowledge and skills.
Is that enough? The current complex context and the fast pace of change mean that knowledge and skills valued by organizations are also constantly changing.
What is highly valued today will simply be put out of date by new requirements in a few years’ time. Since we do not have even a glance of these new requirements, probably because they still do not exist, we cannot start preparing ourselves. This point has important implications for the way any professional should face the acquisition and development of knowledge and skills throughout his professional life. It really emphasizes the importance of developing soft skills since they will be crucial for future professional success.
What skills are essential to face the challenges of the future?
Five skills are crucial:
1. Curiosity and willingness to learn
We must be prepared to "learn, unlearn and learn again". The importance of becoming adaptative and long-life learners is a direct result of an organization value’s increased sensitivity to the ability of its human capital to respond positively and incessantly to the challenging demands put forward by ever-changing new contexts. Thus, we must be willing to repeatedly question, challenge and test our own knowledge and certainties. Let us learn from feedback, different points of view, shared experiences, and our own mistakes. Do not see the latter as a failure, but as a learning opportunity.
2. Criativity and innovation
In a world where technology will replace us in the most repetitive and "boring” tasks, the value of an organization will increasingly rely on its capability to differentiate and reinvent itself. Therefore, creativity and innovation will undoubtedly assume a fundamental role as both will be the main drivers of those processes.
To innovate, it is necessary to reinforce the sense of individual and organizational purpose and to have an open mind in face of new ideas, perspectives, and experiences.
Not being afraid to make mistakes and to take risks are behavioural traits whose development is also critical.
Our capability to work and solve complex problems in collaboration, within current organizational structures or integrated in multi-functional project teams, will be key for organizations. Hence, it is very important to develop teamwork and interpersonal skills. The trend towards increasing interaction with professionals from different cultures and generations reinforces the need for developing the latter competence. Collaboration between teams in a virtual context will also continue to increase, whether due to globalization or the current trend for an improved work-life balance. Teleworking is not a fad is here to stay.
4. Emotional and Social Intelligence
In an increasingly automated world, in which artificial intelligence will be progressively more present in our daily lives, algorithms and robots will easily reproduce certain aspects of human interaction. However, it will be difficult for them, at least in the short-term, to identify and reproduce human emotions, or react in accordance with those same emotions. Therefore, the development of emotional and social intelligence, including social perception, persuasion, and negotiation, will be key. Particularly in a context of flatter and more agile organizational structures in which functional and project relationships will overcome the traditional hierarchical relationships. This competence, which has been taking on a greater role in many organizations, will be crucial in the future, as it is clearly a competitive advantage of human beings over the machines.
5. Personal and Team Leadership
Today, personal and team leadership is already a key competence. Ongoing trends for flexible people management policies and remote working, further propelled by the current pandemic crisis, made it a requirement. But in the future, it will be even more important. Team leaders will need to have this skill well developed as they will need to motivate, inspire, guide, and develop their employees, even when they are not physically in the same place. Leaders capable of encouraging their teams to innovate, to take calculated risks, leaving aside a culture of “penalty” for error will be fundamental for solving increasingly complex problems and for promoting innovation in their organizations.
In our opinion, it is this set of skills not easily replicable by artificial intelligence technologies that will allow us to act as agents of change and innovation in our organizations, actively contributing to individual and collective achievement.
It is up to organizations and their leaders to arouse the need and prepare their teams to acquire the skills that will be essential in the future. Rethinking competency models, mapping existing expertise in the organization, (re)skilling employees, develop internally or simply acquire external expertise, are deemed important necessary steps that should already be part of the "agenda" of every responsible for People Management.
If your Organization is struggling with questions, contact us and find out how we can support you in this transition!
Isabel Marques | Senior Manager
[i] Study prepared by CIP in partnership with the Nova School of Business and Economics and the McKinsey Global Institute released in January 2019.