What Skills Will We Need for the Jobs of the Future?

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We are now at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.1 Technological advances, along with socio-economic and demographic developments, will continue to impact society in the next decade—causing changes in business models, teaching strategies and workplace arrangements. Are professionals, employers and educational institutions ready for the challenge of developing the new skills this future will demand?

As trends like technological expansion, interconnectivity, collaboration and increased individual responsibility begin to transform the way we live and work—organizations all over the world are trying to predict possible scenarios and challenges for the next few decades.

The following comprehensive studies offer recommendations on the skills and abilities that will be in high demand for the jobs of tomorrow. And while nobody can really predict what the future holds, based on the transformations that are already visible, these insights can help companies, individuals and educational institutions anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements.

New Jobs Will Demand New Skills

In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, according to the World Economic Forum. The organization also estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.1

The report “Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation,” published in December 2017 by McKinsey Global Institute, has reached similar conclusions.2 A total of 60 million to 375 million individuals around the world may need to transition to new occupational categories by 2030, McKinsey predicts, based on an analysis that covers 46 countries and reaches almost 90% of the global gross domestic product.

McKinsey estimates that activities within all occupations will shift. New work will evolve, requiring “more application of expertise, interaction and management,” as well as “social and emotional skills and advanced cognitive capabilities, such as high-level logical reasoning.” As only a limited number of jobs require these capabilities today, developing such skills should be a challenge for education, which currently does not always emphasize those ‘soft skills.’

The shift seems to be already happening. Data from LinkedIn shows that professionals are increasingly marketing themselves around softer skills, which are less automatable.

Lifelong Learning Will Be the Norm

“To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements,” says the report “Future Skills,” published by the Institute for the Future (IFTF).3

According to the study, future workers will need to be adaptable lifelong learners, as “they will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these.”

For their turn, the report emphasizes that “businesses must also be alert to the changing environment and adapt their workforce planning and development strategies to ensure alignment with future skill requirements,” and that “strategic human resource professionals might reconsider traditional methods for identifying critical skills, as well as selecting and developing talent.”

In that context, Learning and Development (L&D) professionals must ensure that organizational talent is continuously renewing the skills necessary for the sustainability of business goals, which might require close collaboration with educational institutions.

Students Will Learn More on Their Own

Institutions are not always providing enough of the skills that students and workplaces need. As a result, “some students are taking it into their own hands to make up for deficiencies within the education system,” according to a study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Google.4

That seems to be a trend for next decade. Taking “greater personal responsibility for acquiring and continuously updating skills and attributes that will be at a premium in future” is a recommendation in the report “The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030,” published by The United Kingdom Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).5

The document explores four possible scenarios for the UK jobs and skills landscape 12 years from now, and suggests key areas for consideration by individuals, employers, policy makers and training providers.

Professionals are encouraged to “change [their] mind-set regarding the nature of work as it becomes less location-specific, more network-oriented, project-based and increasingly technology-intensive.” It also says it’s important to “be open to and take advantage of new and different approaches to learning, such as self-directed, bite-sized learning, peer-to-peer learning and technology-enabled training opportunities.”

UKCES also suggests that individuals include skills and training opportunities as part of contract negotiations with employers and keep in touch with relevant labor market developments.

Corporate Learning Will Grow Stronger

When it comes to employers, UKCES recommends leading the way and taking responsibility for developing the skills needed for business success. Collaboration is recommended and will play a key role in this success. This includes collaboration with the education and training sector to access critical skills, industry-wide collaboration by business to address key skills challenges and collaboration with government to develop sustainable career and learning pathways for young people.

Companies already seem to be moving toward that direction. According to Deloitte Consulting6, the corporate L&D industry is now more than $140 billion in size and continues to grow.

Thanks to online learning and digital tools, L&D programs have been reinvented in recent years, and “careers and learning” have become the second most important topic among CEOs and human resources leaders – only topped by “organization of the future.”7

That data indicates the necessary alignment between education and business is possible – and it has already began. In a world where previously valued skills are becoming obsolete, companies are realizing that learning—and in particular online learning—is critical to future business success. Although online learning began more than 20 years ago, more companies are finally starting to realize the benefits of online and blended programs, and how they can help their remote and diverse workforce continue to grow and develop.

13 Skills for the Future

The main skills that will be in demand over the next decade will need to be developed through the collaboration of individuals, employers and education institutions.  

1. Problem Solving Addressing problems and developing solutions is a universally needed skill, and it should grow in importance as professionals gain more autonomy. 4

2. Team Work In our increasingly connected life, with workplaces becoming more and more team-oriented— being able to interact constructively with people offering different skills and viewpoints, and appreciate alternative perspectives is vital. 4

3. Communication This one is a classic. Effective communication, both oral and written, will remain vital in the future workplace. And that includes foreign language skills. 4

4. Virtual Collaboration 

The nature of work is changing, with more fluid employment arrangements, flexible work schedules and the growth of remote work. These new dispositions tend to save commuting time, costs and resources, but they also require new competencies such as the ability to collaborate virtually.3

5. Leadership In the future, leadership should remain a critical skill, but new forms of leadership will be in demand. For example, the ability to manage a more diverse workforce, operate from different locations on a project-by-project basis and to offer motivation and guidance. 5

6. Resilience The ability to adapt to change, overcome challenges and recover from setbacks will be more and more needed as the workplaces undergo increasingly rapid transformations. 3

7. Cross-cultural Competency Cultural agility, or the ability to operate effectively across a broad range of environments, will become even more important, including language skills and the adaptability to quickly switch between contexts in a globally connected and diverse world. 3

8. Social Intelligence The emergence of social media in the last decade has raised many questions about how we create and sustain relationships. Social intelligence will be a critical skill for both managing relationships and adapting to new kinds of workplace scenarios. 3

9. Sense-making As artificial intelligence and smart machines are being used more and more to automate activities, there will be increasing demand for the kinds of skills that machines cannot perform well. These higher-level cognitive skills are the ones that help us create unique insights that are critical to decision-making. 3

10. Digital Literacy New types of media, technologies and tools demand professionals to become fluent in these new contexts in order to understand how to receive information and subsequently interpret the world. 3,4 This includes the ability to learn from online courses and digital tools.

11. Cognitive Load Management The unprecedented amount of data we need to process from multiple sources everyday makes it a challenge to skillfully manage one’s cognitive capacity. The ability to focus, to deal with the “culture of interruption” and to stay productive in our cognitively overwhelming environment is already crucial. 3

12. Transdisciplinary Thinking Some of the most interesting developments in recent years have come from interdisciplinary practice. That means integrating fields and perspectives or, as writer and theorist Howard Rheingold explains, “speaking the languages of multiple disciplines.” 3

13. Self-Management As work models become more fluid and flexible, employees are expected to have more responsibility for skill development. Self-management and the ability to promote one’s personal brand will become increasingly vital.5

Drivers of Change in Future Jobs and Skills

According to Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) and other senior talent and strategy executives from 371 leading global employers surveyed by the World Economic Forum. Industries overall – Share of respondents rating driver as top trend, %  

Future Workforce Strategies

According to Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) and other senior talent and strategy executives from 371 leading global employers surveyed by the World Economic Forum. Industries overall – Share of respondents pursuing strategy, %  

Is your organization prepared for the future?

As corporate L&D initiatives develop and grow to accommodate the need for new roles and skills in today’s organizations, online and blended learning options can provide opportunities to better engage teams and future leaders in this challenging scenario. Professionals, employers and educational institutions must be ready to promptly adapt to this new reality. Are you prepared?

Illustration and graphics:  TRiiBU Studio 


1 World Economic Forum. (2016, January). The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from 2 McKinsey Global Institute. (2017, December). Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in A Time of Automation. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from 3 Fidler, D. (2016). Future Skills: Update and Literature Review. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from 4 The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2015). Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from

5 UK Commission for Employment and Skills. (2014, February). The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from 6 Bersin, J. (2017, August 16). The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from 7 Deloitte. (2017). Rewriting the rules for the digital age 2017: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from

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