.
I

n a future full of hybrid workplaces, gig jobs and technology such as robots and artificial intelligence, it will be our mindsets more than our skillsets that will determine our success in finding and navigating this evolving job landscape. Indeed, resilient soft skills, emotional intelligence and the willingness to be able to constantly change and adapt will be critical moving forward, as well as the ability to not only meet the challenges of today, but to ask new questions and create the challenges of tomorrow as well. Ultimately, it will take both an individual awareness of one’s strengths and skills as well as the ability to use and develop those skills in a variety of team and organizational environments that will enable one to succeed no matter what in the shifting nature of professional readiness.

Key Takeaways

Assessment at the individual and organizational levels is necessary to finding and developing resilient soft skills.

Beyond technical skills and competencies whose significance tends to fluctuate with the ever-changing landscape of jobs, it is the more resilient soft skills—communication, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, management, leadership and writing, to name a few—that will prove the success of how well an individual will be able to navigate the future of jobs.

Soft skills cannot be assessed the same way as technical skills. Unlike the more easily assessable technical skills, soft skills are demonstrated through the way an individual applies them in different situations and environments over a period of time. Therefore, in order to assess an individual’s soft skills—such as their ability to communicate, work on a team and solve a variety of novel problems—it is important that individuals are able to demonstrate these skills repeatedly across a variety of situations, and that, more importantly, employers continually work with their team members to develop and foster these skills and strengths.

Self-assessment is crucial. Just as it is important for organizations to accurately assess current and potential talent, it is just as important that individuals are able to complete self-assessments in order to better understand their strengths and talents and figure out how to cultivate and articulate these strengths to potential employers. However, self-assessment is no easy task—especially with a large barrier of access to intelligence about what skills are actually needed in the job market today as well as a lack of access to resources such as career coaching and counseling for a majority of individuals from underserved communities. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that information about the job market as well as resources for career development be made more universally accessible to everyone, regardless of location.

It’s the balance between individual self-assessment and organizational assessment that will bring about professional development. Even after an individual is hired into an organization, it is crucial that they continue to develop their soft skills and strengths not only on at the individual level, but also as a member of the organizational culture and environment they’ve been tasked to function in. Likewise, it is equally important that the organization fosters a sense of leadership and culture that allows individuals to safely fail, and to more importantly, fail fast and fail forward.

Trying to align the educational system with the job skills arena has proven extremely difficult. With so many companies still relying on traditional and outdated signals—such as screening by university degree and background—that may not necessarily tie to the skills that employers are searching for, many individuals still adhere to more outdated forms of education that are not preparing them for the real world of work. Likewise, with employers often creating job descriptions that are lengthy, ambiguous and a poor reflection of the actual skills and talent they are looking for, both individuals and educational institutions are having a difficult time understanding the needs of the job market. Therefore, it is on both educational institutions and large organizations to communicate between each other more effectively and understand how to scale their job roles and job descriptions to find and foster the right kind of candidates.

Soft skills will be even more necessary in the hybrid workforce.

In the conventional workplace environment where traditional organizations tended to patiently nurture people over decades to become well-adapted members of the organizational ecosystem, and where soft skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership were more easily applied and developed, these skills will be harder to naturally cultivate in the highly digital space required by a hybrid workforce—and therefore, all the more necessary.

Hybrid education is preparing students for the hybrid workforce. While the social isolation required by COVID19 has brought on a sudden shift from traditional physical classroom learning models to remote learning for over 1.7 billion students around the globe, it was found that students with a tendency towards soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and self-regulation were best at adapting quickly and effectively to this disruption. Along the same lines, an analysis published by McKinsey and Company asking HR practitioners what important soft skills were missing right now in the workforce found that those same skills—critical thinking, creativity, self-regulation, in addition to problem solving, communication, and the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity—were what was most necessary to the hybrid workforce moving forward. Therefore, as education continues to experiment with new models and environments of learning, there is hope that students will be able to take these developing soft skills and apply them to their future job roles.

Organizations need to change the way they view job candidates. At IBM, for example, an effort to shift attention more on skills and less on a candidate’s background has led the organization to strip out resumes full of what they deem to be unnecessary background information such as job history, age and gender, redo lengthy job descriptions that often discourage qualified candidates—especially women—from applying, and dismiss the college degree as a requirement for a large portion of their workforce. In this way, IBM is attempting to demonstrate that by focusing less on these traditional signals and more on a candidate’s technical, soft and transferrable skills, organizations such as IBM can more effectively find and develop new talent that can effectively adapt to the hybrid workforce.

These soft skills can be found in abundance in vulnerable and underserved communities. Soft skills such as resilience, adaptability, critical thinking and problem solving are often the building blocks for people who have come from a place of struggle—such as those who are first generation, people of color and those who come from a low-income background. When looking for new talent, therefore, it may be more effective to put less focus on an individual’s achievements and credentials and focus more on where they have come from, the struggles that have built and developed them, the hurdles they’ve overcome and their potential to continue to meet and overcome challenges moving forward.

In a hybrid workplace, effective communication skills will become even more important. In a conventional physical workplace environment where face-to-face interactions can provide quick and effective feedback to leaders about whether or not they are effectively leading their teams, the ability for organizations to nurture the same level of communication and team building that comes more naturally in shared physical space—especially when working together over a long period of time—will become especially difficult in the sparse ecosystem of the hybrid workplace. It is crucial, therefore, that individuals fine-tune their communication skills in order to be more talented and adept at picking up on these sparse communication signals from everybody else about how they should be fitting into the organization.

We may not be able to predict which jobs will exist, but we do know they will all require a human element.

While we may not be able to predict exactly which jobs will be created in the future, we do know that they will require a high degree of emotional and social intelligence—and a constant thirst for knowledge.

Emotional intelligence will be fundamental, not ornamental, in a future of jobs dominated by robots and artificial intelligence. With the near inevitable future takeover of robots and AI in jobs that are more repetitive or manual by nature—even including some jobs requiring basic cognitive skills—the job market will eventually require individuals to work in jobs where more human traits—such as social and emotional intelligence—will be necessary. These would include not only higher order cognitive skills, such as synthesis, analysis and creativity, but more importantly, key emotional skills such as empathy. Indeed, even if one day robots and AI may be able to work on a basic level in some of the more care- and support-based human job roles, it is most likely that humans will always want humans to fill those roles in working to teach, lead, care, support and empathize with each other.

The skill of learning, unlearning and relearning will be fundamental to navigating the future of jobs. More than ever, it will be crucial for individuals to not only develop skillsets, but to be able to learn how to apply, adapt and reinvent their skillsets to a variety of environments as the future of jobs continues to trend towards hybrid workplaces and the gig economy. Therefore, it will not only be soft skills such as adaptability, critical thinking and problem solving that will aid individuals, but also a continuous desire to learn and the ability to unlearn and relearn that will help people succeed in the unpredictable future job landscape.

It is time for disruption by design in the education sector. More than skills, it is important that we begin creating whole people who are prepared for whatever life may throw at them—and this will require new experimental models of education rather than a continuation of current institutions with very measurable distinct built-in barriers to change. Stackable short-term credentials that allow individuals the option to pursue a degree in a non-linear fashion, for example, could open the door to education for many people who do not have the time or resources to pursue a degree in the traditional four-year route. Similarly, innovation labs and other more real-world based education models will be necessary to foster the skills such as critical thinking and problem solving that will be essential to all job roles in the future.

We need to be having smart conversations now that set ourselves up for the future. Most important of all, we need to be creating and supporting communities and platforms that bring together the best and brightest in every industry to have continuous strategic, smart and intentional conversations about the future of work, the future of education and the future of humanity.

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's senior correspondent in Asia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Mindsets Over Skillsets: The Shifting Nature of Professional Readiness

October 21, 2020

I

n a future full of hybrid workplaces, gig jobs and technology such as robots and artificial intelligence, it will be our mindsets more than our skillsets that will determine our success in finding and navigating this evolving job landscape. Indeed, resilient soft skills, emotional intelligence and the willingness to be able to constantly change and adapt will be critical moving forward, as well as the ability to not only meet the challenges of today, but to ask new questions and create the challenges of tomorrow as well. Ultimately, it will take both an individual awareness of one’s strengths and skills as well as the ability to use and develop those skills in a variety of team and organizational environments that will enable one to succeed no matter what in the shifting nature of professional readiness.

Key Takeaways

Assessment at the individual and organizational levels is necessary to finding and developing resilient soft skills.

Beyond technical skills and competencies whose significance tends to fluctuate with the ever-changing landscape of jobs, it is the more resilient soft skills—communication, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, management, leadership and writing, to name a few—that will prove the success of how well an individual will be able to navigate the future of jobs.

Soft skills cannot be assessed the same way as technical skills. Unlike the more easily assessable technical skills, soft skills are demonstrated through the way an individual applies them in different situations and environments over a period of time. Therefore, in order to assess an individual’s soft skills—such as their ability to communicate, work on a team and solve a variety of novel problems—it is important that individuals are able to demonstrate these skills repeatedly across a variety of situations, and that, more importantly, employers continually work with their team members to develop and foster these skills and strengths.

Self-assessment is crucial. Just as it is important for organizations to accurately assess current and potential talent, it is just as important that individuals are able to complete self-assessments in order to better understand their strengths and talents and figure out how to cultivate and articulate these strengths to potential employers. However, self-assessment is no easy task—especially with a large barrier of access to intelligence about what skills are actually needed in the job market today as well as a lack of access to resources such as career coaching and counseling for a majority of individuals from underserved communities. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that information about the job market as well as resources for career development be made more universally accessible to everyone, regardless of location.

It’s the balance between individual self-assessment and organizational assessment that will bring about professional development. Even after an individual is hired into an organization, it is crucial that they continue to develop their soft skills and strengths not only on at the individual level, but also as a member of the organizational culture and environment they’ve been tasked to function in. Likewise, it is equally important that the organization fosters a sense of leadership and culture that allows individuals to safely fail, and to more importantly, fail fast and fail forward.

Trying to align the educational system with the job skills arena has proven extremely difficult. With so many companies still relying on traditional and outdated signals—such as screening by university degree and background—that may not necessarily tie to the skills that employers are searching for, many individuals still adhere to more outdated forms of education that are not preparing them for the real world of work. Likewise, with employers often creating job descriptions that are lengthy, ambiguous and a poor reflection of the actual skills and talent they are looking for, both individuals and educational institutions are having a difficult time understanding the needs of the job market. Therefore, it is on both educational institutions and large organizations to communicate between each other more effectively and understand how to scale their job roles and job descriptions to find and foster the right kind of candidates.

Soft skills will be even more necessary in the hybrid workforce.

In the conventional workplace environment where traditional organizations tended to patiently nurture people over decades to become well-adapted members of the organizational ecosystem, and where soft skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership were more easily applied and developed, these skills will be harder to naturally cultivate in the highly digital space required by a hybrid workforce—and therefore, all the more necessary.

Hybrid education is preparing students for the hybrid workforce. While the social isolation required by COVID19 has brought on a sudden shift from traditional physical classroom learning models to remote learning for over 1.7 billion students around the globe, it was found that students with a tendency towards soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and self-regulation were best at adapting quickly and effectively to this disruption. Along the same lines, an analysis published by McKinsey and Company asking HR practitioners what important soft skills were missing right now in the workforce found that those same skills—critical thinking, creativity, self-regulation, in addition to problem solving, communication, and the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity—were what was most necessary to the hybrid workforce moving forward. Therefore, as education continues to experiment with new models and environments of learning, there is hope that students will be able to take these developing soft skills and apply them to their future job roles.

Organizations need to change the way they view job candidates. At IBM, for example, an effort to shift attention more on skills and less on a candidate’s background has led the organization to strip out resumes full of what they deem to be unnecessary background information such as job history, age and gender, redo lengthy job descriptions that often discourage qualified candidates—especially women—from applying, and dismiss the college degree as a requirement for a large portion of their workforce. In this way, IBM is attempting to demonstrate that by focusing less on these traditional signals and more on a candidate’s technical, soft and transferrable skills, organizations such as IBM can more effectively find and develop new talent that can effectively adapt to the hybrid workforce.

These soft skills can be found in abundance in vulnerable and underserved communities. Soft skills such as resilience, adaptability, critical thinking and problem solving are often the building blocks for people who have come from a place of struggle—such as those who are first generation, people of color and those who come from a low-income background. When looking for new talent, therefore, it may be more effective to put less focus on an individual’s achievements and credentials and focus more on where they have come from, the struggles that have built and developed them, the hurdles they’ve overcome and their potential to continue to meet and overcome challenges moving forward.

In a hybrid workplace, effective communication skills will become even more important. In a conventional physical workplace environment where face-to-face interactions can provide quick and effective feedback to leaders about whether or not they are effectively leading their teams, the ability for organizations to nurture the same level of communication and team building that comes more naturally in shared physical space—especially when working together over a long period of time—will become especially difficult in the sparse ecosystem of the hybrid workplace. It is crucial, therefore, that individuals fine-tune their communication skills in order to be more talented and adept at picking up on these sparse communication signals from everybody else about how they should be fitting into the organization.

We may not be able to predict which jobs will exist, but we do know they will all require a human element.

While we may not be able to predict exactly which jobs will be created in the future, we do know that they will require a high degree of emotional and social intelligence—and a constant thirst for knowledge.

Emotional intelligence will be fundamental, not ornamental, in a future of jobs dominated by robots and artificial intelligence. With the near inevitable future takeover of robots and AI in jobs that are more repetitive or manual by nature—even including some jobs requiring basic cognitive skills—the job market will eventually require individuals to work in jobs where more human traits—such as social and emotional intelligence—will be necessary. These would include not only higher order cognitive skills, such as synthesis, analysis and creativity, but more importantly, key emotional skills such as empathy. Indeed, even if one day robots and AI may be able to work on a basic level in some of the more care- and support-based human job roles, it is most likely that humans will always want humans to fill those roles in working to teach, lead, care, support and empathize with each other.

The skill of learning, unlearning and relearning will be fundamental to navigating the future of jobs. More than ever, it will be crucial for individuals to not only develop skillsets, but to be able to learn how to apply, adapt and reinvent their skillsets to a variety of environments as the future of jobs continues to trend towards hybrid workplaces and the gig economy. Therefore, it will not only be soft skills such as adaptability, critical thinking and problem solving that will aid individuals, but also a continuous desire to learn and the ability to unlearn and relearn that will help people succeed in the unpredictable future job landscape.

It is time for disruption by design in the education sector. More than skills, it is important that we begin creating whole people who are prepared for whatever life may throw at them—and this will require new experimental models of education rather than a continuation of current institutions with very measurable distinct built-in barriers to change. Stackable short-term credentials that allow individuals the option to pursue a degree in a non-linear fashion, for example, could open the door to education for many people who do not have the time or resources to pursue a degree in the traditional four-year route. Similarly, innovation labs and other more real-world based education models will be necessary to foster the skills such as critical thinking and problem solving that will be essential to all job roles in the future.

We need to be having smart conversations now that set ourselves up for the future. Most important of all, we need to be creating and supporting communities and platforms that bring together the best and brightest in every industry to have continuous strategic, smart and intentional conversations about the future of work, the future of education and the future of humanity.

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's senior correspondent in Asia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.