The era of soft skills is coming! Does your organisation know how to develop them in your employees?

December 1, 2020 Aneta Stokes

Imagine yourself in ten years when one of your colleagues is Sofia, a robot with artificial intelligence. How do you feel? Sixty-eight percent of respondents inquired in the survey conducted by infuture.institute answered with negative feelings, while only 20% responded with a positive approach. Most of us tend to feel a certain discomfort in face of the increasingly evolving technology. Excitement combined with anxiety: Will I be able to keep pace? Will robots take my job? Will I be able keep the job, in which I feel safe and comfortable, until retirement?

Projected changes

The sense of uncertainty is justified. According to the “Future Work Skills 2030” report, 70% of us are currently performing a job which will still exist ten years from now but in a much different format. Twenty percent of current “mechanical” jobs will be performed by robots. The “Employee of the Future” report of the aforementioned infuture.institute projects that as many as 47% of current professions may disappear by 2030. Do we have reasons to be concerned?

Not ousted, but hand in hand

Not necessarily. Technology has no intention of ousting us, but it will definitely require our cooperation and we will need to be up to date. Robots will probably assume plenty of the work previously done by humans, but there will be more fields where they will not be able to replace us. These areas will require efficient management. According to research, this mainly concerns soft skills.

Skills ahead of diplomas

According to Amar Kuman of Harvard Business School, a great developer will easily find a job in 2018, but will require more in form of soft skills to keep it until 2030.

The surveys and reports projecting the skill sets we are going to need on the labour market in the future have been stressing the growing importance of soft skills for well over a decade now. The progressing automation, dynamic development of technology and artificial intelligence, mobility, digitalisation… they all present new expectations towards employees. Today, diplomas are not as high in demand as emotional intelligence (which is the most desired competence according to the Future Skills 2020 report by the Institute of the Future), the ability to learn and teach others (the most desired competence according to the “Future of skills. Employment in 2030” report), teamwork skills, comprehensive problem solving abilities, adaptive thinking, efficient communication, and creativity.

This obviously does not mean that diplomas or professional experience no longer count, but – and we are observing this on the labour market right now – they no longer count as much.

The challenge for education

Schools still have not caught up with this challenge. We are used to traditional teaching methods, which focus on serving information, memorising, and testing. Adult training courses are developed in a similar manner.

With consideration of the future where most of our children will be performing jobs which still do not exist and where we will need to adapt to continuous changes, learn new things, and cooperate, both schools and major organisations should start to focus on soft skills and develop educational programmes and strategies for their employees, which will take said skills into consideration and enforce them.

Soft skills can be learned. And they should be learned. According to the DELab report prepared by the University of Warsaw, the demand for soft competences will have increased by 22% by 2030.

Greater employee expectations

Top employees are sensing this trend and openly expecting their employees to provide support in scope of professional development, including soft skills. Major organisations already realise that a high salary does not automatically mean that they can retain their top talents: extensive training support is quickly gaining importance. People tend to stay longer with organisations oriented towards a learning culture, nurturing the idea of lifelong learning, supporting development of their competences, and keeping them up to date.

An information training database may not be enough. We should analyse the skills and competences currently growing in demand and the areas in need of support and use the results to plan a training strategy to take care of them. There is a lot at stake.

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