Future skills in a changing world of work

Skills shortages and talent issues are central to many industries and organisations, and despite the ameliorative effects of some technologies, will continue to be so. Given the complexity of many organisations’ operations and uncertain digital direction, the precise skills needed for any given are impossible to determine, especially without consideration of their organisational and business model. However, in general, the emerging digital economy will concurrently demand both more data fluency and soft skills.


86 percent of business decision makers believe all employees, especially knowledge workers, will need to become ‘…data geeks[i].’ Worryingly, only 30 percent of organisations have a long term formal plan for analytics[ii]. Without integrated strategies, the talent needs of industries will shift at a greater rate as organisations adapt to latest developments. Talent platforms are one possible emerging route for mitigating the damage that uncoordinated strategies present, as they enable companies to adapt to changes in the type of skills needed faster than the labour market can traditionally provide. Arguably a better appreciation of the type of skills needed can be achieved by scenario planning and strategically aligning technology to goals yet the notion of (shifting) skill demands will force organisational model change, as access to – rather than ownership of – talent becomes a key feature of successful business ecosystems. Strategic third party cooperation will likely become a key skills and talent issue in the coming years as many organisations realise their configuration of current workforce, skills and technology is dated and will increasingly hamper growth.

In addition to data geeks, knowledge workers will need to become technology generalists. Distributed workers will require specialist technologies to collaborate and engage in meaningful ways, as will managers overseeing remote staff. Haptic interfaces, mixed reality and 3D interactive holographs will redraw the remote (and in office) work experience significantly throughout the coming decade.

At the same time, the ability to reskill on the job could change radically. At the intersection of the IoT and wearables lies the promise of the quantified self. The efficacy and efficiency of on the job training could improve significantly, by using this technology to pinpoint areas of specific employee weakness and then suggesting and implementing courses of action to remedy the issue, such as short MOOC or access to new research on a given topic. This holds significant implications for education in general as well as skills and talent in the workplace. It also introduces the notion of closer human-machine union. Whether through implants or artificially raising cognitive abilities, the fusion of human and machine (beyond just pure automation) will not just challenge current ideas over skills and talent but change the paradigm entirely.

[i] http://www.news-sap.com/sap-sponsored-survey-finds-business-decision-makers-struggle-unlock-power-big-data/

[ii] http://sloanreview.mit.edu/projects/the-hard-work-behind-data-analytics-strategy/


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