the future workplace: what employers see as the most important skills

When we asked employers and job seekers to identify the most important skill of the future in the workplace, novel and adaptive thinking came first. We look at the skills, characteristics and personality traits required to be a visionary, an innovative thinker and a vital asset to your organisation.

How did the late Steve Jobs imagine, define and then create products and trends that would change the world? How are visionaries able to connect dots that others simply don’t see? A great deal of research has gone on around this topic, including through Randstad’s Agility Quotient project, which looked into skills of the future.

In a study by the Institute for the Future, called Future Skills 2020, specific skills required for future thinking were identified. They are:

  • Sense making
  • Social intelligence
  • Novel and adaptive thinking
  • New media literacy
  • Transdisciplinary understanding
  • Design mindset
  • Cross-cultural competencies
  • Computational thinking
  • Cognitive load management
  • Virtual collaboration

What exactly is ‘sense-making’, which is at the top of the skills list? Think of it as knowing what to focus on and what to ignore. As the attention of managers is increasingly distracted by quarterly reporting, big data and an endless procession of issues and information in an increasingly competitive environment, some people still manage to see the big picture. This is sense making.

These skills require a worker to be adaptable, flexible, social and connected to the world around them. They highlight the importance of seeing the big picture, connecting the dots and anticipating change with creativity. 

From the Agility Quotient study results, it is clear that innovation resonates strongly with employers and employees. When we asked employers and job seekers to identify the most important skill of the future in the workplace, novel and adaptive thinking came first (61%). 

How to develop a visionary mindset 

Here are some powerful steps to move you in the right direction:

1. Define the big picture: Seek a full understanding of the major goals of the organisation, and how you can contribute.

2. Seek coaching: Develop a clear idea of how often you should be coached and what specific skills you require to become a more creative thinker and problem solver.

3. Learn about the way other professions work: If you’re in marketing, gather knowledge around how the finance department works, about the skills of an HR person, about design and manufacturing etc. This will boost your multi-disciplinary thinking.

4. Strengthen your critical thinking:
Consider issues not from the point of view of somebody in your specific line of work, but from the point of view of the CEO. When you go to your manager with a problem, also bring several creative solutions.

5. Demonstrate a culture of collaboration:
When applying for a role, discuss case studies of when you have collaborated with others from various disciplines within an organisation.

Backed by significant research, a Randstad recruitment consultant can help you determine what skills are most valuable to your career development. Find out more. 

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