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Mission 2020: Brush up on these 10 skills to excel in the future workplace

Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” Those of us on the job market this year and going forward had better hope it’s a skill that is transferable.

Creativity has jumped six spots from the bottom to number three on a list of core skills that will become important for employees by 2020, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report released in January 2016. Titled “The Future of Jobs,” the report surveyed executives from over 350 employers across nine industries in 15 countries to arrive at predictions about how technological advancements are forcing labor markets to evolve.

There are some significant changes from the previous report of skills in demand in 2015. Expertise in emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility, for instance, has knocked quality control and active listening off the list. “On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today,” says the report.

top 10 job skills in demand

Here’s a look at the 10 top skills that will be in demand in 2020:

1. Complex problem solving
Are you plotting how innovative energy technologies can merge into the existing systems? Or how new medicines, treatments, health and screening technologies can impact current processes? Those are just a few examples of how complex problem solving works. To put it simply, it's using analysis to make decisions and implement solutions. While this skill has topped the list across the last decade, the demand by 2020 will vary across sectors. Whereas it will shrink in segments like infrastructure and energy due to greater automation, it will escalate in others like professional services and information and communication technology (ICT) for the same reason.

2. Critical thinking
The ability to use logic and reasoning to evaluate situations is going to become progressively more important in the next few years. Though it’s a skill that has always been considered essential, increased complexity and sophistication of businesses in the coming years will mean more and more employers will be looking for critical thinking abilities in the candidates they interview.

3. Creativity
The importance of creativity will transcend fields where they have traditionally been dominant like media and entertainment and felt across different sectors.

Employers will want to hire creative employees because they are the ones who will come up with ideas, big and small, to grow the company. Out-of-the-box thinkers, those who come up with ways to apply the new technology and create new products and services, will be in demand.

4. People management
Are you a people person? If you want to succeed in 2020, you better be. People skills, in a nutshell, are attributes and competencies that allow one to play well with others. Good communicators, people with empathy and the right tone and body language score high on this count.

5. Co-ordinating with others
The report defines this skill as “adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions”. In other words, flexibility of approach in relation to your co-workers.

6. Emotional intelligence
A new entrant on the list, but one that ranks fairly high on the priority list. Those high on emotional intelligence can help defuse stress and conflict, and enhance communication to achieve maximum effectiveness at work.
The link between greater emotional intelligence (EQ) and higher productivity has been well documented through studies in the past. EQ will remain among the top skills for employees despite the evolution of the job market by 2020.

7. Judgment and decision-making
Do you think on your feet? Are you willing to be held accountable? Can you be relied on to choose between possible solutions to a problem instead of sitting on the fence? If the answer to all of the above is yes, you are ready to work in 2020.

8. Service orientation
A helpful attitude will take you places in 2020. WEF forecasts that service orientation, defined as “actively looking for ways to help people” will become an important core skill in the near future.

9. Negotiation
The art of negotiation may have moved down the scale of priorities, but it has not lost its utility. The ability to reconcile differences between people and bring them together will still be a prized talent.

10. Cognitive flexibility
It implies the ability to use different sets of rules or combine different processes to get the results you want. The ability to mix-and-match ideas, systems, processes, materials and data to create new products or ideas is going to be a sought-after skill in future.

According to the WEF, the world is now sitting on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. If the first industrial revolution (1784) was characterized by mechanization, the second (1879) by the advent of electricity, mass production and the division of labor, and the third (1969) by advances in the field of electronics and IT, the fourth industrial revolution will be marked by the fusion of different technologies like genetics, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotech to create a world that is more integrated than ever before.

The aforementioned skills will be necessary to operate in such an environment. Are you ready for the challenge?