27 December 2011

Ten Essential Skills Required for the Future Work Force

A study conducted by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) of the University of Phoenix Research Institute highlighted six essential drivers and 10 key skills needed for work in the next  ten years, though it did not take into consideration the jobs of the future. This is because in the past the predictions about the jobs have been proved wrong. Hence, this report looks at future work skills and the abilities and proficiencies required for the same.

The methodology used by IFTF for this study is- Foresight to Insight to Action, a process that enables people to take future visions and convert them into meaningful insights and actions to be taken to be successful in the future.

According to the research the most important and relevant Six drivers to the future work skills are as under.

Extreme longevity: It is estimated that by 2025, the number of Americans over the age of 60 will be increase by 70 percent. Over the next decade the challenge of an aging population will come to the fore. New perceptions of what it means to age, as well as the emerging possibilities for realistic, healthy life-extension will begin to take hold. In this phase multiple careers will be a commonplace and lifelong learning to prepare for occupational change will see major growth, creating more diversity and flexibility.

Rise of smart machines and systems: In the next decade, new smart machines will enter factories, offices, and homes in large numbers. The smart machines will also set new expectations and standards of performance; where by some routine jobs will be taken over by machines. Thus, as a result there will be a new level of human-machine collaboration.

Computational world: This would be the era of thinking about the world in computational and programmable terms where “everything is programmable.” This would result in a demand in abilities, to make data based decisions and to use data to design for desired outcomes.

New media ecology: The new media technology would bring about a transformation in the way we communicate. It would enable new platforms for creating online identity while at the same time requiring people to engage in activities such as online personal reputation and identity. We must learn to approach content with more cynicism and the realization that what we see today may be different tomorrow.

Superstructed organizations:  As per the study to “superstruct” means to create structures that go beyond the basic forms and processes with which we are familiar with. It means to learn to use new social tools to work, to invent and to govern them.

Globally connected world: Globalization is the long-term trend toward greater exchanges and integration across geographic borders. Increased global interconnectivity has put diversity and adaptability at the centre of organizational operations. The key is not just to employ people in the locales but also to effectively integrate these local employees and local business processes into the infrastructure of global organizations in order to remain competitive.

 The 10 important skills for the future work force are:

Sense Making:  It is the ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed. These are skills that are critical to decision making. As smart machines take over routine manufacturing and services jobs, there will be an increase in demand for the skills machine are not good at. These are higher level thinking skills that cannot be codified. In the next decade sense-making will emerge as a skill workers increasing need to capitalize on.

Social Intelligence: It is the ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions. Feeling is just as complicated as sense-making and just as the machines that are being built are not sense-making machines; the emotional and social robots are not feeling machines. Socially intelligent employees are able to quickly assess the emotions of those around them and adapt to their words, tone and gestures accordingly.Our emotionality and social IQ will continue be one of the vital assets that give human workers a comparative advantage over machines.

Novel and Adaptive Thinking: It is the proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions beyond that which is rule-based. Professor David Autor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that job opportunities in the U.S. are declining in middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs, largely due to a combination of the automation of routine work, and global off shoring, while on the other hand job opportunities are increasingly concentrated in both high skill, high-wage professional, technical and management occupations and in low-skill, low-wage occupations such as food service and personal care. Jobs in the high-skill involve abstract tasks and at the low-skill, manual tasks.

Cross - Cultural Competency: It means the ability to operate in different cultural settings. In a truly globally connected world, a worker’s skill could set them posted in any number of locations. Here there is a demand not only for linguistic skills, but also adaptability to changing circumstances. Research now suggests that what makes a group truly intelligent and innovative is the combination of different ages, skills, disciplines, and their working and thinking styles that is brought together.

Computational Thinking: It is the ability to translate huge data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning. As the amount of data available increases exponentially, many more roles will require computational thinking skills in order to make sense of the information. There will be a shift to statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning skills.

New Media Literacy: It is the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication. The next generation of workers will need to be fluent in forms such as video and should be able to critically read and assess them in the same way that they currently assess a paper or presentation.

Transdisciplinarity: It is the literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines. It brings a deep understanding of at least one field, but has the capacity to converse in the language of a broader range of disciplines. It requires a sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn far beyond the years of formal education.

Design Mindset: It is the ability to represent and develop tasks for desired outcomes. Workers of the future will need to become skilled at recognizing the kind of thinking that different tasks require and making adjustments to their work environments that enhance their ability to accomplish their tasks.

Cognitive Load Management: It means the ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of techniques. Organizations and workers in the future should be able to turn the massive amounts of data into an advantage if they learn to effectively filter and focus on what is important. They will need to come up with new techniques to deal with the problem of cognitive overload.

Virtual Collaboration: It is ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team. Connective technologies will make it easier than ever to work, share ideas and be productive despite physical separation, but the virtual work environment also demands a new set of competencies. A society that offers “ambient sociability” can help overcome isolation that comes from lack of access to a central and social workplace.