Skills needed in a changing workplace

It was interesting to compare the view of the Institute for the Future’s (University of Phoenix Research Institute) view on what will reshape the workplace of the future with that of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Both institutions identified the key drivers of change and then reflected on the skills that would be required in the workplace.

The WEF took a generalised approach, including more demographic and social factors with technological factors. The Forum took changes in emerging markets, geopolitical volatility and climate changes and natural resources into consideration. Both institutions identified changes in the demographics of the workforce of the future as a major challenge (Davies, Fidler, & Gorbis, 2011, pp. 3-5). They agree that the aging population in developed countries will impact the workforce through the fact that they will stay economically active longer, and will have different needs in terms of services. The WEF goes further and adds that in the emerging markets there is a different challenge, namely to educate the upcoming young people entering the workforce. The WEF also notes that the changing role of women, both as workers and consumers will be a stronger power in driving change. The WEF also regards rapid urbanization and unpredictable geo-political situations as factors to keep in mind (The World Economic Forum, 2016).

Global connectivity through mobile and cloud technology is seen by the Institute for Future and WEF as a major disruptive driver of change, both also mention “smart” machines, increased computational processing power and Big Data, the collective knowledge and collective intelligence is also seen as major contributors to change.

While the workplace can only react to the changes in demographics and social structures, it can actively plan for and deal with the technological drivers. Education and training is going to be vital. Both institutions address the changing skill set needed for workers of the future.

Ten future work skills are identified in Future Work Skills 2020. These skills emphasise the fact that machines will take over jobs that can be automated and that humans will have to concentrate on soft skills such as sense-making, social intelligence and adaptive thinking. Other important competences deals with open-mindedness: virtual collaboration, design mindset, transdisciplonarity and a cross-cultural mindset (Davies, Fidler, & Gorbis, 2011, pp. 8-12).

The WEF identifies basic and cross-functional skills and abilities along more traditional lines (social skills, resource management, technical skills, etc. ) but there is fundamental agreement that collaboration, active learning and listening and critical thinking as well as creativity and cognitive flexibility will be needed to learn and adapt in a fast changing work environment .

Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Retrieved
from Institute for the Future, University of Phoenix Research Institute

World Economic forum. (2016, January). The future of jobs. Retrieved from

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2 thoughts on “Skills needed in a changing workplace

  1. Hello Gretha

    Thanks for your blog post on a topic that aligns with my current job role as I am in a project team to help develop an Employability Framework to be used to help universities meet their Workplace Integrated Learning Strategy. It’s a challenging concept given the state of flux we live, work and education within. I appreciate your link to the World Economic Forum’s report on the The Future of Jobs. I can take this to the team to help us understand the challenges of our project brief.

    Kind regards
    Leanne Courtney
    (Fellow student CSU INF530)

    • Hi Leanne,

      Thank you for your comment. I am very glad that I could contribute by pointing you to the WEF’s report.

      Hoping that your studies are going well and wishing you success!

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