What are the key soft skills that work require in the future?

The future of work is likely to herald a wide range of new jobs, many of which we can scarcely conceive today. There has been understandable attention given to the kind of skills these jobs might require. For instance, at the tail end of last year, the University of Memphis proposed that collaborative problem solving would be the most important skill in the coming decades.

This emphasis on soft skills also emerged in a new analysis performed by the online learning provider Udemy. They investigated the courses that companies are requiring employees take today to try and gauge a better understanding of where skills shortages exist today.

Obviously technical skills remain highly sought after, so that probably goes without saying, hence the Udemy team focused exclusively on soft skills. These are the kind of skills that previous studies have suggested are crucial as technology takes on many of the hard, technical skills. Indeed, previous studies have argued that a sufficient investment in more human, softer skills such as leadership, creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking would significantly reduce the number of jobs lost to automation. Indeed, if investment in training for these skills could be doubled, then the number of jobs at risk from automation would fall from 10% to 4%.

So what are the most important soft skills according to Udemy? Here is their top 10.

  1. Conflict management – Conflict management is perhaps an unlikely skill to come out on top, but the Udemy team highlight how complex the modern workplace is. They often contain multiple generations, various technologies, different nationalities and cultures, and of course an ever changing marketplace. This places a huge range of priorities, working styles and communication preferences into the workplace, which can result in conflict. Indeed, data suggests that the typical worker spends nearly three hours every week dealing with some kind of conflict.
  2. Time management – This is perhaps less surprising, especially given the complexity of modern working life. Being able to manage your time effectively in the face of so many competing demands is vital.
  3. Stress management – Being able to cope with stress is something I’ve touched upon a few times in the past year or so, as the mental health of employees has become an ever greater focus. The fallout of excess stress levels is said to cost up to $190 billion a year, so it’s vital that organizations handle it better.
  4. Communication skills – This is perhaps not that surprising as written and verbal communication is now such a big part of modern work. It is made even more so with the huge diversity in the modern workforce.
  5. Company culture – The 5th skill is more for HR managers to consider than front line staff, but revolves around the importance of building the right culture at the company.
  6. Customer service – Whilst this skill obviously has the biggest value for those in direct, customer-facing roles, in reality most of us have customers of some sort, whether internally or with suppliers. It’s probably a skill we can all brush up on.
  7. Emotional intelligence – Now this is something of a surprise, as emotional intelligence is something that has cropped up in a huge number of studies in recent years, so I’m surprised to see it as low as 7th in this ranking.
  8. Personal productivity – Being able to get the most from your working day is crucial given the growing demands placed upon us.
  9. Storytelling – This is perhaps a less heralded skill, but I’ve worked with numerous technical teams, and their ability to communicate what they do to lay audiences is vital for digital transformation to occur, so storytelling is perhaps an underrated skill to possess.
  10. Change management – The final skill in the list revolves around change, which numerous studies have shown is ever-present, yet equally often flunked. Being able to change effectively is therefore a skill that will rarely go out of demand.

Suffice to say, this list is always going to be skewed by the courses actually on offer by Udemy, so there will always be that caveat, but it nonetheless should provide some inspiration for your personal development in the coming year. So what skills do you think you need and when are you going to start learning them?

Check out my related post: When are you ready to lead?

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  1. It upsets me that the wording, “soft skills” somehow reduces the importance of what are actually key skills. They are anything but soft. Calling them soft makes them seem unnecessary or even irrelevant. They are necessary. We focus a lot on these skills in healthcare, not just as a caring response but vital in terms of collaborative teamwork. Foundational when thinking about the affect that they have on peoples’ lives

    Liked by 1 person

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