Future Job Skills: Find Your Steve Jobs
The late Steve Jobs was able to look into the future and make predictions that didn’t just establish trends but defined them, changing the course of how we as a society share information, the language we use and how we communicate. Makes you wonder what makes a Steve Jobs; what skills, characteristics and personality traits are required to be a visionary?
Perhaps some of those questions can be answered by The Institute for the Future’s “Future Skills 2020” report, in which key work skills were identified for the next 10 years. These may be the skills of tomorrow but they need to be developed and nurtured today.
In our recent study, Agility quotient: developing the skills of the future in today’s workforce, we asked employers and job seekers if they consider these skills to be important, if these skills are lacking in their organizations, and how they think these skills can be developed.
The future skills identified by the Institute for the Future are:
- social intelligence
- novel & adaptive thinking
- new media literacy
- design mindset
- cross-cultural competencies
- computational thinking
- cognitive load management
- virtual collaboration
All these skills share commonalities: they all require a worker to be fairly adaptable and flexible, very social, and connected to the world around them. They also highlight the importance of being a visionary: seeing the big picture, connecting the dots, anticipating change with creativity. From our study results, it appears 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 in first (61%). Organizations and employees alike know they have to find ways to innovate to stay current and competitive in their industry. When asked to name the soft skill they feel was most lacking in organizations, the majority of respondents said sensemaking.
Initially, we were surprised to see sensemaking at the top of the list, but it began to make sense. Most organizations are committed to delivering quarterly results, forced to deal with restricted budgets and resources, and always walking a fine line between too much information and not enough. Under those circumstances, it’s easy for both bosses and employees to make decisions that don’t always make sense; they’re so caught up in micro-tasks and deadlines that the big picture and therefore opportunities are missed.
That’s where the true brilliance of Steve Jobs shone through. He had the capability and capacity for staying ahead of trends and his competition by taking the time to reflect and imagine the possibilities. In the hustle and bustle of a typical workday, those qualities seem like luxuries when really, they’re where the seeds of business relevance, career development and success find fertile ground.
So the question is: how can we ensure an engaged workforce that is not just focused on the here and now, but can also adapt quickly to major changes, see opportunities and understand their impact on your organization, and come up with creative, trend-setting ideas for improvement and new solutions?
Here are a few tips:
Define the big picture: Make sure your employees understand the goals of the organization as a whole and how their department can contribute. We are often concerned about the ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘how much’, but very often forget about the “why.” Be sure to explain why you are going in a particular direction and how their contributions can impact the speed at which you’re travelling and its successful outcome.
Coach them: Make sure you understand how they want to be coached (frequency, duration of the consultations, one-on-one format or in group) and on what specific skill or skills. Be clear about your expectations and give them exercises that are both challenging and achievable.
Diversify your training programs: Offer job-swapping or cross-training programs, where your employees attend meetings in other departments or are trained in other areas of the business. This facilitates cohesion between teams and departments, and relationship-building.
Strengthen their critical thinking: Push employees to develop their ability to connect the dots or go beyond a first reaction and think more deeply about an issue by asking them questions, like ‘What would you do if you were me? How would you handle this situation/employee?” Tell your employees that when they bring an issue to you, they should also provide some recommendations for solutions to discuss with you.
Nurture a culture of innovation: Encourage collaboration by creating cross-functional project teams or think tanks with people from various disciplines in your organization, to ensure input reflecting different perspectives. By doing so, you foster engagement while training your employees to consider diverse viewpoints when reflecting on an issue or an idea.
Not everyone can be a Steve Jobs. But you can bet that fostering innovation and critical thinking, and encouraging creativity and transparency go a long way towards building an engaged workforce and ensuring the growth of your organization, a place where people want to be now and in the future.
download the study here