High demand for soft skills in the future workplace

As the skills gap widens for many companies, employers cannot afford to put off reskilling their staff.

Evolving technology and the impacts of Covid-19 have resulted in workplaces that are changing faster than ever. To keep pace with the rapid advances in the workplace and avoid skills shortages, almost half of employees will need to be reskilled with critical skills by 2025.

As the workplace becomes increasingly more tech-driven, human contributions and soft skills are going to be increasingly sought after, and the best way to ensure these skills are retained within a company will be to reskill.

According to the World Economic Forum, soft skills – such as critical thinking and problem-solving – will grow in demand among employers over the next five years.

Employees are more likely to use social and emotional skills in the future, with computing functions taken over by AI systems. This is why future-focused training programmes should teach skills such as self-awareness, self-confidence, communication, resilience, stress management and decision-making, among others.

Jackie Kennedy, founder of the LeadMe Academy, says, “To prevent a skills gap among staff, especially in sought-after soft skills, companies will need to invest in robust reskilling programmes but with the rapidly changing pace of the workplace, the window to prevent skills shortages is closing fast.”

A new workforce
Millions of jobs across the world stand to be replaced by automation and advances in artificial intelligence. In fact, more than a third of all employees are concerned they may lose their job to a machine.

This process has been sped up exponentially with the onset of the global pandemic, as more companies are turning to online, remote working and automated processes. The number of workers who will need to find a different occupation by 2030 has increased by 12 percent since the start of the pandemic, according to estimates by McKinsey. As a result of Covid-19, workplaces that feature areas of high physical proximity may be faster to adopt automation and AI to prevent disruption to business operations.

But while automation and AI adoption stand to remove some roles in the workplace, it will also make other positions pivotal – and these are positions in the current workforce that can be reskilled.

“Reskilling is essential in our changing workplaces. Not only does it ensure that companies have the skills they need to operate effectively and efficiently, but it also retains your experienced and loyal employees. While AI and automation may replace many jobs, there will always be careers that rely on human intelligence and soft skills such as leadership, effective communication and teamwork – and your employees can be trained to fill these,” Jackie says.

Yet companies looking to reskill face several barriers. Not only can reskilling be costly and time-consuming, but there is also a lack of uptake among employees.

Jackie says, “Programmes need to be structured to fit into a workplace setting – this calls for personal coaching spread over a number of months, with courses that are designed with practical implementation and experiential learning. Short term interventions seldom work when it comes to behavioural change – instead, companies need to invest in a combination of time, application, reflection and work integration to see long-term behavioural change in employees.”