Companies have to look to the future to survive. They not only have to predict how their customers will change, but also if they want to retain the best talent and how their workforce will evolve. Millennials will make up almost 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, so the prevailing work style will soon be a millennial. This generation will shape the world of work for the coming years. Your career goals, your attitude to work and your knowledge of new technologies will determine the culture of your future job. How does it look?
We decided to find this out first hand through a series of workshops and focus groups with young people who are new to the world of work. Thanks to this approach, combined with quantitative research, social listening and big data analysis, we were able to examine in depth the skills required for future workers and take a snapshot of the more extensive discussions on the subject. We discuss some of the insights we have gained below.
The rapid technological advances of recent years, from autonomous transportation to artificial intelligence to advanced robotics and machine learning, have changed the way we work, and the way we work has changed the skills we need. By next year, it is expected that over a third of the skills (35 percent) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed. This shift in skills will undoubtedly cause some jobs to disappear altogether, while others will grow and jobs that do not yet exist are commonplace.
Millennials understand that technology is an important driver of change as it grew up with computers in their homes, navigated with smartphones, and used tablets. They are aware that the type of work is changing quickly, but it is certain that the future workforce will have to adapt their skills to keep pace with this shift.
Lifelong learning is the key to professional success
The millennials we spoke to expressed concern that these rapid technological advances have the potential to outperform the existing workforce. The concept of lifelong learning was presented by young workers as a possible solution to this problem. It empowers individuals at times when there is such a dependence on technology and helps bridge the gap between exponential engineering and linear human development.
Though technology is improving work today, the millennials we’ve spoken to are looking for guidelines that are far more comprehensive than just using technology. The idea of continuing education goes well beyond the understanding of technology and is seen as a key factor in building trust, creativity, interpersonal skills and ethical attitudes. Millennials saw lifelong learning not only as a key to their professional development, but also to their general wellbeing.
If you predict which competencies will be important for the workforce of the future, companies can develop their company further with the concept of “lifelong learning”. In our conversations with millennials, we identified three key competencies that we all believed were most important to future workers.
- Creative thinking Given that technology will take on more repetitive and administration-based tasks, this gives employees more time to be creative and focus on more creative tasks.
- Second, communication is the key for future employees to be good communicators, be it in a face-to-face meeting or remotely. New interaction methods such as instant messaging tools such as Slack or video conference systems such as GoToMeeting are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. In addition to learning how to communicate effectively using different systems and scenarios, prospective employees need to learn how to use skills other than those that they could learn at university in the workplace and in a business environment.
- Flexibility was the other key skill identified in the focus group. As technology accelerates changes in the way we work, employees need to be ready to adapt to these changing environments, to remain open and to adapt to the changing needs of the company.
Millennials also felt they needed to develop leadership, empathy, humanity, and the ability to work together. They believe that future workers should be willing to learn and able to work in a multi-generation environment. The workshop participants underlined the importance of a mentoring community and spoke about the skills required for a future employee. Young professionals felt that companies should not only help them acquire skills, but should also have a responsibility to enable lifelong learning in the workplace. Companies need to take responsibility to help future workers deal with change fairly and sustainably.
The influence of technology on creativity
Creativity has been identified as a core skill for future workers, and with the avalanche of new products, new technologies, and new ways of working, workers need to be more creative to benefit from these changes. Business leaders need to proactively educate and train their employees so that they can benefit from technology and show how it can promote and develop creativity.
The right technology should empower the user to be resourceful rather than restricting their creativity to the capabilities of the technology. Companies must provide tools such as interactive displays or presentation software with intuitive and user-friendly user interfaces so that they do not hinder the creative thinking of employees by wasting time in determining how the technology works, but instead support creativity, encouraging better group work and discussion among employees.
The technology provides workers and companies with a wealth of information that can stimulate and improve the creative process by expanding their knowledge pool. The data that technology can provide to the workforce enables workers to get a broader picture of current events and take advantage of key opportunities.
Mentoring skills for the future
Our discussions with millennials show that companies are expected to be responsible for developing readiness. To foster the skills that the future workforce will need, companies need to create environments that support learning. These environments can be used as social spaces to promote interaction and networking in the workplace, and they can form the basis for creating a mentoring community. A good example of this is the Barclays Digital Eagles, where younger and older generations learn from each other. Millennials can benefit from a wealth of expertise that they have accumulated throughout their business lives, while older generations can learn how to get the most out of technology.
Shared office space and collaborative environments are a great way to promote collaboration between different skills and cultures. These spaces encourage interaction and enable collaboration with people from another industry or department to create new perspectives and work ideas. Some of these topics have already taken root and are becoming increasingly popular. Companies like WeWork are a good example of this when it comes to creating an environment for the joint creation and exchange of ideas. Even with the best technologies available for free, doing it alone can be very difficult. Future workers and businesses should use the power of communities. Peer-to-peer skills sharing can help people discover themselves and then build careers that make sense.
The key message for companies is that they have to adapt their work areas so that lifelong learning is possible in order to strengthen their workforce. These spaces must include technologies that foster skills such as creative thinking, good communication, and flexibility, but also support future workers by offering programs that continually develop their future skills to deliver what the next working generation is looking for.
At Sharp, we believe that people are the real power of every company and that the needs of people, not the company, should determine the shape and purpose of tomorrow’s technology.
Rob Davis, managing director, Sharp Business Systems UK