Earlier this year we wondered which job the robots would take next and what employees need to do, learn or develop to stay ahead of AI annihilation READ MORE.
There we gave you some tips on the kind of skills some experts reckon employees are looking for now and will increasingly need in the future. Including an insight from Daniel Susskind who said: “…machines are bad at interpersonal communication, empathy and problem-solving.”
So, with this in mind we asked our consultants for a back to school lowdown on what employers need us to be learning now.
Q1. So the government has now placed lifelong learning on it’s agenda. Why is it so important?
Well, everyone needs to be adapting to the rapid social and technological changes we’re experiencing if we’re to keep up and remain employable.
And the UK’s growing skills gaps won’t be bridged by compulsory education for the under 19s alone.
Q2. So we need to be more adaptab?
Yes. Rod Judkins, a lecturer at Central St Martins (probably the UK’s most famous art school), says that because skills are going out of date quickly we need to be more adoptable.
That’s why innovation and creative thinking are gaining currency in the workplace – and are often cited as being THE skill employers want. [You can find out more about creative thinking in Rod Judkins book Ideas are Your Only Currency .]
Q3. But isn’t creative thinking for arty types?
We tend to imagine that creative thinking is for the likes of Lady Gaga, but as Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Something we all do all the time in various ways. However we can nurture and develop our ability to ‘think out of the box’ as so many job descriptions say.
Anne Manning CEO of Drumcircle, an “insights and innovation firm” splits good creative or innovative thinking into four skills. She says, with practice, these will help you reimagine solutions to challenges and help lead you to professional success:
- See with Fresh Eyes
- Make No Assumptions
- Spew Ideas Like Confetti at the Super Bowl
- When It’s Time for Critiques, Start with the Positive
You can read her Harvard CEPD article, which goes into detail, here.
Q4. And being a bit different is what sets us apart, right?
Well, one of the obvious changes we’re seeing nowadays is the rise of what some people call the personal brand READ MORE HERE. Think about it: employers see lots of CVs outlining similar qualifications, skills and experiences. On paper at least. That’s why by marking yourself out in some positive and distinct way you can make you more desirable.
One example is in the world of chefs, say. People will go to a particular restaurant because a certain chef cooks there and it’s news if he leaves or sets up elsewhere. You can’t easily replicate or replace what that person has.
Yes, you need to fit in at work, but you also need to stand out to get the make impact.
Q.5 Experts reckon some of the hardest to automate roles include skills like managing and developing people, do you agree?
Yes, as we climb the career ladder we often wind up managing people in one way or another. The problem is people management is a highly underrated skill. Which is maybe why the CIPD – the professional body for HR and people development – recently reported that many “Senior managers lack the people skills to succeed”.
Which is concerning. Because the HR professionals quizzed by the CIPD believe that: “[T]he main leadership behaviours and skills needed by their organisation over the next three years concern the management of performance, people, staff development and engagement.”
Q6. Ok, so how can we improve in this area?
Well leading a team or managing a department or company means helping your people to accomplish those tasks to the best of their ability. That means dealing with things like: motivation, communication, issues relating to training and access to tools, and all the other people-focused stuff you can imagine.
Obviously some managers are either not cut out for management or haven’t had the right development or training to help make them people-ready!
A way to develop and demonstrate your people management capabilities yourself is to mentor others. It doesn’t have to be at work. It could be a volunteer charity role, say. Or, for a more tailored approach you could try a training course like Happy People’s Managing for the First Time. You can also check out their book The Happy Manifesto – make your organisation a great workplace.
Q7. Another in-demand people skill is empathy, can you tell us more?
The importance of empathy is highlighted in one of Angel’s key values, caring – you can find out more about that here. Essentially empathy is simply recognising emotions in others, and being able to “put yourself in another person’s shoes”. But it’s a soft skills robots aren’t yet able to replicate.
That means people who offer key one-to-one services, think: nurses, carers or even beauticians are likely to remain in demand.
Q.8 So, how can we develop our empathy skills?
Recent Recent neuroscience research has found 98% of people have the ability to empathise wired into their brains. But, we can all develop so-called ‘empathy gaps’ – think road rage, say. Luckily we can also develop our ‘empathy muscle’.
This quick multiple choice assessment called Reading the Mind in the Eyes asks you to describe 36 pairs of eyes. We’re pretty good at visually reading emotions (26 is the average) but there’s room for improvement! Why not check out Mindtools.com for some ideas on how to develop your caring side ?
Q.9 Which leads us to interpersonal communication…
Yes, a key component of empathy and all the things we’ve talked about here is listening. When employers ask about your listening skills they want to know:
- You can work well with people from diverse backgrounds
- You don’t need to be told things twice
- You can handle difficult customers or colleagues
All this makes you a great employee. It also means you’ll be on the ball and ready to adapt!
Q.10 Any last comments?
Your consultant or career advisor can help you decide where to develop your skills and capabilities to best position you in the future marketplace. It’s a great place to continue your lifelong learning adventure!
Now over to you:
Want to ask about your particular career issues? If you’ve got any burning questions I’d love to hear from you!