20 Vital Skills You’ll Need in the Future Workplace

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Skills for Future Workplace

With technology advancing and the world rapidly changing, it’s only logical that the skillsets needed for the jobs of the future are too.

Indeed, as the digital world is growing, soft skills like communication, problem-solving, collaboration and empathy are becoming equally important to – if not more important than – tech-savviness.

As automation, digitalisation and robotisation become more integral within companies, workplace demands are also changing. In fact, based on the findings of our recent study The Future of Work, one in three people think that machines could take over their jobs.

So, how can we compete with our android counterparts?

If we want to survive these transitions and secure a place in the future workplace, we need to keep up with changing technologies and meet new work-related demands.

So, what skills will you need to succeed in the workplace in the coming years?

Here are 20 essential skills required for the future workplace.

1. Complex Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is a crucial skill in any context.

With technology steadily becoming more intricate and complex, employees will be required to have the mental flexibility to think outside the box and tackle any issues that may arise.

It’s crucial, then, to sharpen your ability to find solutions to complicated problems in preparation for the future workplace.

2. Critical Thinking

Although we strongly rely on automated technology for some parts of our work, we wouldn’t trust it to make executive decisions for us. In an automated world, humans will act as thinkers and decision-makers, while machines and AI will contribute to our professional efforts. Indeed, Leah Weiss, a Stanford lecturer, and a contributor from our CareerAddict study, noted that 'there is no way to replace the critical human components of organisations in the form of emotional intelligence, strategic decision-making, and ethical barometers.’

Therefore, critical thinking will be a crucial skill which will allow you to analyse situations, consider multiple solutions and make your decisions based on logic and reasoning.

3. Creativity

The world has evolved due to people’s creativity. After all, robots were invented because a human had the idea in the first place!

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Joseph Pistrui says that jobs that require imagination, creativity and creative analysis are much harder to replace. Indeed, when it comes to intuitive and artistic positions, machines and artificial intelligence cannot measure up to creative demands.

Creativity, then, is essential in order to come up with new technologies, products and services that will drive professional efforts in every industry.

4. Active Learning

Future workers will need to be adaptable to respond to the changes happening around them.

As the workplace evolves, so should your skillset. To do this successfully, you will need to become an active learner and keep up with new developments in your field.

Interestingly, a whopping 93% of people who completed our survey were open to reskilling opportunities. This is an encouraging number which suggests that most people are prepared to retrain and sharpen their existing skills to integrate themselves into the future workplace.

It’s also very likely that companies will facilitate lifelong learning opportunities for their staff to avoid a possible skills gap caused by emerging technologies.

5. Programming

Programming is steadily becoming a common professional skill, especially among the younger workforce. In fact, our study found that Gen Zers take the lead in programming skills compared to other generations.

With computers already holding an integral role within the workplace, the ability to code will prove to be essential. Indeed, programming will enable workers to minimise their time spent on menial tasks by automating them, which will significantly improve their efficiency and productivity levels, too.

6. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is all about being tuned in to people’s feelings and surroundings. This allows you to navigate different situations, manage behaviour and make decisions that achieve personal results.

In a future setting, this is one of the most critical soft skills to have, especially as a manager or supervisor, since it will allow you to create a positive atmosphere and a dynamic workplace where machines and humans can coexist.

7. Technology Systems Analysis

Mainly, systems analysis involves troubleshooting, redesigning and analysing existing systems – a crucial skill that is required for companies to maintain their performance levels.

As businesses continue to become more and more reliant on machinery and automation, the need for professionals with technological skills and knowledge will surge. Indeed, companies will have an increased demand for people who can upkeep these systems and eliminate operational disruptions.

8. Service Orientation

Being a service-orientated person means that you can anticipate and meet people’s needs and expectations. This is a particularly useful skill if you work in an industry that involves customer service.

However, service orientation can benefit any professional, as it allows them to foresee the future needs of a business, client or team. In other words, you can resolve potential issues and offer solutions to future problems, placing yourself and your company a few steps ahead of others. In a highly competitive economy, this is a must.

9. Negotiation

With automation, AI and machines infiltrating the workplace, social skills will be more important than ever

Negotiating is something that only us humans can do – and do well! Some occupations, however, have allowed us to climb into our shell and let our interpersonal skills decline.

Nonetheless, negotiation, as well as other soft skills, will be even more important in the future, as we will be expected to engage and negotiate with clients, colleagues and managers and take on more active roles.

10. Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility describes the ability to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.

In today’s fast-paced world, we’re used to juggling several jobs and multitasking. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (PDF), however, a higher level of cognitive abilities will be required for a wide range of jobs in the future – this includes creativity, problem sensitivity and logical reasoning.


11. Adaptability

In the past, adaptability wasn’t a vital trait for an employee, as software and structures (albeit with slight updates) pretty much stayed the same. In today’s workforce, however, being able to adapt to new situations, programmes and people is incredibly important.

This goes hand in hand with active learning, which will allow you to acclimate to changes and new technologies faster.

Word of advice: don’t get stuck in your ways, because procedures will quickly change!

12. Entrepreneurship

Thinking outside the box and coming up with fresh concepts and designs is a skill that will secure you a job in the next decade.

With machines freeing us from menial and repetitive tasks, we will be able to take on more active roles and pursue our entrepreneurial aspirations. For that, you must possess the ability to think on your feet and run your project, department or business.

If you want to climb the career ladder, don’t settle on one thing; continue to expand your mind by exploring different avenues.

13. Social Intelligence

Social intelligence refers to your ability to connect with others. Beyond basic communication, it allows you to form more profound and meaningful connections through empathy and to navigate social environments with ease.

We may find ourselves relying on technology for logic-based and repetitive tasks, but on matters that require interaction, perception and collaboration, humans will be integral. Therefore, your social intelligence will allow you to thrive within the workplace of the future.

14. New Media Literacy

The word ‘literacy’ is frequently associated with the ability to read and write. However, new media literacy refers to our ability to function within a digital society.

What this entails is the ability to access, analyse, evaluate and create media. Undoubtedly, this crucial for the 21st Century workforce as the world progressively becomes more digitalised.

15. Virtual Collaboration

Remote work options are becoming increasingly common in most businesses. In the future, then, having the ability to collaborate with your virtual team using technology-mediated communication will be a must.

As companies are seeing the benefits of sourcing talent across the world, the virtual workplace is becoming more and more of a reality every day. From meetings and discussions to projects, you will need to be ready to complete your tasks and work with a diverse team on a virtual basis.

16. Innovative Thinking

In a constantly evolving world, innovation has become a primary element that drives businesses forward. So, being able to find ways to reinvent existing systems or create new ones altogether will be a significant advantage for you.

To do this, you’ll need to be able to deduct information, analyse and use data to come up with innovative, new ideas using what’s available to you.

17. Decision-Making

Every business strategy today is based on data analysis. Having the capability to study said data and make decisions are going to be even more desirable in years to come.

As already discussed, machines are logic-based and operate on repetition, but it’s up to humans to make the right decisions and set their companies apart. If this is an area you want to develop in, there are heaps of tools to help you master your decision-making skills!

18. Coordination

Robots and new machinery are great as they allow us to get on with more exciting duties, but the one thing they haven’t mastered is the ability to coordinate with others.

Coordination requires us to communicate and liaise with others and, in the working world, it’s important to be able to work with colleagues and adjust according to their actions. Essentially, being a strong team player is something that will carry through to the next generation.

19. Leadership

Good leaders determine the success of a business. This will most probably also be true in the future workplace. Your leadership skills will allow you to guide your team, navigate through tasks and establish your company within the top tier of its industry.

Of course, leadership comprises of several other skills as well as natural charisma, but if you’re determined, then you most certainly can develop this bundle of leadership abilities.

20. People Management

The job market is becoming increasingly competitive, with new talent entering the workforce every day. Whether you’re a CEO, HR manager or office supervisor, your ability to manage your people and delegate tasks will determine the dynamics within your firm.

To achieve this, you need to possess a balanced combination of other skills, too. This includes emotional and social intelligence, empathy, leadership, and negotiation to yield the best results from your team.

As we move into the next decade, this trait will be highly sought after in order to engage and sustain your people capital.

Without these critical skills, you’ll have a hard time fitting in the future workplace as it's likely many jobs will disappear. Not only should they help you be more efficient, but they will also give you the added push to reach your career goals.

Do you think you have what it takes to survive in the future workplace? Join the conversation below and let us know!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 12 January 2018.