These are the future skills you’ll need to thrive in the workplace

Put away your crystal ball, there’s no need to turn to mysticism in order to predict what skills you’ll need to succeed in the future - EY have done all the work for you.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

Put away your crystal ball (or Tarot cards, or tea leaves, or whatever your preferred form of fortune telling is) – there’s no need to turn to mysticism in order to predict what skills you’ll need to succeed in the future.

The reality is, you already possess every skill you’ll need to do well in your career; identifying exactly what these skills are and how to improve them is a whole other story, however.

The fact of the matter is technology is causing change at a rate that is often hard to predict – which is why the World Economic Forum took it upon themselves to research what skills will be in the greatest demand by businesses in the year 2020. It *actually* turns out that while AI and smart machines may claim many jobs, there will be increasing demand for skills where the human touch is still required.

Naturally, there are quite a few skills on the list. So from this, EY took the time to identify the top five you can’t afford to ignore when setting out on a path to career success.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

What skills are the fairest of them all, you ask? Let’s get into it; as stated most of us already possess these skills, but may not recognise them as a future skill or know how to develop them:

Creativity: The future will require a lot of creative thinking – creativity leads to innovation, after all. Businesses will seek people who are both entrepreneurial and inventive, with the ability to challenge the status quo, connect the apparently unconnected, and join the dots in unique ways.

Emotional intelligence: Being able to listen, have empathy and navigate tough social situations will ensure you come across as an A* candidate and employee. It’s about using this awareness to show maturity, level-headedness, resilience and self-control, while maintaining a positive outlook.

Collaboration: This doesn’t just mean smiling at people and offering to do a tea round – it’s an ability to coordinate well with others, including those you don’t know. It requires being socially and culturally aware and being able to build solid relationships in fragmented circumstances.

Complex problem solving: Being able to look at complex information and make an informed and accurate decision is like gold dust to employers. This skill is about understanding what is and isn’t important through objective critical thinking and showing accuracy and sound judgement in choosing a response.

Cognitive flexibility: Think of this like an advanced form of multitasking. It’s an ability to conceptualise multiple ideas at once and flit between them seamlessly if necessary. It pushes you to be constantly testing and learning new skills.

But it’s one thing knowing what each of the five skills means, it’s a whole other kettle of fish living them. So, we took aside some employees of EY – both graduates and apprentices – to discover their thoughts on these future skills and how EY is already helping develop them.

Future skills for future success

We spoke to Hassan Kamara and Rosie Muge, Digital Apprentices and, Andrew Brown, Assistant Tax Advisor, who between them have first-hand experience of utilising these skills.

First, in order to help develop the above, Hassan says you should “never say ‘no’ to opportunities. You may find that they give you new skills.” Similarly, Andrew believes you should “work with different types and groups of people, and try not to stay in your comfort zone” and Rosie recommends “stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new things.”

By embracing these skills and actively seeking to improve them, Hassan, Andrew and Rosie have been able to excel in the workplace. They have helped Andrew to become “an integrated, functioning member of [his] team”, whereas they have helped Rosie to build “a strong network of people [she] can turn to who can offer guidance and feedback” for her continual development. During his time at the company, Hassan has been able to “work alongside a number of stakeholders across a number of levels and contribute in the same way.”

Skills in practice

We also asked them how they practice these skills in their day-to-day jobs. For Andrew, cognitive flexibility is a skill that he applies daily in his role: “Working in Tax there are often differences between accounting and tax concepts and procedures. One has been applied and the other needs to be applied. This mean that both need to be understood and applied to complete the work.”

For Rosie, creativity comes into play in her role on an innovation project. She says: “When given a project, I enjoy challenging myself to think of a different way to find the answer, as well as working with members of my team who have alternative working styles to help push me to think outside the box.”

Similarly, she uses emotional intelligence to ensure she works “efficiently and effectively” with her team. She explains that “having the ability to adapt your personality to those around you can create a better dynamic, as by understanding how you and your team react to each other you will always be able to deliver to the highest standard.”

Despite coming from different backgrounds and working in different teams, Hassan, Andrew and Rosie employ these five skills in multiple different ways. They’re multi-functional, multi-purpose and pretty darn handy.

Not just work skills

Developing these skills can help outside of the working world too. All five apply naturally to every aspect of our lives, and Rosie claims that they can help “create well-rounded and confident individuals who challenge themselves and others to improve and achieve the best.”

They’re skills a lot of people already have, but potentially “don’t recognise”, says Andrew; but “if you can recognise them and focus, they can be improved” so that you benefit from them both inside and outside of work.

Being “open minded” to how these skills can help outside of work can also help young people seeking to better prepare for the future of work, Hassan says. It’s important to try and embrace opportunities outside of work that can help improve these skills as well; Rosie says she always “volunteers for new experiences” to achieve just that.

By following the above you’ll be able to “develop these five core skills, which will help you improve in confidence and ability to excel in a working environment”, says Rosie.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

You can find out more about EY’s future skills here, and more about their opportunities for students here.

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