Skills to keep you employable during the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here and rapidly gaining ground. Many jobs are being automated via technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things and cloud computing.

Research from management consulting firm McKinsey suggests less than 5% of occupations will become fully automated in the future. However, about 60% of occupations could see at least a third of their job tasks automated.

Technology is also increasing how fast our knowledge and skills are becoming outdated. A report published by Deloitte claims the half-life of learned skills is now about five years, which means what you learned to gain a degree or industry qualification could well already be out-of-date.

The report, Careers and learning, Real time, all the time, also suggests our careers could last for 60 to 70 years – that’s a lot of constant learning to do.

Added to all this are global trends impacting the skills needed to do a huge number of jobs, ranging from digital transformation to our ageing populations and even climate change.

How can you stay relevant and employable in the face of all this rapid change? The key, based on our survey about skills completed by more than 2,000 people, including 951 employers, is to continuously upskill.

The majority of the employers we surveyed (77%) told us they were more likely to shortlist a qualified candidate who regularly upskills.

Employers told us that continuous upskilling shows a candidate is proactive, takes their development seriously, is genuinely interested in their field and is willing to put in the effort to stay up-to-date.

However, while 96% of the 1,253 professionals we surveyed regard upskilling as ‘very important’ or ‘important’ only a minority are putting in the work to ensure they are keeping up with the changing demands in their sector.

Don’t let that be you. As our CEO, Alistair Cox, has previously said, some of the best leaders he knows are role models for lifelong learning. It’s time to get on board with continuous upskilling.

Employers reveal the skills they value most

As well as keeping up with the technical know-how relevant to your specific job, employers are looking to see evidence candidates are developing the skills needed to solve new problems and collaborate with peers to exchange knowledge and ideas. Employers also want their people to be able to pivot to a new role or area of responsibility as things change.

Interestingly, our survey revealed most of the skills in highest demand with employers are soft skills - technical skills ranked 7th on the list.

The most in demand skill was “communication”, nominated by 77% of employers. This makes sense. As technology drives more of our work tasks, employers are looking to their people to make gains through the way they engage and build relationships both internally and externally as well as how they collaborate and communicate to solve constantly evolving challenges and problems.

“Adaptability” was next on the list of skills nominated by employers but a full 10 percentage points behind communication skills.

Not surprisingly, “digital proficiency in a new technology relevant to an individual’s job” was third (64% of employers).

“Innovation” was next, nominated by 63% of employers, followed by “critical thinking” (61%), “emotional intelligence” (53%), “technical skills” (43%), “self-learning” (40%) and “data-based decision making” (35%).

Coding was nominated by just 6% of employers.

Demographer Bernard Salt said in this article we should view change as an opportunity for growth and development instead of a threat to the status quo.

“The great challenge… is to engage, upskill, reskill - to actually bring everyone along in the journey,” he said.

It’s human nature to find change uncomfortable but to survive and thrive in the workforce of today and tomorrow we must not only learn to adapt to constant change but exploit it to build our careers.

About this author

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

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