What skills will be in demand in the 2012 workplace? The
answer depends on whom you ask and whose skills youre talking
about. But the short answer is that no one escapes the need to
acquire some new ones.
At this time of year, those who develop other peoples skills for a
living turn to those who predict skill needs to anticipate what
will be in demand in the near future. Most skill predictorsand they
are a legionfocus on the skills of the professional groups they
target with their products and services. So, for example, Deloitte,
which has a strong practice helping organizations maximize talent
globally, has plenty to say about the skills organizations need to
do just that.
What follows is a potpourri of predictions of skills needed to be
successful at work in a future that is often uncertain, chaotic,
and unpredictable. Despite the variety of sources, there are some
similarities among their approaches. Most base their predictions on
changes wrought by the usual suspects: the economy, social media,
and flux in workforce demographics. Almost all point to the same
major driver of new skill needsthe changing nature of work itself
from brawn-based to brain-based and the near-ubiquitous use of
technology for that kind of work. Accordingly, many new workplace
skills could be classified as habits of mind, with innovation and
creativity often leading the pack.
Skills every worker will need
Everyone will need learning agilitythe ability to learn something
in situation A and apply it in situation Bsays Rebecca Ray, The
Conference Boards vice president of human capital, using a
definition from Lominger, a leadership development company whose
work is based on competencies. You have to maintain your footing
between what you know and what you must learn. Its like hopping
across a stream on a series of rocks. You stop, take your bearings,
look ahead, and apply what you learned from previous hops, says
Its an irony of the present day workplace that data are more
abundant and accessible than ever, but decisions often need to be
made before all the numbers are in. As a result, says Ray, We must
all learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and with making
decisions before we reach our customary comfort levels.
In a recent YouTube video, Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research
and author of Technotrends, predicted what skills all workers will
need in the 21st century: wonder and curiosity, an open mind,
creativity, willingness to learn new things, comfort with
technology, ability to solve problems, and communication skills.
Because the U.S. federal government is the countrys largest
employer with approximately 2 million civilian employees, its
instructive to consider the skills needed for a government job
today. Federal agencies look for these basic skills when hiring,
according to the U.S. Department of Labor: literacy, specialized
experience, computer skills, and administrative skills.
Literacy. Generally an individual is required to possess basic
competence in reading and writing. Some employees who work in
managerial and technical positions are required to have a college
education in their area of specialization. Other employees working
in administrative or entry-level positions may only need a high
Specialized experience. Employees are required to have some basic
work experience, and the duration of experience depends on the
position one holds. Entry-level positions require as little as
three months of experience, while professional positions require at
least a year of relevant experience. Other individuals who do not
have specialized experience may be considered if they show they
have the ability to gain specialized knowledge and skills.
Computer skills. Skill with database management is especially
important due to the financial and information management aspects
of government jobs.
Administrative skills. Most employees are engaged in areas of
management, finance, research, and analytical occupations.
Government employees need basic administrative skills for these
jobs. These skills include organization of data and information,
customer service, and knowledge of government agencies.
Skills for training professionals
Training professionals have a double challenge; they need to build
their own professional competence, and also stay on top of the
skills required by the organizations they work forespecially those
skills that align best with goals and strategies.
By looking at the areas learning and development professionals
focused on in 2011, you might think it would be possible to make
some educated guesses about where they will put their energies in
2012. But surveys of training professionals by various
organizations show that apart from leadership development, which
ranks high in most surveys, there is no common area of focus,
suggesting that todays training skill set must be diverse enough to
handle a broad range of challenges.
ASTDs Foruma consortium of senior learning practitionersasked
members about areas of focus in their organizations for 2011. The
top three were leadership development, coaching skills, and
profession- and industry-specific content.
A survey of CLOs by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp)
identified the top 10 critical issues of 2011 for the large, public
sector organizations that belong to i4cp. The top three for that
group were leadership development, succession planning, and
The Conference Board asked its member companies, What are the three
most important strategies your company will use to manage talent in
the coming year? The top three in a list of 10 were manage the
multigenerational workforce; enhance the effectiveness of the
senior management team; and raise employee engagement.
For Jane Hart, founder of the United Kingdoms Centre for Learning
and Performance Technologies, there is no question that the number
one new knowledge area for trainers in 2012 will be social media.
But she cautions: It wont be a matter of just bolting on social
media to traditional, command-and-control approaches to learning,
but encouraging and engaging individuals in new, powerful ways of
learning. Although learning and development professionals will need
a broad knowledge of social media, it will be more essential that
they have a good understanding of how the business works, for as
performance specialists, they will need to identify the root causes
of job and business problems and devise appropriate solutionswhich
wont necessarily be training.
An update to the ASTD competency study confirms that training
professionals will need social media skills to be successful in the
near future. Three broad knowledge areas emerged when respondents
answered the question: What do learning and development
professionals need to know, now and in the future, with regard to
social learning? These areas were
- how social media can be used for learning (such as enabling
learners to generate their own learning content, facilitating
communication and collaboration between facilitators and learners,
and supporting informal learning)
- fluency with social learning tools and their limitations (such
as wikis, mobile applications, immersive learning environments, and
peer rating toolswhat these tools can and cannot do)
- knowledge of techniques for overcoming objections against using
social media (such as demonstrating a compelling value proposition
and implementing specific approaches to increase user adoption).
Learning professionals in managerial roles especially need to
become change agents and help their organizations see the value of
social learning and facilitate its adoption and acceptance, says
Jennifer Naughton, senior director of credentialing at the ASTD
Certification Institute. Managers and technicians alike need to
know when and how social learning technologies can and should be
applied. Its not enough to understand which technologies are out
there. It also is critical to know when the use of technology is
and isnt appropriate, and how to match the right technology to the
right learning needs and objectives.
ASTDs CPLP certification program began testing candidates on the
new social learning content on September 17, 2011. Current
certification holders have specific recommendations on how they can
gain these new skills and will be awarded recertification points
for obtaining them. More information about the ASTD competency
study and the results are available at www.astd.org/model and in an
article in the August 2011 issue of T+D magazine.
Skills for leaders
IBMs 2010 global CEO study, Capitalizing on Complexity, is explicit
about what leaders are required to do in a volatile and uncertain
business world: embody creative leadership, reinvent customer
relationships, and build operational dexterity.
Leadership guru Noel Tichy notes, At the end of the last century,
leaders won with brains, not brawn. Thus, in developing leadership,
the independent variable is honing leaders judgment capacity. In
our book, Judgment, Warren Bennis and I conclude that the essential
genome of leadership is judgment.
According to Tichy and Bennis, to make good leadership judgments,
leaders need to develop skill and knowledge in three fundamental
- Peopledeciding who is on the team or off the team and how to
develop those who are on the team
- Strategydeciding what direction to take the organization
- Crisesdealing with the inevitable crises that all organizations
Skills for organizations
Deloittes Talent Edge 2020: Blueprint for the New Normal listed
these top concerns for organizations: competing for talent globally
and in emerging markets, developing leaders and succession
planning, and retaining employees at all levels.
For Gallup, an organization that studies human nature and behavior,
the issue of talent goes beyond finding it and developing it. Its
approach, known as strengths-based development, recommends honing
employees strengths to accelerate performance instead of trying to
correct their weaknesses.
Gallup uses research to show that the best way to develop
employeesand net the greatest return-on-investmentis to identify
the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave.
Next, build on those talents to create strengthsthe ability to
provide consistent, near-perfect performance.
New research from Gallup asserts that employee well-being has a
direct and significant impact on the bottom line and is a path to
sustainable growth. From that research, five distinct elements of
well-being emerged. These elements represent actionable areas that
can be leveraged to improve well-being. Gallup counsels
organizations to develop the skill of creating employee well-being.
- Career well-beinghow you occupy your time and liking what you
do each day
- Social well-beinghaving strong relationships and love in your
- Financial well-beingeffectively managing your economic life to
reduce stress and increase security
- Physical well-beinghaving good health and enough energy to get
things done on a daily basis
- Community well-beingthe sense of engagement and involvement you
have with the area where you live.
Its a VUCA [volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous] world
right now. The ability to articulate a clear path forward is
getting more difficult, Ray concludes. The more pressured and
unstable the world gets, the easier it is to focus on the tactical
and to forget that people continue to need a vision and to make
meaning out of what they do.