Liquid Skills

One of the main ways that new technology will change the workforce will be in the evolving skill sets it requires. The exponential evolution of technology, the increased length of our lives, the growing need to secure our own financial sustainability are all at the base that we will move to a world where people will have multiple careers, where “life-long learning” or “liquid skills” will be crucial to strengthen an individual’s employability.

“Clearly, continuous learning and career agility are going to be essential. Jobs are changing quickly, as technology starts to complement, redefine and potentially replace many existing jobs. Individuals will need to keep their eyes on potential career options and work proactively to develop the new skills and knowledge required; on-going proactive career management is likely to be essential for continued employability.”

Corinne Mills, careers coach, author, and MD of Personal Career Management.

The future is multi-skilled

In “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity” (2016) authors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott predict that people will have to up-skill in order to develop 4 to 6 different careers during their life-time.
Gratton and Scott argue that one of the latest evolutions in leadership development is the new concept of “vertical leadership development” (2015), indicating that leaders should develop the capacity to handle more complexity and learn to become inter-dependent from others in order to manage volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) in their decision-making processes.
With a multitude of new tools and services to hand, knowledge can be acquired on-demand, effortlessly upgraded and discarded when no longer useful. We have entered the age of “Liquid Skills.”

Employers need to support education

The value of formal education no longer lies in gaining knowledge but in developing an ability to learn. Employees can now pick up and drop new skills as they are required, empowered by a vast array of data-driven, personalised learning programmes which make the work of becoming an expert in a particular subject much quicker and easier.
Employers will be expected to provide methods of learning, and to facilitate the development of new skills. Training will need to be modular, cater to those who wish to undertake extensive training in a short period, and to those who wish to learn at a slower rate. Organisations who do not provide support for up-skilling, risk being left behind as employees favour those who do.

New spaces for learning

New learning methods such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) can help retention and allow organisations to plug skills gaps. Education start-up Udacity began offering courses in virtual reality (VR) in late 2016. They offer short ‘nanodegrees’ of a few months duration, specifically designed to meet labour market demands and spread knowledge of in-demand skills.
While it may seem relatively straightforward to take an online course, the office is rarely the most productive space for this to take place. Study café chain Benkyo Café, based in Tokyo, allows adults to use its facilities on a membership basis and provides an environment more conducive with study and learning than a typical café. They plan to open six new cafes by summer 2019.

Flexibility of utmost importance

The pressures of a volatile labour market, paired with the growing and universalising accessibility of knowledge, make constant personal upgrades a condition of life. We can expect that organisations will invest in constantly up-skilling their workforce, setting up “internal career centres” to help people move into into new functions and roles.
Technological developments have the potential to displace workers. In order to stay relevant those workers will need to re-skill rapidly to get back into the job market. Flexibility and adaptability will be fundamental character traits, and learning quickly on the job will be of utmost importance.

Tailored development

The composition of the workforce is changing rapidly. New mothers are able to re-skill quickly and find jobs; digital nomads can travel the world and share their knowledge; new technologies make the transfer of information more efficient. To capitalise on this talent, new approaches to learning may be required that best suit the working conditions of these talent groups.
The Pregnancy Pause, launched by agency Mother New York in 2017 provides a toolkit for mothers to help them make the transition back into work after maternity leave. There is a strong focus on improving skills that will help individuals in this specific scenario, without the need to undertake courses which include other areas that may be less useful. A Copenhagen-based initiative “Inspired Beyond Babies” enables working mothers to up-skill themselves at their own pace during maternity leave.

What are the key trends and how are they likely to impact the future of work? We explore the following future trends: