What interpersonal skills does the future generation need to be successful?

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The workplace is changing at an unprecedented rate. Game-changing technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence are poised to revolutionise the business landscape as we know it, while the growth of the sharing economy is already enabling companies of all sizes to tap into talent around the world on a per-gig basis.

The rise of automation

Automation has already made its mark on the world and is playing a key role in the success of a number of major global companies. Amazon, for example, has more than 100,000 robots in operation, which have eliminated many of the tedious and physically demanding aspects of warehouse work, and enabled the retail giant to function incredibly efficiently. The Cambridge Industries Group is pushing the envelope even further, and plans for its factory in Shanghai to be 90 percent automated within the next few years.

But this is just the beginning. Over the next decade, adoption of automation will continue to increase as the technology becomes more accessible to small and medium sized enterprises. This will usher in new opportunities in terms of efficiency, productivity and prosperity, but it will also influence the types of skills needed by human workers.

What qualities and skills do modern workers need?

The qualities needed to thrive in this new era of technology will be markedly different from the skill set of today’s workers. Unsurprisingly, technological skills will remain in high demand. In fact, research from McKinsey & Company indicates that the need for advanced IT and programming skills could increase by as much as 90 percent between now and 2030.

However, workers will need more than hard tech skills to thrive in the modern business world. Interpersonal skills such as communication, empathy and curiosity will be in hot demand as organisations seek leaders with the emotional intelligence needed to empower - not control - the workforce of tomorrow. Here are some critical skills that future workers will need.

Communicate effectively

Communication has long been a central pillar in business, and no amount of automation is going to change that. Being able to communicate effectively is key for conveying complex ideas, building interpersonal relationships and successfully promoting a product or service. And the risk of getting it wrong is clear, with research from the Society for Human Resource Management noting that miscommunication currently costs companies of 100 employees about $420,000 per year.

The need for good communication skills is only going to get stronger in the years ahead. The rise of the sharing economy promises a plethora of business advantages, but it also introduces new challenges regarding collaboration - particularly when companies are dealing with remote workers who may share different cultural views. With some experts predicting that temporary workers could make up 40 percent of the average company’s workforce by 2020, it’s clear that future leaders will need to be excellent communicators in order to facilitate collaboration between employees and fully harness the potential of the sharing economy.

Make sense of large amounts of data

From website cookies to hardware sensors, social media metrics to inventory tracking systems, there’s no denying that modern companies harvest a ridiculous amount of data. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, the average company in 15 of the 17 sectors that make up the US economy has more than 235 terabytes of data. Obviously, this data can be extremely useful - but only if someone is able to interpret it.

The ability to work with machines to make sense of huge amounts of information will be an important skill for future workers as big data begins to spread its influence beyond the world of IT. No matter the industry, companies are going to be focusing on analysing data and using that insight to make informed decisions and build smart business strategies.

Emotional intelligence

Gone are the days when managers ruled with an iron fist. In the years ahead, more companies will come to terms with the idea that the best results come from treating employees with compassion and respect.

Having a high level of emotional intelligence enables leaders to tune into the needs of their employees and inspire their workforce from the inside out. Empowering workers by providing them with the guidance and support they need will allow companies to get the very best out of their most important resource: their workers.

Meanwhile, a high level of empathy will be critical for companies to understand the needs of their clients and foster meaningful and long lasting customer relationships.

The next generation of workers


Technology is shaping the world of business, but that doesn’t mean that soft skills are being left behind. The next generation of workers will have to be tech savvy if they wish to succeed in a workplace ruled by automation and data, but even more importantly be able to communicate and empathise with their colleagues. Those who are able to find the middle ground will find themselves in a strong position to make the most of the exciting new era of business.

patty lee