The workplace landscape is changing rapidly as technology advances and workers adapt to increased automation and a transformation in desired job skills. According to the Udemy 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report, “as automation and AI [artificial intelligence] take care of the more mundane tasks, employees are increasingly specializing in tasks that leverage unique ‘human’ strengths like creativity, emotional intelligence and storytelling. 2020 and the next decade will be about upleveling the human and realizing the full potential of humans and machines in the workplace.” If you want to grow your career in 2020, these are the 24 “human” job skills you should be honing.
Jobs requiring the analysis of information are on the rise. People with strong analytical thinking skills have the ability to use logic to address problems and recommend appropriate courses of action. Employers value this skill because they need people who can come up with solutions quickly and efficiently.
Active Learning and Learning Strategies
You should always be willing to learn, especially in a time of rapid workplace change. Active learning means looking at new information and understanding how it applies to your job, both now and in the future. Once you learn it, be ready to apply it. Learning strategies come into play because, if you train others, you must choose the most effective strategies to engage them and help them retain the information.
Technology Design and Programming
Design and programming are two crucial parts of valued technology skills. Programming refers to the ability to write computer programs to accomplish various tasks. The design side refers to the practical skills of creating or adapting equipment and technology to meet specific user needs. Programming is important, but so is the practical application of the programs.
Creativity and Originality
You might think of creativity as an ability to generate new ideas, but this “human skill” requires more than that. Many companies want their employees to be unafraid to try out those new ideas.
Originality also goes hand in hand with creativity. Being original means you’re able to come up with unconventional or unique solutions to challenges or introduce your own ideas to solve a problem. According to the World Economic Forum report, creativity and originality will “retain or increase their value” in the coming years.
Innovation means that you’re able to think in nonstandard ways. True innovation requires creativity and looking beyond what is already known to generate new solutions. To be in demand, you need the ability to find and seize opportunities while keeping a strategic business perspective. The better you understand your industry and keep up with the latest trends, the more adept you’ll be at generating innovative ideas.
Initiative encompasses generating ideas and putting them into action. To be in demand, you must be willing to take risks and step up to tackle challenges. You shouldn’t be afraid to work autonomously rather than always waiting for direction. Managers appreciate employees with this skill because it frees them up to concentrate on their own responsibilities.
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Emotional intelligence is a critical skill that involves your ability to manage your own emotions and those of others in your workplace. You should be prepared to understand your workers and why they act or react in certain ways. Strong emotional intelligence skills are prized because those who have them are team players who cooperate with others and show sensitivity and concern.
Problem-solving is important, but today’s fast-paced work requires a deeper set of skills. Complex problem-solving means you have the ability to dig deeper and successfully tackle more in-depth and challenging issues. You need the ability to gather relevant information, analyze it and come up with appropriate options. Then you take it a step further, evaluating those options and implementing the best fit to fix the problem.
Leadership and Social Influence
In-demand leadership skills require several important components. You should be willing to step up and take charge, able to feel comfortable stating your opinions and provide clear direction to others. Employers look for people with high energy as well as the ability to lead others and influence them to follow directions. Strong leadership skills are exhibited by those who can make things happen in the workplace.
Systems Analysis and Evaluation
As automation increases across industries, employers need workers who can weigh the costs and benefits of various systems to determine the best one for a particular need. You’re valuable if you have this skill. If you also possess the ability to determine how the systems will work under a variety of conditions, how to fix problems and how to improve performance — all the better.
The ability to adapt to changes quickly will be key in 2020, said Kathy Kristof, editor of SideHusl.com.
“Technology is changing every aspect of our lives, and the change is rapid and ongoing,” she said. “That begs for a workforce that can adjust on the fly in both where and how they work. People who can adjust to new software, adopt tools that will allow them to work from anywhere, and embrace an environment of lifelong learning are likely to thrive, while those who cling to the way things were done last year — or last week — are not.”
This goes hand in hand with adaptability. Understanding the latest technology and tools, and learning how to fully utilize them, undoubtedly will require some careful research and reading. Read for pleasure in your spare time to hone your speed reading and ability to read intelligently.
This might seem like an antiquated skill, but it’s necessary to take notes to get the most out of your reading and research as you learn about new technology.
“Note-taking is a form of learning, and there is an art to it,” interviewer and writer Avil Beckford said in a Forbes article.
Sensemaking is the ability to find a meaning or significance that’s deeper than what’s being expressed. Smart machines now can interpret surface-level meanings, so being able to see something beyond the surface gives you an advantage that hasn’t been replicated by technology yet.
Fast-paced work environments demand leaders who are able to make decisions on the fly.
“As the pace of change increases, individuals will need to be highly skilled at assessing situations, compiling the right data, estimating the business impact and making quick-fire decisions,” said Valerie Brantley, CEO of Trifecta Management LLC. “With the new pace, they may not have the luxury of gathering all of the information or data needed. So they need to be adept at making the best decision with the information they have and mitigating risk.”
Understanding how to interpret data and implement data-based learning is a skill everyone should have in the new year, said Roger Maftean, career expert and content specialist at ResumeLab.
“In my opinion, one of the best ways to register on an employer’s radar in 2020 is to revamp your data literacy skills,” he said. “That’s because there’s a growing realization that data is the key to future-proofing your business, and it’s one of the best assets to harness. It helps make better-informed decisions and predict the next steps. So if you want to get ahead in 2020, you need to have data literacy skills in your arsenal as well as proof you can use them to turn the data into business value.”
New Media Literacy
There now are numerous communication tools that go beyond basic text, including visual communication media. Being able to assess and develop content that utilizes new media forms will be a vital skill to have in 2020. You should be comfortable using these tools to communicate your employer’s messages effectively.
With more and more companies building a remote workforce, it’s important to be able to manage your own time effectively without having a boss or manager supervising you, said Ellen Mullarkey, VP of business development for the Messina Group.
“Hiring remote employees has huge benefits for companies, but it’s hard to find people who can be as productive at home as they are in the office,” she said. “If you can demonstrate that you’re able to manage your time while working outside the office, you’ll have a much better chance of scoring a remote job.”
Another effect of an increasingly remote workforce is that you might not have a manager or direct supervisor you can lean on to help you prioritize your tasks. Being able to determine what tasks are most important on your own will be a valuable skill to have in 2020.
The more areas you’re an expert in, the more useful you can be to your employer. Learn new skills in areas related to your current role to gain this essential trait.
“The workforce is more diverse than ever. Employees must be able to work with people of every age, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation,” Mullarkey said. “And with the rise of remote teams and distributed campuses, we’re often working with people from all over the world. So the more experience that someone has in working alongside people from other cultures, the better prepared they’ll be to thrive at work.”
Without the ability to communicate effectively, it’s difficult to put any of the other job skills to use.
“Communication is a vital skill for candidates to have as it’s a recognized set of skills that affects emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, healthy collaboration and countless other peripheral skills,” said Sarah Doughty, director of recruitment of TalentLab. “Most think communication skills are simply using an academic vocabulary or having excellent email etiquette, but it’s so much more. In almost every aspect of work, for most industries, strong communication skills are needed in order to succeed.”
Collaboration always has been an important job skill, but going into 2020, employees will need to be able to work together virtually.
“This is an important skill to have because a lot of companies are global and have workforces in numerous locations,” said Kristen Leong, human resource generalist at M&O Marketing in Southfield, Michigan. “Having strong virtual collaboration and making [other] employees feel part of the team, even if they can’t be in the same physical location, is very important.”
Cognitive flexibility is the ability to think about two or more concepts simultaneously.
This skill “is a mental capability that employers are looking for to increase employee ingenuity, productivity and output,” said James Sheppard, CEO and co-founder at Centriq.
Start Honing Your Skills Today
In-demand skills run the gamut from technical abilities such as systems analysis and programming to soft skills such as leadership, emotional intelligence, creativity and innovation. These skills also emphasize ongoing learning to allow you to keep up with the shift in routines in today’s jobs and prepare for the future. Honing these skills will give you an edge in today’s competitive job market, and it might lead to new and exciting opportunities in the future.
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Barb Nefer contribute to the reporting for this article.
About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.