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Skills for Today's Changing Workplace

Updated on February 2, 2018
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Mary is an organizational development specialist and writes about today's challenges.

Skills Today's Job Market Looks For

Think you've got the skills for today's workplace? Computer ready...a new degree...accounting skills...ready to engineer the world's biggest bridge? Well, think again. There are thousands of new Grads each year with the same tech skills and robots are coming with the the skills in demand in today's workplace and a huge capacity to learn new skills. What will set you apart?

Recent surveys conducted in a wide range of developing and well developed countries underline the primary concern of more than 80 percent of employers: finding workers with good work ethics and appropriate social behaviours.

What does "appropriate" mean? A good attitude, decent appearance, a team orientation and a bit of a perky personality. Skills is just one part of the package and for many employers, not even number 1!

The Constantly Changing Workplace

Today's Constantly Reinventing Workplaces

Today's workplaces are varied as there are interests. They keep changing and their skills demands keep reinventing as well. When before jobs with low skills make you middle class in Western societies, now many jobs are done by robots. The low skilled jobs hardly pay at all as many temps take it.

The good paying jobs often require advanced skills. Many of these jobs are taken by consultants. Employees seem to be the odd word now in the business world. Welcome to the Uber Economy. Young grads now have gigs, 2 or 5 of these at the same time, and to the consternation of their parents who are used to regular permanent jobs, they seem to fit in happily.

When you have advanced skills, you will even be more in demand because most companies now are happy to have temps for jobs that are specialized and focused. Our on-demand corporations rely on freelance consultants for many advanced skills.

Understanding this new work place well is quite a challenge. I just recently read that with ever growing data, the demand for data analysis will definitely increase. Content managers seem to be a position many advertise for now. Rocket engineers. Data analysts. Hone your skills in these new job demands and don't stop until you get in the other half of the income divide. Remember, it keeps recreating itself. Recreate yourself, too.

Employers Search the Work for Employees

Changing Workplace
Changing Workplace | Source

Employers' Dissatisfaction at New Graduates

Business and industry representatives in both developed and developing countries have expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the general level of preparedness of entry-level employees.

Interviews with job applicants support this finding. More than half of the graduates leave school without the knowledge or foundation required to find and hold a good job. This does not refer to technical or specific jobs skills but to employability skills such as attitudes, self discipline and a commitment to learning. Most teachers or professors have never worked outside of the whinging world of the College and really know sweet diddley about the real world of work.

While most employers expect to train new employees in company-specific procedures and to acquaint them with the behavioural norms, standards, and expectations in their company (the Brand) as well as job-specific technical skills required, they are very clear that the schools and family should take most of the responsibility for equipping young people with general employability skills.

How do you assess your skills for today's workplace? - Do you have the skills for it?

On a scale of 1-5, one the lowest and 5 the highest, how would you rate your skills for today's workplace?

See results

Skills Workplaces Need

Specific Skills the Workplace Needs
Specific Skills the Workplace Needs | Source

Find Out What Skills are in Demand in the New Workplace

Get serious in finding out what skills are in demand in the new workplace. This is equally important for those who are searching for jobs and for those already in jobs. Nothing is secure right now. Change is the one thing you need to manage. Keep learning new skills and updating what you have.

What Employers See as Valuable

The attitudes and behaviours (other than technical competence) that employers see as valuable in the actual work place are often referred to as employability skills. These employability skills include reading, basic arithmetic and other basic skills like problem solving, decision making, and other higher-order thinking skills.

Also, dependability, a positive attitude, cooperativeness or ability to work in teams, and other communication and human skills that make you a contributor to the company and not a slouching doofus hidden in a corner when clients come.

Employability Skills are not job specific. They are skills which cut horizontally across all employment sectors and vertically across all jobs from entry level to chief executive officer. Although the critical employability skills identified by employers vary considerably in the way they are organized, there is a great deal of agreement among the skills and traits identified. For many employers, the look for adaptability in new recruits, those able to change based on the demands of the work.

It looks like specific occupational skills are less crucial for entry-level employment than high level of literacy, responsible attitudes toward work, the ability to communicate well, and the ability to continue to learn and adapt. Learning from errors and mistakes. This is often not taught in schools where there are right and wrong answers, not a search for what fits given the challenge or the circumstance.

Studies in many countries suggest that employers place greatest importance on employee attitudes, basic skills over job-specific skills, and for workers to have an understanding of the work environment and its demand for flexibility.

What Will Future Jobs Look Like

Demands of Today's Workplace on New Entrants

Today's workplace demand that entry-level workers be able to operate independently, using problem-solving and decision-making skills. The need for worker collaboration and teamwork requires employees to be creative, flexible, and possess good interpersonal and managerial skills.

The reference to interpersonal skills points to yet another reason for the changes in the employability skill needs of today's workplace: the increasingly multicultural nature of the workforce.

When you visit a resort in Maldives or a hotel in Cambodia or trek in the Himalayas, or join a bank in Hong Kong, you not only meet tourists from everywhere, but your co-workers will be from around the globe Major construction projects may involve workers from many countries and cultures. Corporations have also changed colors. Good interpersonal skills will be more in demand the more multicultural the workforce becomes.

A final reason for the increased interest in equipping young people with basic, higher-order, and affective skills is the growing awareness of what happens when great numbers of people lack these qualifications. The Tower of Babel was not just a language issue.

Today's Workplace

Today's Workplace
Today's Workplace | Source

How do you prepare students for employment in today's workplace?

There is a great need for preparing young people with good work habits. Students need to be taught such things as honesty, punctuality, regular attendance, productivity, and conscientiousness. Mom and Dad...and Grandpa and Grandma...are you listening? Allow your kids to fail. Don't blame them for failures but analyze these failures as opportunities for them to learn.

Moreover, most workplaces require different kinds of tasks, approaches, and employees. If young people are not allowed to tinker, tweak, work on jobs, they get into the workplace thinking the work will be given to them.

Work is problem-oriented, flexible, and organized in teams; labor is not a cost but an investment. Think of the Island teams in Maldives that build boats or the multi-skilled Island Teams hired by contractors to build entire bungalow units at Resorts.

Good teams and companies recognize that producing defective products cost more than producing a high-quality one.

The solution: design quality into the learning process itself, particularly by enabling learners to make on-the-spot decisions and build the team skills that include communication, sharing, multi-skilling and support.

More students now combine in-school with on-the-job learning. This is a good way to start a career path. Don't tell them, show them, and let them practice. Practice makes them go through trial and error until they get it. This is a great skill to have.

Should employability skills be taught in schools? - Should they be included in the elementary, secondary or tertiary level?

In what curriculum level should employability skills be included?

See results

Anecdote that led to employment

Humor helps

I read this from Edmund Fuller's 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions and thought of sharing this here.

"Many are called, but few are chosen" might well be the motto emblazoned above the doors of the Hollywood casting directors. One hopeful young actor was turned down time and again by the same company. Despairing yet determined, he made a final effort. Approaching one film director, he said, "It's now or never, if you want me in one of your pictures. I now have many companies after me."

"You have?" asked the director, his interest aroused by this statement. " What companies?"

"Well," said the actor seriously, "there's the telephone company, the electric and gas companies, the milk company..."

The director laughed - the actor got the job.

Do you have the Employability Skills for today's jobs?

Do you understand the challenges of the new workplace? If you are a student, what are you doing to ensure that you have those skills set that employers require? If you are a parent or a teacher, what are you doing to strengthen those skills in your students?

We are all responsible. It is time to do something about it.

© 2010 Mary Norton


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