The ‘future of work’ is a phrase often bandied about in media, in articles and blogs. Frankly though, none of us really has an accurate idea of what the future of work will look like. Despite this uncertainty, we should try to prepare ourselves for what we are likely to encounter.

Artificial intelligence, automation, virtual workspaces and a gig workforce are just some of the trends that will probably impact the working world of the future. In an increasingly globalised and digital world, what skills will you need to survive?

In our recent research, The Workforce View in Europe 2017, we explored the skills employees feel like they need both now and in ten years’ time to see what training workers are most concerned about having, in preparation for the future of work.

Skills for today

At the moment, the skills that employees are focussed on are fairly traditional. Language skills, job specific skills, industry knowledge, and finance and budgeting are among the top 10 skills employees think are important. We do see an emphasis placed on technology, with advanced IT skills and new technology and devices taking the second and third place, respectively.

Upskilling needs

Fast forward ten years, and we can see the ‘man vs machine’ scenario become even more of a concern to employees. IT skills are now top of the list. Whilst language, job-specific and interpersonal skills are still considered important in a working world predicted to be even more global, we also see entrepreneurial skills becoming a core part of the skill set employees think they will need. Employees believe that self-motivation, productivity, creativity and self-management are going to be essential in the job market. This reflects the rise in the so-called gig economy, with growing number of workers deciding to go freelance or become self-employed, as traditional careers may become less common in the future.

What should employers do?

In a rapidly changing world, regular reviews of the training you offer will be key to building a workforce that can keep up with the times. Although job specific skills shouldn’t be discounted, technology, languages and interpersonal skills are going to be just as important. And whilst ‘entrepreneurial’ skills may not seem like a priority right now, encouraging employees in these areas will benefit productivity levels and innovation in the long run.

The most important action you can take is to listen to your employee’s needs. Some organisations, such as Aviva have promised to retrain their workers if they think a robot can do their job better than them – and this is something we could all take learnings from. We shouldn’t let fear of the future of work damage workforce morale and engagement, instead we should ensure we are arming our workforce with the skills they believe they need for the ‘future of work’.

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