When people think of skills gap, often it’s about lacking technology-related skills, or the latest programming language or new service experience. Erase that image from your mind. Instead, think about what professional skills we need to obtain to thrive as we enter the 4th industrial revolution, or AI age.

The skills gap is real and I see it everywhere. It stems from a combination of schools not adequately preparing students for the demands of today, as well as living in a time of enormous disruption where adaptability is a must in order to continue moving forward both as a company as well as professionally. From difficulty sourcing top talent to automation to artificial intelligence to the rise of a location independence to globalization on steroids, our world is in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. Talent today needs to constantly engage in a process of a learning and remaining teachable. It’s not a world for the meek but instead requires people who are self-starters, engaged learners with a propensity for curiosity.

As well as niche expertise in an industry, say AI, physics, cloud experience etc., here are the top skills needed by 2020 as defined by the World Economic Forum:

1. Complex Problem Solving

2. Critical Thinking

3. Creativity

4. People Management

5. Coordinating with others

6. Emotional Intelligence

7. Judgment and Decision-Making

8. Service Orientation

9. Negotiation

10. Cognitive Flexibility

Over the next five years, many industries will undergo ongoing disruption as automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence and other changes take hold. As a coach and a recruiter, I encounter the real need to nurture an individual’s capacity to collaborate, innovate, self-direct and problem-solve on a regular basis especially within the mathematical and engineering fields where high potentials need to grow their skills from coaches or strong mentors. I also experience firsthand how difficult these abilities are to source and cultivate.

Once you get past an even playing field of technical competency, the most successful talents today possess high levels of curiosity and an ability to integrate information with high-level strategic thinking and creative problem-solving abilities. To thrive is to be a continuous learner. It’s essential. Curiosity is the innate driver of developing abilities, aptitudes, and skills.

At the end of the day, successful corporations are essentially the product of well-sourced talent that when brought together form a highly effective organization. Talent drives innovation, competitiveness, and growth. The ability to be agile and continually adapt is essential in today’s world and only those workers who are able to be flexible and continually learn consistently win.

Talent must keep pace with the rapid technological advancement and constant shifts that will occur as the 4th Industrial revolution takes off. Most of the jobs that will be in-demand in the next five to ten years don’t exist today. Companies will have to focus more on training and re-training for technical competencies. Both physical and organizational boundaries will become blurred, and given the complexity of change management, businesses will need to be able to collaborate rather than compete. This environment means strong emotional intelligence and collaborative abilities will be the key determinant factors of whether or not an employee is able to succeed.

According to the World Economic Forum, the other factor we see today is the need for workers to possess strong social skills. Workers must possess high levels of social skills, as well as being agile with strong levels of curiosity will be able to thrive as we move deeper into the 21st Century. As long as talent remains willing to constantly update their technical skills, seek out re-training and leadership development, they will thrive. 

The other factor we see is the need for a workforce educated in an interdisciplinary manner by integrating sciences, mathematics, and humanities. This educational approach teaches people to be able to understand context. For example, reading and analyzing data is a critical thinking function sorely lacking in many people. The ability to read numbers and then place the information into a situational context is a critical function now and in the future. Broad-based social and collaborative skills are more in demand than narrow technical skills. Education needs to be fundamentally rethought and many MBA programs are beginning to tackle this issue to focus on the most-needed competencies and skills.

What we also have come to recognize is that a liberal arts education is indeed valuable and that graduate work needs to be more efficient. There’s an educational training gap and we need the ‘learning organization’ to evolve workers abilities so they can perform at the necessary pace.

Coaching plays a vital part of training and re-training the workforce especially in terms of mastering soft skills and ability to see through blind spots. While there will be a need to continue to retool the foundation of education, there will also be a need for on the job training. The 4th industrial revolution is characterized, in large part, as change and adaptation. Those who remain teachable and qualified will transition into new roles that did not exist before. The ability to quickly pivot and adapt is critical in our technology-driven world to keep everyone moving FORWARD.

Originally published at medium.com