Skills For The Future

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The Future of Skills. I’m sure you have heard this phrase. It’s everywhere. Some sites provide the answer to the question – “What are the skills of the future?” Yet, that shouldn’t be the question.

What should be the first question – “What do skills of the future mean?” “How does it apply to those individuals who are in working in Corporate?” “How will it apply to those in education, or farming or with blue-collar jobs?”

Those are the questions, that everyone seems to be avoiding. And it is a shame, because not everyone works in the corporate sector. The World Economic Forum’s job forecast focused only on Business. Not farming. Nor education. Nor any other sector that isn’t business (i.e. corporate).

In the blog, I will refer to corporate to include for-profit, non-profit, and associations.

What is the impact of universities and colleges related to training students for the skills of the future?

Perhaps a better way to say this is that if we go by their track record during 2020 with remote learning (edtech’s term, not mine), I’d say pretty dismal. Universities and colleges should be embarrassed, for how they decided that students away from the physical location should learn. If anyone set back the e-learning industry for EdTech, it was the sector itself – universities and colleges (yes there were exceptions, but there was far more griping about how awful e-learning is, then love).

Instead of boring everyone with Zoom or web conferencing calls, they could have done any of the following

  • Created asynchronous-based courses, allowing students to bounce around and focus on areas of interest and knowledge – tapping into developing skills and building them, by having real-life scenarios within the course, each chapter actually.
  • Tapping into gaming thru skill-building and applying those skills to other content items they would have access to online. We aren’t talking about people buying a $50 latest greatest, a simple fun game could have been created or found on the net.
  • Project-based, project-driven tying into the skills for that subject matter and application. If online – a virtual lab, or virtual camp, if offline – way many options.
  • Leveraging social that the kids are using today, with the creation of videos on Tik Tok for example, around a specific skill for them to learn tied to the subject. I mean, what is the training one people often do at the beginning of so many sessions – how do you make a peanut butter sandwich? It requires you to use a variety of skills, from formulation to process to implementation. Remember it is step by step, critical thinking exercise. Hello, business skill.

Part of the blame has to be on the learning systems focused only on the edtech market, because I couldn’t find one that had skills functionality like a skills library tied to various learning subjects. The ones who have a skills library capability, and again even then it wasn’t universal, played in corporate too.

This is WHY

Corporate will have to be the ones who identify, build, develop the skills of folks entering the workforce, because it won’t come the way of universities or colleges, not those who offer at least 50% of the programs 100% online for a degree (you never have to be in a physical classroom), nor those whereas students attend a physical classroom setting. Sure it depends on the subject, I mean Journalism usually involves learning skills from reporting, to typing, to ledes etc. Compared to say Philosophy. But why couldn’t you take a subject like philosophy and tap it into a business or non-business setting, and allow the student to explore what are the measures to resolve XYZ from a philosophical or ethical standpoint?

I digress.

The point is that, you, the head of L&D or you, the head of Training or even you, the head of sales or HR or product or whoever is going to the main person responsible for providing the skills for these folks. Life skills. Technical skills (if applicable). Professional development skills and so forth. Soft skills is just one part, that everyone knows, but even some basic skills that you will think they will acquire in their schooling, may come at a bummer to you, that they haven’t.

Today, kids are using technology everywhere. Great, you think. But then consider what is taking place in Japan, where young people (college, 20s) are hiring people to help them on dates. Now, this doesn’t mean the three is crowd here, rather they hire dating experts to help with having a conversation – communicating, listening to another person on a date, without looking at their mobile device.

That – the art of communication, listening, eye contact is going by the wayside and it, as in as a life skill, isn’t something normally offered in a non-corporate, let alone corporate setting – because it goes beyond customer service or communicating with your team type of stuff.

Listening is a crucial skill and will be in our new world, post COVID-19 (granted it will still be around).

Corporate World Skills of the Future

Every where I look, I see technical skills. Technology skills. Skills to be a data scientist. Skills to be something with technology and so on. What they forget is that not everyone is going to be a data scientist. Not everyone is going to be using Python or other programming languages. Not everyone really needs to know how AI or machine learning or deep learning works.

And yet, there is this overwhelming push towards technology skills.

The skills that people need in 2022 (I won’t go past that, because if we have learned anything, is that anything can happen and disrupt), will be the following in the corporate side

  • Communication, Writing and team work with a remote workforce

The majority of white-collar workers are not going to return to the office. Traditional companies such as Ford, have stated that they only need to be there two or three days a week. My vibe is that it will be dependent on what they are working on. Target has cut back on office space in their downtown Minneapolis HQ and followed the same two or three-day thing. And there is many more following suit. Just as there are plenty who have realized that their workers never have to come into the office.

There will be exceptions, of course, Facebook, for example, has stated they want their workers back in the office, but overall, the more common will be remote.

Communicating with someone remote thru Teams, Slack and other SaaS solutions/apps requires finesse. They can’t see you, thus tone becomes critical. It is easy to misinterpret something because you are thinking in one tone when they could be writing in another.

Grammar becomes relevant again. Effective writing too. Any verbal communication will likely come via one of these apps or thru Zoom or similar, which thus requires skills around the team, building rapport, eye contact, facial expressions, and so on. When people see others looking at a mobile device, they will think they are not paying attention, and yet that person might be typing what is being said.

  • Microsoft Office 365 Skills – People are working from home, they are using their own computers, and thus their own products. If they are a Mac User they may not be using Office 365, so uh, get ready to buy – for them (if they are not). Word 365, PowerPoint 365, Excel 365 become everyday tools in the remote workforce. Outlook 365 or Gmail too. Yet there are plenty of 3rd party content providers who lack Gmail training for example. The skills to acquire here go beyond how to open a file. I attended a presentation the other day, whereas they couldn’t figure out how to go to presentation mode for the PPT, resulting in a few minutes of watching them on-screen move around the mouse in PowerPoint to figure it out. And these were well-educated, professionals, one of which, had technical skills.
  • Internet SaaS solutions – Again tapping into the remote workforce angle, you are going to have more and more people leveraging SaaS solutions/apps than before (such as web conferencing solutions), especially if in your workplace, you block the internet or block social. Well, hello -those days are gone.

People ignore the social media site, but you should seriously look at getting content on communication tied around social. This is because there continue to be mishaps on social media with workers who say something or do something and now everyone sees it. Even if they say “these are my own views”, it won’t matter if the comment is offensive or disgusting in some fashion – the complaints will be coming to you – the company, the business, and so forth.

Technical tied to apps like Teams, Slack, and soon others to follow – Too many tech skill sites focus on programming language, coding, or algorithms – great if you are into that, but since the majority of the workforce isn’t – well, it isn’t relevant. What are the technical solutions they are using daily – those are the skills you want them to learn.

  • Critical thinking, reasoning, complex problem solving, situational problem-solving skills will be as important as technology skills.

Not everyone is going to need to know how Mr. Roboto is going to work, learning robotics, especially if Mr. Roboto eventually replaces the human worker.

  • Skills tied to the job role are obvious, but push past that and tie in skills that tap into the person themselves. Which means life skills, sometimes noted as personal skills. Time management is a skill. Identifying stress and the ways to resolve that or at least relax is a skill. Maybe you decide to offer the skill of mediation to your employees. No one is forced to take it, but there will be those who do. Well-being becomes a critical part of the day-to-day corporate experience.
  • Understanding the impact of new technology – This is not the same thing as learning a technical skill like AI. Rather it is acquiring skills to adapt to the ever-changing world, regardless of the business.
  • Foreign Language – I know most people will disagree, but learning a new language (even if it is 10 words) is of great value. Part life skill, part professional development. We are a global village as Marshall McLuhan rightly predicted, back in the ’60s, and not everyone speaks the same language. The fact that millions of people every day are on mobile devices taking a foreign language, should tell you that, uh, it is relevant and of interest. Yet, you hardly find it on a learning system – or even content that a vendor will add to their marketplace.


A wonderful world. Truly, wonderful. But, ummm how does that work exactly, If I am not aware that I need that skill? Upskilling sounds like a word that belongs in the Ivory Tower ( a term meaning academia). Reskilling sounds great too, unless those folks happen to be blue-collar, who have lost their job, then where pray tell are they supposed to get that reskilling? Who is providing that to them? How many of your blue-collar workers at your company, do you offer reskilling to? How many of them do you offer them new skills to acquire beyond their job role? Ask yourself, is upskilling just for a privileged few or is it for everyone at the company – from the executive assistant to the C-suite?

The problem is that upskilling and reskilling are now parts of the lexicon, great if you are one of the folks who are offered that, no so great, if not. And it isn’t a one for all, all for one type of thing either, usually it is one of few.

Safety Skills

If your workers are not going to be working in the office, then these skills can be tweaked, from the office to home – again, life skills around safety. It is a different mindset to be sure, but one that is relevant.


Tap into more skills around what you offer to your white-collar workforce. It always amazes me how many companies rely on the plant worker, the maintenace worker, the person in the field for day to day operations, yet fails to offer them any skills that go beyond them doing their job. It is as if, they do not have any aspirations or interest in acquiring skills that are not job related.

Trust me, they are. Critical thinking is very relevant. Decision making? Relevant. New technologies that are coming – relevant. Automation may be relevent to one set of your blue-collar workforce, but not the other.

Listening though is universal. Teamwork? Universal. Problem solving? Relevant. And the list goes on.

Skills tied to Scenarios

To utilize any skill, will require the L&D or Training department, or learning system to incorporate scenarios that can be leveraged to learn and apply these skills. Virtual labs or virtual camps. Digital Scenarios.

Small Business, One person Ops, Consultants, etc.

If you are a small business, or a one person shop, or a consultant, or someone who provides services, the skills you will need for 2022 include

Customer communication – If someone isn’t wearing a mask, and doesn’t want to, what are you going to do about it? Conflict resolution, de-escalation becomes crucial.

Decision making – I’d argue that this is one skill that everyone needs because I see it daily, where folks can’t make a decision without pondering it for a long period of time. There are times you need to make a decision quickly, and in 2022, speed and efficiency will be critical.

How to use solutions such as Venmo? If you haven’t heard of it, trust me you will want to. I use it and it is fantastic. My stylist accepts it, my landscaper uses it, the painters use it, and then friends use it as well. It is gaining a lot of attention (it is owned by PayPal). I now offer it for folks who want to pay for my business services, and who have a Venmo account.

Technical as it pertains to your small business – from how to do payroll, budgeting, accounting 101, to managing a workforce around hiring and retention. Understanding data protection – especially if you are capturing data, is a worthwhile skill.

Bottom Line

The future of skills is not only technical or the usual groupings that you see every year. Professional development will be very relevant and a must need, beyond skills tied around job roles.

The big skill though, the one set of skills, that corporate and thus many are missing is the one that all workers will need help with


Or as those in Training and L&D will come to know it

Life Skills.