What are Beneficial Skills for Future (Digital) Workers?
Education faces the following scenario: The 21st century has opened many new doors in terms of employment possibilities. Freelancing and remote work has become a common way of employment in different occupations. So-called digital nomads have created a new lifestyle of combining remote work and world travel. Further, basically any office job has implemented more and more digital technology. This has and will create new jobs, particularly in the fields of IT, digital marketing and social media.
Even though economies have recognized the shift to a more digitalized workforce, it is exceptionally hard for educational institutions to stay tuned to the ludicrous speed by converting the proper skills to students. But what exactly does it mean to be a digital worker? What are the skills needed for the future workforce and how can particularly school education better prepare graduating students for the working world?
Meeting the needs of an ever-changing economy is difficult. Faculty constantly must be up-to-date with the latest trends in different industries and how those utilize technology. Stimulated by this complex but important issue, we tried to seek out a source, we have today, which we deem as most likely to tell us, what they would embrace as ‘must-learn’ for the digital economy. So we asked a number of CEOs and high ranking tech workers from multiple industries to share their insights. Find here the five key skills they mutually agreed on to help you succeed in the digital work environment:
STEM – for logical and rational thinking
Captain obvious incoming – let’s name the top candidate right away, so we get it out of our system. STEM in this context is short for Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics classes. Working in a technology heavy business environment profits from training in abstract and logical thinking – period.
The traditional curriculum, however, is often centered around the facts and figures of the sciences as ultimate truths. That area of skills should be enriched by a content of teaching, which allows you to debunk cognitive biases. Scientific ‘results’ are highly dynamic and constantly being disrupted by new empirical data. Bringing a healthy scepticism towards data and the thorough skills of analyzing it to classes would create a more mature workforce.
Beyond tech – be a human whisperer
The world out there is a world of humans. How does it actually work to work well in it? How do you lead a successful negotiation? When things heat up, how does nonviolent communication truly help your case and how do you keep it up? What makes you an engaging public speaker? These are not particularly new requirements of the workforce. However, nearly every interviewee has noted them as highly relevant.
Also, there is no good reason, why we mostly keep lessons about drivers of human behaviour out of school education. For example the practical understanding of well established psychological principles such as ‘sunk cost fallacy’ or ‘confirmation bias’ can dramatically help you to make the right decisions.
Digital collaboration and communication skills
Teamwork is a prevalent condition when working on projects in companies and businesses – another candidate not being entirely new. However, today collaboration happens mostly through digital communication and on cloud services that enable simultaneous editing. Company-internal Wikis share knowledge and different channel catalogs sustain different communication strategies.
While digital collaboration matters, workers also need to display excellent nonverbal, digital communication skills while collaborating. But also when communicating with customers, partners or suppliers, most of the conversation takes place digitally, via email, instant messaging, group chats etc. – optimally in multiple languages! An objective understanding of nonverbal communication is an important skill and requires workers to respond properly. Since digitalization enables real-time conversations, a challenge education could prepare for is to compose appropriate responses quickly. And to engage all stakeholders in a meaningful way.
Building character – know yourself
Technology can be overwhelming, especially for people who are not too tech-savvy. New platforms, apps and tools are developed constantly. As soon as workers have adopted the skills to work with one tool, a new one comes around the corner and replaces the old one. Technology overall and on top of that it’s quick innovative pace can become challenging and CEOs are aware of it. In such situations, it is not necessarily just about acquiring the needed skills, but also about patience, maturity and the acceptance of failure. How workers handle failure and challenges is often more important than overcoming the challenge itself. Strong personal skills help to deal with difficult situations and are most businesses highly value them.
Further, the basic skill of self-organization and learning can help reduce the aforementioned strain in the first place.
Digital Know-How instead of ‘Know-What’
Knowing facts and certain information by heart has become less meaningful over the years and in times of instant search engine access on digital devices. Countless tools, apps and devices help to maximize productivity at the workplace and find information online – if and only if workers know how to utilize them properly. The skill to find and apply information has become more important than the knowledge of information itself.
Ideally, workers instantly know which tools to use to solve a problem or which platforms to utilize to optimally serve different purpose. For example, using Google Docs to share a report with co-workers, Skype for conference calls or knowing which apps will simplify which work tasks.
So what Can Schools and Universities Teach to Improve Skills for the Digital Workforce?
It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, that the most prevalent idea from free economy for how to prepare students optimally for the future work environment was to expose them to real-life situations and where possible invest into the latest technologies.
No matter what educational institutions decide to implement or not, the working world will continue to develop regardless. Students can benefit from a reacting education that adopts to industries – but it is doubtful that entire educational systems will transform their curriculum. It is up to individual institutions and teachers how much technology they use in their courses.
In this article you find a collection of feedback from practitioners. What schools realistically can do to get across some skills to students is of course a different kettle of fish. And for sure a Herkules task on its own.