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Future Skills

As the requirements for work change, we must optimize how talent and skills connect and combine to get work done. At Willis Towers Watson, we approach this challenge with a sense of opportunity and possibility that’s grounded in fact and reality.

The way we work is changing and even in a couple of years from now, skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will be different.

The fourth industrial revolution is bringing automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning into the workplace.

To keep up with the rapid pace of change, chief human resources and strategy officers will need to consider how these developments will shift current skillsets and the resources that will be needed to help support a change in recruitment.

“Approximately 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020. Despite the growing need for adult reskilling, opportunities for broad-based and inclusive reskilling are currently not available at the appropriate levels of access, quality, and scale of supply in most countries.”

Source: World Economic Forum, Accelerating workforce reskilling for the fourth industrial revolution: An agenda for leaders to shape the future of education, gender and work, July 2017

Changing skills

The World Economic Forum highlights key skills that were considered vital in 2015, against a different set of key skills that will be important by 2020.

Creativity is increasingly one of the top three skills that workers will need. With the introduction of new technologies, employees will need to adapt and become more creative to benefit from these changes. Creativity is also a key point of difference between robots and humans – a skill that humans can use to demonstrate value above emerging technologies.

Top 10 skills


  • In 2020
    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
  • In 2015
    1.  Complex Problem Solving
    2.  Coordinating with Others
    3.  People Management
    4.  Critical Thinking
    5.  Negotiation
    6.  Quality Control
    7.  Service Orientation
    8.  Judgment and Decision Making
    9.  Active Listening
    10.  Creativity
  • Source: Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum

Change won’t wait

To keep pace with changing skills and future job requirements companies’ employers not only need to identify reskilling pathways for talent whose work is being subsumed by automation, but also to identify ‘skill and will’ gaps as automation changes skill premium. Companies need to identify areas where development is needed, and also develop and execute plans for building employee capabilities and enhancing the new skillsets required.

Change won’t wait for us to keep up and to stay ahead. Business leaders, educators, governments and employees all need to be proactive and take a role in driving opportunities for up-skilling and re-training so everyone can benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Reskilling pathways – our approach

Understand the data

It is essential for employers to collect data on business strategy activities in order to understand both current and future work needs. This helps employers to understand current and future skill demands.

Map knowledge to work

Employers need to ask the following questions –

  • How will we map knowledge to work?
  • What internal and external data can be leveraged to verify the current demand for skills? (e.g. job postings, job descriptions)
  • What internal and external data can be leveraged to verify the future demand for skills? (e.g. job postings, job descriptions)
  • How will we understand the supply of knowledge and skills that the employee brings to the table?

Determine skill sets and adjacencies

By understanding the skill adjacencies and supply to meet demand within the organisation you can begin to determine level of business investment needed for reskilling.

Enable talent applications

Companies must determine how to best deploy talent to gain the required skills, develop reskilling pathways and align with existing talent programs.