Even before the pandemic, corporations were already noticing that rapid advances in the business world were changing both the number and types of skills that successful employees would need. COVID-19 has only made such changes all the more drastic.
Fast forward to 2021, and we are in the midst of the “Great Resignation”. One Gallup survey found that the main reason for turnover – a total of 20% – was a lack of employee development opportunities. There are many other factors at play behind this phenomenon, but the only clear solution to reducing its effects are customized learning and career development programs that consistently and visibly impart vital skills to employees leading to higher retention rates.
While hard skills are still incredibly important, employees tend to keep and grow their hard skills on the job. Soft skills, on the other hand, is an area that many organizations haven’t yet mastered. Studies show that 70% of employees do not have all of the skills required for their current tasks. This skills gap is only destined to increase as the turnover in necessary skills reaches unprecedented levels, as we will see below.
Soft Skills in Demand Pre-COVID
According to the World Economic Forum, the most sought-after soft skills for job holders in 2018 included:
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Complex problem solving
- Creativity, originality, and initiative
- Attention to detail
- Emotional intelligence
This list is pretty typical of lists in the years prior as well. What’s interesting to note is what’s missing from the list – i.e. individual soft skills that allow employees to work independently, regardless of location or supporting staff.
But then again, hindsight is always 20/20.
What Soft Skills Look Like Post-COVID
Post-pandemic, economists, business leaders, and psychologists are still working out the long-term effects of this global event on the working world. But, at least intuitively, the mass movement of people to hybrid and fully remote work environments demands an increase in “self-management” skills.
Without the in-person supervision the workplace provides management, employees have been expected to adopt a greater level of discipline and task ownership. They must also deal with the stress of a ‘24-hour workday’ as the separation between their jobs and life at home disappears. At the same time, the COVID economy creates a much higher reliance on remote communications, a practice that requires employees to ‘stay connected day and night’ if they want to be successful.
It’s no surprise that the World Economic Forum report from 2020 revealed a dramatic shift in the focus of skills being used by employees. Now, the most desired soft skills are:
- Communication skills
The stark evolution here speaks for itself. While soft skills like communication and strategy come as no surprise, given the unique challenges of working conditions during the pandemic, what is surprising is that soft skills like meditation and gratitude also made the list, very likely a first. These types of skills are not something you would typically expect an employer to care about, but these qualities are important assets in the changing ecosystem.
The Scramble for Soft Skills
This change might be par for the course in the future. Each year, the number of skills required for a single position increases by 10%. In addition, skills are becoming highly perishable. 30% of the skills required by employees in 2018 were irrelevant by 2021.
So, what’s next? Strangely enough, the best answer to this question is, “don’t think about it”. Turns out that anticipating skill requirements and learning continuously is actually a worse move than reacting on the fly. Instead, companies need to perpetually monitor employees, managers, competitors, and their industry in general; discover what skills are essential in the latest work environment; and quickly develop L&D programs accordingly. The new strategy has moved to Agile L&D.
Employees trained in this way become ‘connected learners’. They receive (and seek) L&D programs according to the immediate needs of the market and their organization. An effective connected learning program results in 4.2 times the retention rate and a 25% increase in the speed of skills acquisition compared to other L&D concepts.
Close the Skills Gap with GrowthSpace
The problem is that now, coaches and mentors are continuously playing catchup to understand their clients’ current needs, while there are now full platforms dedicated to agile L&D and the experts that already have their fingers on the pulse of today and tomorrow’s skills.
GrowthSpace answers this challenge by sourcing experts from across the world according to skill. The management coach you’ve been working with for 20 years may be charming and empowering, but if they have never taught analytical thinking before, GrowthSpace is here to find the perfect, highly regarded expert match in this exact field.
GrowthSpace is also built to scale and can replicate this process across the whole organization. Imagine finding the right experts to teach five new skills to 400 employees in three locations. Sounds like a nightmare? The GrowthSpace solution was built specifically to handle scalable employee growth to help you and your employees reach your development goals. It utilizes a mix of technology and methods to break down L&D requirements for hundreds of people and then locate the best experts: mentors, coaches, and trainers for each subject.
It could be that 2021 will introduce a whole other range of skill requirements. As the end of the year approaches, we’ll soon find out. When that happens, will you be prepared?
Start preparing now by scheduling a demo to see how GrowthSpace matches experts to your employees and teaches the soft skills you need for today’s workplace.