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Skills and the Future of Jobs

The accelerating pace of technological, demographic and socio-economic disruption is transforming industries and business models, changing the skills that employers need and shortening the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets in the process.

–The Future of Jobs Report 2016


The World Economic Forum

The recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report, The Future of Jobs, questions the “shelf life” of job skills, looking at the changing relevance of different types of skills. In the areas of professional services, information and communication technology, it is clear that some technical skills are increasingly obsolete due to change and automation. But it is expected that complex problem solving skills and analytical thinking skills are growing in relevance. Big data invariably needs to be properly analyzed, understood and communicated – to do this, a common critical thinking approach is essential.

Top Ten Skills, WEF: The Future of Jobs

  in 2020                                               in 2015

1.  Complex Problem Solving 1.  Complex Problem Solving
2.  Critical Thinking 2.  Coordinating with Others
3.  Creativity 3.  People Management
4.  People Management 4.  Critical Thinking
5.  Coordinating with Others 5.  Negotiation
6.  Emotional Intelligence 6.  Quality Control
7.  Judgment and Decision Making 7.  Service Orientation
8.  Service Orientation 8.  Judgment and Decision Making
9.  Negotiation 9.  Active Listening
10. Cognitive Flexibility 10. Creativity


Chuck Kepner and Ben Tregoe, who founded Kepner-Tregoe (KT) nearly 60 years ago, believed that critical thinking skills, and specifically complex problem solving skills, are what matter the most. Year-after-year, government and industry analysts have agreed when surveying the future of jobs and training.

The WEF concludes that investing in employee skill development is needed to ensure effective collaboration and knowledge exchange. The report notes that people should be encouraged to be more flexible in their skill set in preparation for future change and, as seen in the table, the long-lasting skills are preferred over specific, technical skills.

IT service and support organizations have joined manufacturing and consumer products companies in recognizing that effective root cause analysis is key to ensuring stability, quality and customer satisfaction. Employees with the skills to apply critical thinking processes to issues can quickly adapt to change, regardless of changing technology, past experience and expertise. Durable skills like critical thinking and complex problem solving have proven to enhance careers and to optimize corporate training investments.

The long-term shelf life of critical thinking skills embodied in the KT methods for situation appraisal, problem solving, decision making and risk/opportunity analysis have been integrated into “the way work is done” at organizations worldwide. Every year KT clients report that after learning and supporting the use of KT methods, organizations achieve significant ROI on skill development investments. Annual savings in the millions of dollars are attributed to the use of KT methods at companies in a wide range of industries. On an individual level, people trained in the KT approach to critical thinking and complex problem solving credit their skills for enhancing their careers and personal lives.

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Skills for the future of work- Part I
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Skills for the future of work- Part II
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The Future of Work is a Flexible, Adaptable, and Resilient Workforce
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The Future of Work: It’s not about getting new skills, it’s about using them

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