Business Technology

Fit for the future: What skills employees need to prepare for the future workplace

6 min read

23 April 2019

Sick of hearing about the robot effect? No longer amused by the concerns surrounding the advent of automation and AI, and how it could replace workers? With employers now expecting candidates to demonstrate digital knowledge and keep pace with technological advances, it's important that we all know about the skills that will put employees in a strong position to thrive in the future workplace.

The skillsets demanded by modern jobs are changing and research suggests that as many as 20% of UK jobs are at risk of automation by 2030. So how can flesh-and-blood workers stay secure in this brave new world?

By 2021, the global cost of cybercrime is set to hit $6 trillion, putting cybersecurity specialists in high demand. Moreover, even those not employed in a dedicated cybersecurity role will be expected to demonstrate knowledge of modern threats and online security best practice.

Staying secure

Cyber attacks are one of the biggest threats facing businesses today and can cost them valuable information and property, as well as their reputation. In fact, damage to UK small businesses as a result of cyberattacks is estimated to total over £5 billion a year.

Cyberattacks are constantly becoming more sophisticated and harder to stop, it’s difficult for IT specialists to keep pace, let alone other employees. Struggling to stay up-to-date has led to 90% of successful cyberattacks being traced back to human error.

As a result, basic cybersecurity knowledge is becoming a must-have skill, not only for those working in dedicated IT roles but for all employee.

Everyone should be able to demonstrate best practice knowledge, from spotting suspicious emails to safely navigating security software like multi-factor authentication.

Those looking beyond the basics, to a career in IT security could reap the rewards of a high-demand role. Results from the 2018 IT Skills and Salary report saw cybersecurity-related training courses appear 6 times in the 20 highest-paying certificates.

The human touch

Some roles will simply never lose out to automation, as human skills like intuition, decision-making and personality are irreplaceable in business.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can provide an efficient service – automating roles like manufacturing and admin – however, there will always be the need for people. AI can only react to inputted stimuli, so when new problems arise, human reasoning is required to decide the next steps and protect important business relationships.

For example, when client expectations change mid-project, management should decide the most efficient resolution for all parties. Amendments need to be communicated to employees while also managing client relationships and expectations.

As automation becomes more common in business, and as more employees work remotely, the roles of HR and project managers will become even more important. Beyond managing timelines and teams, new ways of working call for a deeper focus on staff motivation, productivity and their wellbeing.

These invaluable skills are rewarded in salaries, too, with project management ranked as the third most lucrative training course in a recent study.

Breaking down big data

Big data is becoming the driving force of modern businesses, with the global big data market set to break the $100 billion mark in the next decade.

Large data sets hold the key for businesses, arming those who can analyse patterns and predict trends with the tools to drive efficiencies, develop innovative new products and services and improve the customer experience. However, data is useless to a business if it cannot be analysed effectively.

To retain the competitive edge big data can provide, businesses need to urgently invest in data analysis skills to extract “human-actionable” insights and turn these into commercial success. The lessons and benefits from these projects can then be used as the foundation for more ambitious projects moving forward. As the foundations of business are re-laid, with data at its core, employees trained in analytics will be an invaluable asset.

Emerging technology

Technology is set to continue shaping the global workplace, with automation, quantum computing and hybrid cloud becoming the new status quo.

The changing face of work doesn’t mean an end for people-led careers, though, technology will also play a role in creating jobs.

Automated tasks like language translation typically drive the human market to offer cheaper services to compete. This leads to businesses using cost-effective companies, creating a demand for more jobs.

There is also currently a shortage of skilled workers to fill new AI-related and similar innovative roles. New tech will never fully replace people and those with the knowledge to work alongside emerging technologies will find themselves in high-demand.

While this obviously applies to advanced roles – like quantum computing system engineers and cloud architects – anyone looking to progress in the future workplace should be equipped with an understanding of the fundamentals of how innovative technologies work.

There are plenty of tech courses available for all levels of employee, from foundation to expert, to help prepare for the office of the future.