The start of the new year has brought much speculation into what the top jobs will be, not only for the year, but for the future too.

With this in mind, how are we preparing both ourselves and our future talent for the opportunities that lie ahead?

With 2.32 million students studying at UK higher education institutions, the UK is now a world leader in 'skills'.

It has, on paper, the most skilled workforce the country has ever had. However, statistics show that there is actually a huge skills gap in the UK. We have crises of talent shortfalls in HGV drivers, constructions, quantity surveyors and engineers, amongst the other roles.

It is therefore essential that employers share the responsibility of developing their future talent and leaders to ensure that they have the right people, with the right skills coming through the ranks to deliver the business needs of the future.

Other statistics show that 31% of all graduates are not doing graduate, or high skilled jobs. Only half of all UK graduates are working in a field that relates to their degree after leaving university, in addition, 96% say they had switched careers by the time they reached the age of 24.

With so many further education options available, a degree is no longer the only way to prepare yourself for the job you've always wanted. If people decide that university isn't for them, then they shouldn't panic.

From degree apprenticeships and foundation degrees, to higher apprenticeships and traineeships, there are plenty more options out there, however the fundamental problem is many students just don't know they exist.

We also need to consider the views of those recruiting and possible biased managers. How do they choose to hire new talent needed in their organisation in order to create new talent and the leaders of the future? Are they happy to consider candidates from all of these routes or will they favour a degree as preferable.

With 84% of 16-24 year olds revealing that they don't know how to turn the interests they're passionate about into a career, and 49% of these respondents considering that their lack of qualifications halts them exploring aspirational career opportunities, it is about getting the right people for the right jobs, and supporting different kinds of learning types.

Degrees are all well and good but they largely focus on delivering technical skills only. There has often been a lack of focus on developing the behaviours, knowledge and skills that can create what is known as a 'T-shaped' member of staff who not only possesses in-depth specialist knowledge, but who also has a broad base of skills across different areas.

This poses the importance of soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are a set of skills that include behaviour, communication skills, teamwork aubility, management skills, appropriate attitude, etc. whereas hard skills are a set of specialist skills that are obtained through years of practice or learning, they can be described as skills that are needed for a specific task, or technical skills.

With the current demand for 'T-shaped' learners we need to develop our talent so that they have as much breadth of learning as possible. Organisations are looking for well-rounded individuals that can demonstrate both a broad range of soft and hard skills to be their leaders of the future.

So what are the key skills for future leaders?

According to LinkedIn:

  1. Creativity: all that talk about robots taking everyone's jobs? Not going to happen. That's because companies want people who can think their business to new heights.
  2. Persuasion: you need to persuade people of things every day, so you need the skills to do that compellingly and effectively.
  3. Collaboration: as companies knock down silos across the organisation, people are being expected to work together with other departments and co-workers like never before.
  4. Adaptability: we all know the old adage, the only thing constant is change and every workplace is subject to it. It's best to react better when change inevitably comes.
  5. Time management: this is a skill as old as time, but as new demands on your schedule emerge, you'll be ready to handle them.

How to stay one step ahead of the competition

As mentioned above, hard skills are just as important as soft skills, so companies should also be on the lookout for the following:

  1. Cloud computing: as the whole world makes the transition to the cloud, companies are scrambling for individuals with the skills to keep up with demand.
  2. Artificial intelligence: AI is disrupting all manner of industries, from retail to transport, those who fail to embrace it face being left behind.
  3. Analytical reasoning: in the world of big data, knowing what to do with it is proving crucial. It's all well and good having the information, but companies are looking for people capable of formulating solutions based on what it tells them.
  4. People management: leaders who can motivate, engage and empower employees are found to have greater success while also making a more welcoming work environment.
  5. UX design: it's the process of enhancing user satisfaction being the driving force behind any business model, ensuring a positive user experience is tantamount to success.

Many organisations are welcoming that these skills are going to be the driving force of future talent. So there is an urgent need for companies to invest in their people strategy by developing their existing employees to prepare them to be future leaders in this time of change, as well as upskill them to work more digitally in the future.

By embracing the skills mentioned above, and ensuring that the talent of the future will help organisations prepare for the future of work, and allow them to stay one step ahead of the competition.

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