The University of Phoenix and Institute for the Future recently combined forces in order to produce the Future Work Skills 2020 report, examining what exactly propel's change and which skills we'll have to fine tune if we want to keep up. 

Game Changers and Skills

IFTF’s foundational forecasts in areas such as education, technology, demographics, work, and health were mashed up with the findings from one of the University of Phoenix's recent workshops. During this workshop, the Phoenix team engaged experts in a number of group exercises to think through key drivers of change and how these will impact workplace skill requirements.

According to the final report, the six major game changers are as follows:

  • Extreme longevity - Increasing global lifespans change the nature of careers and learning
  • Rise of smart machines and systems - Workplace automation nudges human workers out of rote, repetitive tasks
  • Computational world - Massive increases in sensors and processing power make the world a programmable system
  • New media ecology - New communication tools require new media literacies beyond text
  • Superstructured organizations - Social technologies drive new forms of production and value creation
  • Globally connected world - Increased global interconnectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the center of organizational operations

None of these trends come as a surprise, but they are in fact pushing along the workplace and employees from all shapes and sizes of business would do well to think about how they're shifting and changing daily routines. 

On the key skills side, the report highlights the following as a result of said drivers:

  • Sense-making - The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  • Social intelligence - Ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired intentions
  • Novel and adaptive thinking - Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.
  • Cross-cultural competency - Ability to operate in different cultural settings.
  • Computational thinking - Ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
  • New-media literacy - Ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communications.
  • Transdisciplinarity - Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
  • Design mindset - Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.
  • Cognitive load management - Ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.
  • Virtual collaboration - Ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

Sadly, these "skills of the future" come as even less of a surprise, and for the most part fit into already established terms such as analytical thinking, quantitative reasoning and social media. Virtual collaboration is really the only new add here, and even that term is better received as social business

Get Social! -- Or Not

As most of you probably know by now, social business is taking the Internet by storm, but a new study from business insurance provider Hiscox says small businesses aren't getting swept up in it. The company polled 204 decision makers for U.S. businesses with between one and 249 employees in June of this year. Of those polled, only 12% considered using social media a “must” for their business. 

Meanwhile, 50% of respondents said they couldn't do without word-of-mouth marketing, and a mere 4% said the same about social media marketing.

Further, eMarketer reported that a whopping 64% of those polled in its own survey said social media was either not necessary or not something they had an opinion about. Of those small businesses that were using social media for marketing, Facebook was the most common platform, followed by LinkedIn.

“We typically don’t see that they see this as the be-all, end-all,” said Nicole Perrin, senior editor at eMarketer. “They’re still very focused on traditional word of mouth and very used to traditional marketing.”

Discussing the Future

As it stands, IFTF's report (in full here) is best suited for students or employees that haven't done much thinking about the current state of the workplace, while eMarketer's findings indicate the social movement is going to take even longer to fully develop than some of you might have anticipated. This is mildly surprising, especially when we consider how social business's current state is practically built for and around SMBs. 

Seems like now's a fine opportunity to discuss both the present and future in depth, doesn't it? If you've anything to add to IFTF's list, or something to say regarding social business adoption, do so in the comments below and let's see if we can get a meaningful conversation going.