Soft skills will shape the workforce of the future

Written by Armin Hopp on 30 October 2017

Digital technology and artificial intelligence are transforming the workplace. So much so that many people see automation as a threat to their jobs. More than a third (37%) of people are worried about automation putting their jobs at risk, up from 33% in 2014, according to a PwC survey of 10,000 people across the globe.

There is no doubt that sweeping changes in technology are having a massive effect on the shape of the workforce. Organisations are increasingly working with nimble, virtual teams, setting up and disbanding teams as needed to work on projects.

It is now quite easy to select the most appropriate and highly skilled team members from around the globe and enable dispersed teams to work together using collaborative cloud technologies. This approach allows organisations to be more productive and responsive – cutting costs associated with recruitment and travel.

There is a growing focus on ethics and organisations are under pressure to be able to show that they treat their workers well.

At the same time, consumers and clients are becoming increasingly demanding – requiring ever-higher levels of personalised service. They are becoming more knowledgeable about – and critical of – the organisations they spend money with. There is a growing focus on ethics and organisations are under pressure to be able to show that they treat their workers well.

At first glance, these two major drivers for change – more automation alongside a greater focus on the human element of the workforce – might seem incompatible. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. As machines take over the mundane, routine tasks, the work that is left over for humans to do relies more than ever on a high level of human soft skills, particularly communication skills.

Against this backdrop, building a workforce of multi-skilled individuals with good soft skills remains a major issue for most organisations, according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey. Almost half (46%) of respondents to the Deloitte global survey cited talent acquisition as a ‘very important issue’, and 36% cited it as an ‘important issue’.

There are a number of steps that learning professionals can take to address this issue by improving internal capabilities and reducing the need for external talent acquisition:

  • Use technology to support soft skills development. Towards Maturity’s 2016-2017 Learning Benchmark report points out that training in business-critical soft skills of problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and communication, offered in over 80% of organisations, is less likely to be delivered electronically, than topics such as IT or health and safety.

However, organisations that Towards Maturity identifies as high achieving, learning organisations, the so-called ‘Top Deck,’ are twice as likely to use technology for these skills than the rest of the sample. They are also much more likely to offer and to e-enable study skills programmes (59% of high achievers do this, compared with 37% in rest of the sample).

  • Blend learning delivery. Organisations who have been successful at improving efficiency tend to be those who have integrated technology into face-to-face training (45% of successful organisations compared with 21% of the rest). Almost twice as many Top Deck organisations (84%) have implemented blended learning compared with 45% of lower achieving organisations.
  • Engage learners by communicating the relevance of soft skills training. People want to spend their time on meaningful and relevant tasks at work and this extends to learning activities too. It is important to review training programs continually, to make sure that they are meeting the needs of both businesses and learners and that learners can see the point of the training on offer.

It is inevitable that certain jobs will be lost to technology but that does not mean that organisations need to lose the people in those roles as well. Underpinned by effective communication skills, individual employees within an adaptable and agile workforce will have the skills they need for redeployment into different roles.

For further information about the benefits of soft skills development please learn more in this article ´Important soft skills in global markets´


About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx. More than 8 million users in 1,500 organisations use Speexx to learn a language smarter and deliver results on time. For more information, visit



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