The Digital, AI and Automation technologies are transforming the world and the future of work. The Covid-19 pandemic has acted as a vigorous catalyst in this transformation and has tremendously accelerated the whole process. The future of work is likely to be very different from the one that we see now. Take for example education sector to which I belong. The traditional universities may soon see the end of the road if they do not quickly innovate and leverage modern technologies to make their offerings accessible with no geographical or time barriers. The EdTech companies are growing fast on the horizon and the future in all likelihood belongs to them. In the same way, each sector is transforming and so is changing the skills that will be demanded in the future to deal with this transformed work and workplace. From network being built across companies, we might have companies being built on the network completely. Some have already begun, and others are fast transitioning into the same.

So, what are the skills for the future? 

Mapping Skills for the Future

Many organizations have tried to enumerate the skills for the future. Some of them have really done a great job in doing the same. While these listings of future skills are good in their own ways, I could always find a likely missing skill in some other list. Therefore, I thought it is important to map these various future skills survey reports and create a one comprehensive future skills list that could serve both as a benchmark for various academic and corporate development programs as well as serve as a guide for personal professional development.


The mapping of the skills for the future was done in two steps –

Mapping across future of skills studies

Mapping future skills to skill categories

In the Mapping across future of skills studies six top future of skills studies were mapped. These include future of skills studies by global bodies, global consultancies, and top recruiter sites – World Economic Forum, Forbes, Institute for the Future (IFTF), McKinsey & Company, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) and Top Resume. The skills were assigned scores (weights) based on where they featured in terms of rank in a particular study. The scores for each skill was then aggregated. Since the maximum score for any skill was assigned as 10, hence any skill which had an aggregate score of less than 10 was not considered significant enough to be part of the final list. Keeping this criteria, 16 skills made it to the skills for the future category.  

This can be considered by far the most acceptable, relevant and rigorous skills list as this aggregates the rigour that was applied in completing each of these studies by their principal organizations.

In step 2, Mapping future skills to skill categories, the top 16 skills were mapped to 4 skill categories – Cognitive skills, People Skills, Personal Skills and Technological Skills.

Cognitive Skills 

Cognitive skills will be important in the future that help a person to learn, think, retain information, process information enabling a person to understand meanings, contexts, solve problems and make decisions. This is by far the most important category of skills for the future. Out of 16 skills, 6 skills namely active learning and learning strategies, critical thinking and analysis (sense making) (smart system), creativity, originality and initiative, judgement and decision making, complex problem solving, transdisciplinarity, analytical thinking and innovation fall under this category. Each of these skills can be further articulated in detail.

People Skills

With new work models coming into existence, the future of the workforce might be connected over a network. It should be less of a surprise if one finds a person of Indian nationality living in Dubai working for a European company. This is only going to intensify in the future. With the reduction of face-to-face contacts, people skills like teamwork, collaboration, social intelligence, leadership and social influence/people management and emotional (social) intelligence will be needed to manage work and engage people in the future.

Personal Skills

The future of work will also require people to change, adapt and learn at a rapid pace. The workplace built over the network is likely to be extremely diverse in all possible ways. And, rapid changes, disruptions might also bring with them high levels of stress. Personal skills like resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility, embracing change (coping with uncertainty), diversity & cultural intelligence (cross-cultural) (fostering inclusiveness and novel and adaptive (adaptability) would be in great demand in the future. 

Technological Skills

Technology has already pervaded the lives of all of us and the future is only going to make this mesh around us denser and stronger. Therefore, technological skills would be in great demand as well. Everyone will be expected to be not only tech-literate but tech-proficient. Technology Skills (use, control, monitoring) Digital Fluency and New Media Literacy will be the most in demand. 

About the Author

Dr. Debashish Sengupta is a celebrated award-winning author, millennial expert, business consultant, professor, a master trainer and a Harvard University certified teacher. He is the Asia Editor of ‘The Future of Earth’.


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