Skills and mindset for the future world of work

Skills and mindset for the future world of work

What skills and mindset will you and your people need for the future world of work?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to replace many basic cognitive skills, while the need for other skills will grow, such as those relating to technology, social and emotional intelligence, and higher cognitive abilities – this is what separates us from the robots.

McKinsey did a survey last year to explore this topic. They studied 18,000 people in 15 countries to help governments around the world identify what skills would ensure their citizens become employable, and remain that way.

This article covers what you can learn from their findings so you know what to focus on, both for you as an individual and as the leader of a team or organisation.

McKinsey’s research

The study identified 56 skills which the researchers clustered into four categories:

  • Cognitive
  • Interpersonal
  • Self-leadership
  • Digital

It seems the area with the biggest gap is the digital category – particularly understanding digital systems, and using and developing software.

The team then evaluated which of the skills and mindsets would be linked to people being more likely to:

  • Be employable
  • Earn a higher income
  • Enjoy greater job satisfaction

Of all the skills and mindsets they’d listed, McKinsey ranked the top three which are required for success in each of the four categories. Here are the results, together with their definitions, and some builds from me:


    • Synthesising messages
      The ability to communicate a large amount of information concisely and insightfully.The additional value-add, in my experience working with senior leaders, is to cut through the reams of data, join the dots, and distil the relevant information relating to solving the issue (integrating the needs of different stakeholder groups)  – and, in particular, as it relates to the organisation’s purpose.
    • Coping with uncertainty
      The ability to operate effectively in situations with high uncertainty or when things don’t go according to plan.I think we can all relate to this one! Much has been written more recently about leadership agility and transformation – ten years ago it was about leading change. This skill and mindset is key for our wellbeing as well as effectiveness – I would urge having perspective and not taking it so personally.
    • Adaptability
      The ability to be open to changing the way of doing things.Building on ‘Coping with uncertainty’ above, our ability to adapt and deal with situations that we haven’t come across before is key to our marketability (and wellbeing). This can include being open to and embracing different viewpoints and cultures, and knowing what you were trained to do ten years ago may be less useful now – the jobs of the future don’t yet exist. It might seem scary, but if you scan your environment and industry to learn about trends, you can equip yourself ahead of time.

High income

    • Self-confidence
      The ability to trust and believe in yourself – your abilities, characteristics and judgement.In my experience this comes from investing in your personal development, knowing and accepting yourself – this then gives you the self-belief to trust your instincts, speak up, and make decisions.
    • Work-plan development
      The ability to identify the group and sequence of tasks needed to achieve a certain goal, and to assign deadlines and responsibilities.To me, this is classic project management stuff, and covers the day-to-day running of operations.
    • Organisational awareness
      The ability to understand how a large group can cooperate and coordinate, and the ability to navigate organisational procedures.The more responsibility you have as a leader, the more complex this becomes – and, therefore, the less you must try and control everything, and focus instead on setting the path forward and balancing a focus on people/relationships and task.

Job satisfaction

    • Self-confidence
      (As above)
    • Coping with uncertainty
      (As above)
    • Self-motivation and wellness
      The ability to maintain high motivation and energy by knowing and pursuing personal long-term goals as well as restorative activities.So… know yourself, set your goals, and do what you love!

You’ll no doubt notice some of the skills and mindsets are repeated under different headings. Having written 108 articles so far (this is 109), I’ve already covered many of the topics. Please scroll down for links to read more about whichever you are most interested in, or use the search bar on the Blog section of my website – all the articles are archived here.

What this means to you

As an individual and a leader, you need to ensure everyone has the skills and mindset they’ll need to survive the future world of work. It’s therefore a good idea to measure people against these key areas, test where they are currently at, and upskill them where necessary and in line with the company’s purpose and their personal aspirations.

Please let me know if you’d like help with any of that.

Related reading

Next month

Next month, we’ll look more deeply into ‘self-motivation and wellness’ – this is a particularly topical leadership trend for 2022, for yourself and your employees.