How competent are you for the future? - Michelle Gibbings

In your schooling years it’s likely your learning focused on technical skills and knowledge – being able to write, spell, add and subtract or understand why volcanoes explode and dinosaurs became extinct. Even in later years of study, university or TAFE, and when you enter the workforce the focus is often on technical skills and knowledge – be it project management, social media, data analytics, maintenance, operations, or quality assurance.

Useful? Yes, but if that’s where your learning starts and ends there’s a problem, because when you look ahead and to the future skills demanded in the workplace it’s way more about competencies.

Competencies are abilities or attributes that are described in terms of the behaviour that a person needs to have to be highly effective in a role. They are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ and include such things as: reasoning, creativity, problem solving, judgment, common sense, compassion and empathy.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum released a list of the top 10 skills (which are actually competencies) that a person needed by 2020 to thrive in the time of the aptly named Fourth Industrial Revolution. 2020 is now just around the corner!

They are:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgment and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

None of them are technically based skills.

The good news is they are also highly transferable skills, because none of those competencies are role specific. For example, some (not all) of the competencies for a HR manager would be the same as the competencies for a finance manager. Some of the competencies for a teacher are the same as a change manager or learning and development professional.

So how prepared is your competency skill set for the future?

In looking at the list, how would you rate yourself? For each skill rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 4:

  1. No current skill
  2. Some skill or knowledge, but not proficient
  3. Competent at the skill
  4. Expert with a high degree of skill

It’s likely in doing that you’ve uncovered there’s a few gaps that exist.

Closing those gaps isn’t about just running off and getting trained, because learning those competencies requires practice. Sure, training can help, but also look for opportunities at work, in the community or in your personal life where you can get the opportunity to learn, try, test and ultimately master the competencies you want to elevate.

Add to your learning mix books to read, journals to subscribe to, and people to meet who can share their learnings about how they use those competencies. Uplifting your competency effectiveness won’t be the result of one activity or one time, it requires ongoing focus.

In doing this, remember the statement for Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.