The world of work is rapidly changing, with the advancement of AI reshaping the business status quo and the skills required for the present and future workforce. As a result, business needs to adapt to these changes to equip individuals with the necessary skills to succeed, a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute suggests.
From the increasing role of AI in our work routine, as highlighted by the increasing integration of ChatGPT, to the hybrid working scheme, which is adopted by most companies worldwide, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic activity, employment, and our way of working have been far-reaching. How does this affect the future of work and what should future workers have in mind in order to flourish and adapt to this dynamic environment?
What are the key skills for the future workforce?
The study outlines 56 foundational skills that individuals need to have to future-proof their ability to work. The skills are divided into four broad categories: cognitive, digital, interpersonal, and self-leadership. Within these categories, there are 13 separate skill groups and 56 distinct elements of talent (DELTAs). The study found that proficiency in these DELTAs is already associated with a higher likelihood of employment, higher incomes, and job satisfaction:
1. Critical thinking
- Structured problem solving
- Logical reasoning
- Understanding biases
- Seeking relevant information
2. Planning and ways of working
- Work-plan development
- Time management and prioritization
- Agile thinking
- Storytelling and public speaking
- Asking the right questions
- Synthesizing messages
- Active listening
4. Mental flexibility
- Creativity and imagination
- Translating knowledge into different contexts
- Adopting a different perspective
- Ability to learn
1. Mobilizing systems
- Role modeling
- Win-win negotiations
- Crafting an inspiring vision
- Organizational awareness
2. Developing relationships
- Inspiring trust
3. Teamwork effectiveness
- Fostering inclusiveness
- Motivating different personalities
- Resolving conflicts
1. Self-awareness and self-management
- Understanding own emotions and triggers
- Self-control and regulation
- Understanding own strengths
- Self-motivation and wellness
- Courage and risk-taking
- Driving change and innovation
- Energy, passion and optimism
- Breaking orthodoxies
3. Goals achievement
- Ownership and decisiveness
- Achievement and orientation
- Gift and persistence
- Coping with uncertainty
1. Digital fluency and citizenship
- Digital literacy
- Digital learning
- Digital collaboration
- Digital ethics
2. Software use and development
- Programming literacy
- Data analysis and statistics
- Computational and algorithmic thinking
3. Understanding digital systems
- Data literacy
- Smart systems
- Cyber security literacy
- Tech translation and enablement
To gauge proficiency levels, the study devised a psychometric questionnaire that assessed respondents’ proficiency in each DELTA. A total of 18,000 people from 15 countries completed the online questionnaire and were given a score on a scale of 0 to 100 for each DELTA.
The results showed that respondents’ proficiency was lowest in the digital skill groups of software use and development and understanding digital systems, as well as the cognitive skill groups of communication and planning and ways of working. However, those with a university degree had higher average proficiency scores across all 56 DELTAs. This suggests that higher education levels can better prepare individuals for changes in the workplace.
The study also found that proficiency in certain DELTAs is associated with different work-related outcomes. For example, employment was most strongly associated with proficiency in several self-leadership DELTAs, including adaptability and coping with uncertainty.
High incomes were most strongly associated with proficiency in the digital skill groups of understanding digital systems and software use and development, as well as the cognitive skill groups of planning and ways of working and communication. Job satisfaction was also associated with certain self-leadership DELTAs, such as self-motivation and wellness, coping with uncertainty, and self-confidence.
The way forward
The maritime industry is not immune to the changes of the future of work. The industry has been quick to adapt to digitalization and the use of automation and AI, which make the findings of the McKinsey study more relevant than ever.
The future of work in the maritime and any other industry requires employees to continuously upskill and reskill themselves. They should embrace new technologies and ways of working and remain adaptable to change. Leadership will have a great role to play. Employers in the maritime industry should provide training and development opportunities that focus on the foundational skills required for the future workforce.
In addition, it is essential to promote a culture of lifelong learning and encourage employees to take ownership of their own professional development. Seafarers should prioritize their physical and mental wellness to maintain their performance and resilience while at sea.
Based on these findings, it could be assumed that governments have a role to play by reforming education and adult-training systems to focus more strongly on developing the DELTAs, and ensuring effective collaboration between employment agencies, regional governments, and national governments. The future of work will require individuals to have a set of foundational skills that:
- add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines,
- operate in a digital environment, and
- continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations.
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