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The skills you need to succeed in 2021

Source: Financial Review

Experts say if the coronavirus pandemic taught employers anything, it’s that most jobs can be done from anywhere and technology skills are no longer just a buzzword.

COVID-19 may have accelerated the future of work, but it’s also pushed the fast forward button on the skills that will be in hot demand in 2021.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic we were living in a fast-changing world where demand for various skills was changing on a regular basis,” says executive coach Arash Arabi, chief executive of Sprint Agile and author of The Wise Enterprise.

“Now the pandemic has resulted in an abrupt and substantial change to the business landscape.”

The rise of remote work will democratise opportunity and put skills front and centre in 2021, says LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand managing director Matt Tindale.

“Workers who may not have had the means or desire to move to high cost of living areas will have access to new jobs, and companies will have access to different skills and talent than they had access to before,” he says.

The rise and rise of digital skills

Martin Herbst, chief executive of JobAdder agrees, adding that digital skills will become more prized than ever this year.

“The world has shifted to remote working and learning and companies have aggressively made changes to get more productive and efficient,” he says.

But having digital skills involves more than just being comfortable using software and implement new technologies, Herbst says.

“Effective collection, distillation and use of data will be at the core of companies’ future success and transformation,” he says.

“Think of all the skills you’ll need to make this happen – data querying and warehousing, project management for data management initiatives, data visualisation and analysis.”

Arabi says the shift in highly-prized skills as a result of the pandemic has already led to noticeable bumps in pay for cloud engineers, particularly those in the Amazon Web Services space, and the crisis has also spurred demand for information security professionals as well as legal, counselling, and healthcare professionals.

Demand for system and product design skills grew the fastest between 2019 and 2020, according to analysis of online job ads on Adzuna Australia by researchers at CSIRO’s Data61.

“These skills are required not only in professional, managerial and technical roles, but increasingly in machinery operators, drivers and administrators,” says Data61 principal research scientist Claire Mason.

Oral communication and language skills, healthcare or medical skills and resource management and decision-making are some of the other skills in hot demand from employers.

The soft skills to succeed

Along with strong digital skills, professionals who have strong analytical and interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn will be the ones who prosper in 2021, according to Mason.

Ben Thompson, chief executive of people management platform Employment Hero, anticipates soft skills like communication, flexibility, teamwork, emotional intelligence and empathy will be in high demand as workplaces look to recover from the pandemic.

“Although we are seeing signs of a COVID-recovery, the next few years are still going to be tough for people and businesses in many ways,” he says.

“From a leadership standpoint, communication skills will be vital as we adjust to more flexible modes of work. Without solid communication frameworks, leaders will struggle here.”

In the wake of the turmoil that 2020 inflicted on professionals, agility, resilience and an ability to adapt to change will become even more important in 2021.

“The most important skill for employees moving forward will be responsiveness to change and the ability to leverage the physical and digital environments that we work within to foster connections, relationships and culture,” says Keti Malkoski, director of unified working platform Nura Space.

“For jobseekers and current employees alike, a growth mindset will be fundamental to all roles in the future, especially as we move towards a ‘new normal’.”

As for Arabi, his predictions for the top skills of 2021 are: emotional and social intelligence, systems thinking and systems dynamics, marketing and lean thinking and business agility.

“Irrespective of what profession you work in, there are certain transferable skills that will be highly prized during times of uncertainty,” he says.

“Professionals who think strategically will strive to be better than their competitions. These skills will give you the competitive advantage that may land you that job or promotion next year.”

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