The Top 10 Skills 2020’s Workplace Will Demand

Written by Holtby Turner

Nine times out of ten, when I think of ‘Professional Development’ I’m thinking about skills that relate to client search at Holtby Turner. But with a new year, new start focus, I decided to turn that focus on me, and come January 8th I was ‘on it’, as they say.

When we were researching our innovation report A Brave New World? Innovating Real Estate, I was blown away by the sheer volume of tech available that promised to make day to day work easier. Always keen on ways to work smarter, I enjoyed a piece the World Economic Forum did in 2016, where they were trying to find out how technology will impact employers come 2020. And, in turn, what those employers will want from their employees in 2020.

They interviewed 350 execs from 15 of the world’s most powerful economies, and 9 industries, and as some of the skills they found will be high in demand are not traditionally associated with senior management in real estate, I thought I’d share them. So, the Top 10 Skills 2020’s Workplace demands are:

  1. Cognitive Flexibility

In short, this spans creativity, reasoning – with a quick mind at spotting problems, and being able to adapt the way you communicate depending to whom you’re speaking.

  1. Negotiation Skills

For me, this isn’t new and sits at the top of my list already. But, it’s talking about industries where we often wouldn’t associate negotiation as important – such as software, digital arts and design.

  1. Being Service Orientated

Defined as: “actively seeking ways to help others” Are you a team giver? Do you mentor less experienced colleagues? Are you empowering and showing support to your boss? Are you known as thoughtful and considerate?

  1. Judgment & Decision Making

Just as Dan Hughes at RICS makes abundantly clear for all in real estate, the exponential amount of data gathered by most organisations will increase demand for people who can analyse it and use it to think smartly. Plus, judgement in this context also includes understanding different perspectives and knowing how to get buy-in or taking a stand you truly believe is right, using your judgement to deliver that message to your boss or colleague intelligently. Which leads to …

  1. Emotional Intelligence

I am obsessed with Robotics from my automotive days, and whilst they can do A LOT, they are still emotionally empty. They’re years away from being able to read other people’s feelings, which is a critical component of teamwork and winning business. So even if we each have a slightly different understanding of the ‘intelligent’ part, emotional intelligence as it relates to being aware of other people’s feelings, vulnerabilities and reactions, really matters. Now and more so as time goes on.

  1. Co-ordinating

Another social skill meaning to work collaboratively, flexibly and sensitively in relation to others, and their needs. Or as I think of it, simply collaborating.

  1. People Management

Motivating people, developing employee talent and skills, knowing who’s the best person for each job that needs doing. This sounds old school but think about – it focuses on who you’re picking and why not task by task management or oversight of what jobs they are doing. For that, there are very clever AI software tools you can use.

  1. Creativity

This one leapt up the list from 2015 where it was 10th. Why? Because for all the new tech out there, employers want people who creatively apply it to new products and services, creating more commercial value in an increasingly competitive world.

  1. Critical thinking

As automation increases, professionals who critically assess the positives and negatives that technology brings will be the ones shaping our future in real estate, spotting the commercial opportunities others who are blinkered can’t see.

  1. Complex Problem-Solving

This ties back to analytical thinking around data. Yes, technology can make things easier, but it can also make things more complicated. Data-driven opportunities without a human being to understand their implications fully are worthless. The WEF estimates from their finding that over a third of all jobs – across all industries – will place complex problem-solving skills right at the top of their wish list.


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