The top 6 skills you'll need in 2014

As the new year approaches quicker than any of us can quite believe, it’s time to consider the skills we’ll need come 2014.

While most of us are more preoccupied with thoughts of glazed ham and prawns than our careers at this time of year, it pays to think ahead. Deep down even your festive self knows that you need to find your inner Rocky and get training. We all need to commit to some skills development before we can expect to be fist-pumping at the top of the stairs career-wise next year.

Need a bit of coaching? Don’t worry, we’ve done the research for you. While there are some hot new technical skills on the horizon for people looking for a new direction, here we look at the universally transferable, but hard-to-pin-down ‘soft skills’ that employers will be looking for in 2014.

What ‘soft skills’ shortages?

A lot of attention has been paid to Australia’s technical skills shortages, but that’s not the whole story. In Manpower’s recent Talent Shortage Survey, 28 per cent of Asia-Pacific employers highlighted ‘lack of workplace competencies: soft skills’ as the reason for difficulty in filling jobs. This was only slightly shy of ‘lack of technical competencies’, at 31 per cent.

According to Manpower, the most sought-after ‘soft skills’ include enthusiasm/motivation, interpersonal skills, professionalism and flexibility and adaptability. The 2013 Leadership Employment and Direction (L.E.A.D.) survey adds that ‘beyond technical skill gaps and shortages … two of the top six are areas that should be of immense and immediate interest … the areas of leadership and management’.

So what are you waiting for? Here are the six key soft skills you’ll need next year – hit play on that montage track, and get training!

Rocky leads the local children as he goes for a run
© MGM

1. Management and leadership

With our ageing workforce, global recruiter Hays reports ‘a growing concern over the availability of candidates for management/executive posts’. In L.E.A.D., ‘management and leadership’ also climbed from seventh to fourth on the list of skills shortages. Luckily, it’s a skillset that almost anyone can build. From reading up on management strategies to taking up a leadership role in a volunteer organisation, or stepping up to get some real management credentials by doing a course, the data says that working on these will be worthwhile.

Rocky gets some advice
© MGM

2. Cross-generational relationship-building

In 2011 half of the working population of Australia and New Zealand was aged 45 years or over, so it’s no surprise that while ‘interpersonal skills’ dropped in relevance to employers, cross-generational relationships came up as an important factor for managers and leaders in the L.E.A.D. survey.

More than half the participants in L.E.A.D. believed the effect of the ageing workforce would be felt most keenly within the next five years. If Gen X and Y can stay in the same place for long enough to build relationships and trust with Boomers, then this is likely to pay off in the long run.

You can build your cross-generational skills by seeking out an older mentor or a younger mentee, being proactive about transferring intellectual property, co-managing projects and systems and generally seeking out opportunities to work with people beyond your own circle.

Rocky's unique selling proposition is staying power!
© MGM

3. Understanding sales and marketing

No matter what your position, understanding the unique selling proposition of your organisation will get you ahead. The need for marketers is widespread, particularly those who understand data and the digital sphere. As Peter Noblet of Hays reports, ‘We are seeing that industry requires digital marketing as an essential component of the marketing mix; however, there is a lack of investment in training and resources that will enable marketers to be savvier when it comes to extracting actionable insights from data’.

Keeping track of your company’s KPIs and ROI for every initiative, monitoring website performance through Google Analytics and simply keeping on top of how your customers are responding will drive better decision-making and make you an asset to your employer.

Rocky knows how to adapt to his competition
© MGM

4. Flexibility, adaptation, innovation

Australia has left the days of primary industries and manufacturing well behind. Our new future is as a service-based and digitally-connected economy, and as this change continues, businesses will need to readjust.

Manpower's 2013 Talent Shortage Survey acknowledges the new competitive environment, where companies ‘seek more cost structure flexibility while negotiating increasingly volatile economic cycles’. This means that under-employment, casualisation and retrenchments are likely to continue to be a part of our working landscape for the near future.

According to a Sydney University study, adaptability is the key to being effective. If you can stay on top of industry developments, be open to new ideas and embrace change when it comes, you might just find yourself floating above it all. Be sure to keep your industry contacts going on LinkedIn as it will become a key hub for freelancing contacts if you need them.

Rocky fist-pumps for sustainability
© MGM

5. Sustainability

According to L.E.A.D., 36 per cent of employers were either highly advanced in employing sustainable practices and processes or well down the path in implementing them. Even more convincingly, over 80 per cent of leaders, managers and employees thought sustainability important for their business.

If you understand your consumption and the environmental impact of your work, and can be environmentally proactive in your organisation, then it just might help sustain your career.

If you never stop learning you can have more comebacks than Rocky
© MGM

6. Learning aptitude

When I asked Jane McNeill, Director of Hays (NSW & ACT), for her thoughts on the most important skill employers will be looking for in 2014, she responded with an interesting one: learning aptitude.

Employees will need to show that they can learn and respond not only to their employer’s demands, but to the demands of a changing market. For job seekers, as McNeill says, ‘Be prepared to be tested for learning aptitude, just as you might expect to be tested for attention to detail or other relevant aptitudes. Also expect to be asked specific questions about your ability to adapt and learn new skills’.

Even if you’re not looking for a job, you need to keep your mind sharp. Whether you’re learning to use the latest technology, working in a new environment or undertaking some training, employers will be paying attention.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Jobs Outlook predicts that one in every three jobs created to November 2017 is set to go to a person with a bachelor degree or higher. Those with a certificate II or certificate III will also see employment grow strongly to 2017, so education continues to be a sound investment.

Get going

If you’re preparing yourself to look for work or if you haven’t progressed lately, then don’t waste any more time: get your training tracksuit on and harden up those soft skills!

There’s nothing like an online course to whip you into shape, so take advantage. Who knows – this silly season could just be your smartest yet.




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