The world of work is constantly changing. Globalisation, automation and advancements in technology are presenting opportunities for future workers, and unique challenges for global employers as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.
And as business leaders pivot to adapt to the pace of change, experts are claiming that we’re only beginning to grasp the extent of how advancements, such as digital transformation, are re-ordering modern work.
The skills that are in demand for global companies can be contextualised in two parts: soft and hard skills. While these skills are not new, they’re as relevant as ever for today’s learners seeking to increase their employability, and ultimately to set up a framework for a successful career.
What are soft and hard skills?
Soft skills are considered essential interpersonal skills, or characteristic traits, that enable our ability to get work done at a high level. Think leadership skills, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. Hard skills are related to technical knowledge, such as presentation skills, project management skills, reading and writing.
Stuart Connor, Pearson Asia’s Qualifications & Assessment Director, says that there are six in demand skills that stand out, and these are the skills that global employers are actively seeking when they’re looking to the next batch of workers. These are:
- Digital literacy – ability to make best use of available technology
- Sales skills – ability to build relationships and influence others
- Data analytics – ability to interpret information to make right decisions
- Communication – ability to collaborate effectively across cultures, borders, languages
- Learning agility – ability to continuously learn, unlearn, relearn, and apply learning
- Innovation – ability to inform and adapt to change
For Stuart, AI will exert an increasingly outsized impact on the global workforce agenda, so getting ahead of the curve now is important for today’s learners.
“There's a premium for workers that use technology well, and the data says that companies who use AI successfully are 12 percent more productive than those who don’t, and that’s because they're able to take technology and make it work within their domain. The ability to make use of technology is key, so employers want to hire people who have that skill.”
Is English the global communication medium?
Pearson’s Simon Young, BTEC Portfolio Manager in Asia, says now that supply chains and customer bases are truly global, multinationals have identified English language proficiency as a key skill.
“It seems that English has become a key skill for communicating in business in any role. So, in countries such as Thailand, where you might see a strong local workforce, the interaction with other divisions does require a strong ability to communicate in English. English has become the global communication medium.”
In addition to skills in demand for global businesses, governments in Thailand and Vietnam have crafted policies over the past decade that are built on targets to raise English language proficiency of workforce entrants.
These efforts help to attract increased investment into their economies. By mandating such policies, the Thai and Vietnamese governments see the value of language learning as global employers do – a key ingredient for professional success.
Stuart says that English language skills underpin many of the soft skill competencies that employers are looking for, especially as it relates to personal and social capabilities, such as collaboration, networking and empathy.
While employees see English language proficiency as key to career progression, Stuart says there’s work to be done – and benefits to be had – for the next wave of workers in terms of shoring up their English language skills.
"In a survey Pearson undertook in 2015 with 26,000 multinational employees, around 92 per cent said they considered English as important to their career progression, yet only 7% believed they could communicate effectively in English at work, which is a significant gap.
“But one of the benefits of becoming proficient in a second language is that it hones a range of soft skills. Language skills alone will not make someone employable, but someone is far more likely to be employable if they have language skills, as it supports the development of many of the other skills needed to be employable. When employers talk about soft skill gaps, such as communication and collaboration, having an additional language can be extremely helpful.
“If you’re Vietnamese or Thai, and if you can speak English, you are ticking a multitude of soft skill boxes, too.”