Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

by | Nov 1, 2019 | Blog

By next year, more than one-third (35%) of workforce skills that were considered important in 2016 will have changed.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun. Advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics are part of our everyday life. These developments have begun to transform the way we live, and the way we work.

Some jobs have disappeared, others have begun to flourish, and other jobs that don’t even exist yet will become commonplace. Our skill sets have also needed to develop to maintain pace with industry demands.

A 2016 New Forum report, The Future of Jobs, assessed the employment, skills and workforce strategy for the future. The report asked chief human resources and strategy officers from leading global employers what the workplace shifts meant, specifically for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies.

They responded:


Creativity is among the top three most important skills. This was based on an anticipated avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, meaning that workers would have to become more creative to benefit from these changes.

In some respects this is true. More people work remotely and an increasing number of people work only online. The development of marketing strategy and content is in high demand due to the nature of social media.

Negotiation and flexibility were high on the list of skills for 2015, however, by 2020 they were expected to drop from the top 10 list as machines, using masses of data, begin to make our decisions for us.

This has not been the case. Data and analysis have removed much of the minute decision making needs, however, people are not ready to trust that AI is ready to make many decisions for us. Thankfully so; most machine learning code is written by white and Asian men. This means that the inherent learning bias is putting stress on the ability of machine learning to meet with our human rights expectations.

A 2015 survey done by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society showed that people expect artificial intelligence machines to be part of a company’s board of directors by 2026. While this might still happen, the lack of diversity in coding is holding back the technology for real application.

HR managers expected that active listening, considered a core skill in 2016, would disappear completely from the top 10, while emotional intelligence would become one of the top skills needed by all workers. As active listening is a key component of EI, it makes sense that this evolution has taken place, While EI is highly desirable, it is also grossly lacking in the workplace and in society as a whole in 2019.


The financial services and investment sector has radically transformed since 2016. Technological literacy has become a cornerstone of the banking industry.

While the fourth industrial revolution is already upon us, the skills that people need to work with technology as an ally are yet to be fully realised. As automation takes on the technical work that humans no longer need to do, interpersonal skills, creative thinking, high-level critical analysis and communication are going to remain highly desirable skills for workers in all fields.

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