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What skills will future employees need to succeed in the world of work?

An employee undertaking a training course online

The world of work is evolving rapidly, with new technologies being developed, artificial intelligence becoming more advanced, and working robots becoming a reality rather than being a plot for a science fiction novel.

With workplaces evolving at such a speed, it goes without saying that the skills of employees must evolve at the same pace in order to keep up.

Unfortunately, there is no way that we can look into the future and know for sure what skills would be most useful. However, McKinsey Global Institute conducted a survey of over 18,000 people across 15 countries to find out what skills governments may wish to prioritise in the not too distant future.

They discovered that the need for manual and physical skills, as well as basic cognitive ones, will decline, but the demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow.

Whilst organisations are often determined to ensure their employees are developing in these areas, it can be difficult to put a plan in place without the precise information of the skills that will be required.

The McKinsey study identified a set of 56 foundational skills that are likely to benefit all citizens and also demonstrated that higher proficiency in them is already associated with a higher likelihood of employment, higher incomes, and job satisfaction.

What skills will be most valuable for future employees?

McKinsey has broken down what they deem to be the most valuable skills for future employees into four categories, split into 13 skill groups, covering 56 skills - which they refer to as DELTAs.

We call them DELTAs, rather than skills, because they are a mix of skills and attitudes. “Adaptability” and “coping with uncertainty” are attitudes, for example.

McKinsey Global Institute

Here are the skills broken down by categories:

Cognitive skills:

  • Critical thinking
    • Structured problem solving
    • Logical reasoning
    • Understanding biases
    • Seeking relevant information
  • Planning and ways of working
    • Work-plan development
    • Time management and prioritisation
    • Agile thinking
  • Communication
    • Storytelling and public speaking
    • Asking the right questions
    • Synthesising messages
    • Active listening
  • Mental flexibility
    • Creativity and imagination
    • Translating knowledge to different contexts
    • Adopting a different perspective
    • Adaptability
    • Ability to learn


  • Mobilising systems
    • Rolemodeling
    • Win-win negotiations
    • Crafting an inspiring vision
    • Organisational awareness
  • Developing relationships
    • Empathy
    • Inspiring trust
    • Humility
    • Sociability
  • Teamwork effectiveness
    • Fostering inclusiveness
    • Motivating different personalities
    • Resolving conflicts
    • Collaboration
    • Coaching
    • Empowering


  • Self-awareness and self-management
    • Understanding own emotions and triggers
    • Self-control and regulation
    • Understanding own strengths
    • Integrity
    • Self-motivation and wellness
    • Self-confidence
  • Entrepreneurship
    • Courage and risk-taking
    • Driving change and innovation
    • Energy, passion, and optimism
    • Breaking orthodoxes
  • Goals achievement
    • Ownership and decisiveness
    • Achievement orientation
    • Grit and persistence
    • Coping with uncertainty
    • Self-development


  • Digital fluency and citizenship
    • Digital literacy
    • Digital learning
    • Digital collaboration
    • Digital ethics
  • Software use and development
    • Programming literacy
    • Data analysis and statistics
    • Computational and algorithmic thinking
  • Understanding digital systems
    • Data literacy
    • Smart systems
    • Cyber security literacy
    • Tech translation and enablement

Our take on the study

As a market-leading eLearning provider, it is in our best interest to keep up-to-date with industry news and trends to ensure that what we offer our clients is current and relevant.

Soft skills are becoming increasingly important

Soft skills can be described as skills that allow people to interact effectively with others, and they make up many of the cognitive, interpersonal, and self-leadership skills that have been deemed essential for future workplace success.

Developing a person's soft skills can help shape their career and ensure that they can build long-lasting relationships at work. See our blog on the importance of soft skills in the modern workplace.

On a side note, the McKinsey study touches upon the importance of lifelong skills training, stating that high-quality education should be offered to all levels of employees at all ages to ensure their skills are kept up-to-date in the world of work.

Just as the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century drove an expansion of access to education, today’s technological revolution should drive further expansion to ensure universal, high-quality, affordable access to education from early childhood to retirement and to ensure that curricula include the DELTAs that will future-proof citizens’ skills in the world of work.

McKinsey Global Institute

Here at iHASCO, we offer a range of Online Soft Skill Training courses that can help all levels of employees develop skills that will help them thrive in the workplace.

You can claim a free, no-obligation trial to any of these courses today!

Employers must prepare employees for the world of digital work

Finally, we noticed that the majority of DELTAs that weren’t soft skill-related were related to digital technologies.

Digital technology has been adopted by organisations for many years, getting more popular with each passing year. With new technologies being developed every day, there have been many advancements that have changed the way we work.

For this reason, digital competency is more important than ever, and it should be known that workplaces need to prepare for a digital transformation.

This digital transformation will come in many forms including attending meetings online, digital events, more collaboration through the use of online tools (like Google Drive and Microsoft Teams), and even switching to an online training solution!

Online Soft Skills Training courses