In today’s job market, employees are striving to build lasting and adaptable careers. We know that they’re taking the initiative to learn beyond their current roles and, alongside that, are prepared to leave companies lacking in opportunities for learning and growth. These employees are responding to a critical turning point in the future of work: The World Economic Forum predicts more than 1 billion people will need reskilling by 2030 to keep pace with evolving economic and societal demands.

How are companies’ workforce needs changing, and what must employees do to progress in their careers? Technological advancements sit at the heart of these conversations. Both parties have an eye on how automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and other evolving technologies will intersect their work. But past visions of machines and algorithms replacing human workers haven’t come to fruition. Instead, these advancements are complementing humans’ work to move businesses forward.

Technological change has, in fact, highlighted the vital importance of people skills like critical thinking, leadership and collaboration. To adapt and thrive, employees and employers alike are focusing on adopting people skills to match the needs of a new skills economy and lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s success.

Cultivating People Skills to Advance: The Employee Perspective

Pearson’s Skills Outlook: Employee View report explored how employees experience the changing world of work and how skills development fit into their career aspirations. The report reflects what 4,000 people worldwide see as the skills most essential to their success today and in the future.

Globally, people want to advance in their careers to find more fulfilling work and increase their compensation. Employees are willing to invest the time and effort to improve their skills and achieve these goals. And employees looking to move into the tech industry are strengthening their skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership.

What may come as a surprise — but shouldn’t — are the skills these ambitious employees want to develop. Technical skills aren’t going anywhere. Many employees understand the need to build upon skills to keep up with innovation. Technical skills, and the ability to refresh them as needed, are table stakes. That’s why honing people skills among employees is an essential element of an organizations learning and development (L&D) initiatives.

In the report, problem-solving and decision-making are listed as the top skills U.S. workers want to improve in today. And as they look ahead, employees want to build their leadership, entrepreneurial and project management abilities. With automation and generative AI permeating the workforce, more people recognize the essential nature of robust interpersonal skills.

Technological expertise remains essential. But people skills, such as problem-solving, collaboration and strategic thinking, can help distinguish top talent from the crowd. These skills have no expiration date: They grow deeper and more valuable through continuous L&D. And employees view these skills as a competitive edge in their careers.

Hiring for Human Skills to Bridge Workforce Gaps: The Employer Perspective

According to LinkedIn Learning, the most in-demand skills of 2023 are:

Organizations increasingly value the skills and capabilities their people can bring to the workplace. These skills don’t just exist in tandem with technical prowess — workers with highly developed interpersonal skills imbue technological enhancements with a human touch, resulting in work far exceeding the sum of its parts.

People skills can help drive the world’s economy and further people’s careers today and tomorrow. Future employers will need to prioritize customer focus, personal learning and mastery, achievement focus and social and cultural intelligence as part of a strong foundation of people skills required to excel.

Employees Want People Skills

So the good news is that employees and employers agree on the skills most essential to business and career growth today. Employees are clear about how they want to develop their skills. They’re seeking partnerships with employers to build on or develop these strengths and advance in their careers.

Over 75% of U.S. workers in the Pearson report say they agree that the world is moving toward a model of lifelong learning and education. And over 80% of U.S. workers believe they’ll need retraining and continuous learning to stay up to date in their careers. In addition, the vast majority of employees would prefer to pursue learning via their employer.

Clearly, workers want to seize the moment to develop their abilities and stay ahead of tomorrow’s workforce needs. Importantly, they’re keen to do so in partnership with their employer.

When an employer understands their employees’ skills profile as well as their professional aspirations, the organization can do a better job of creating learning opportunities that resonate with its workforce. A shared mission around L&D helps organizations close skills gaps, retain employees and strategically align their workforce to innovate and proactively adapt to the day’s challenges. Employees discover a greater sense of agency to find and pursue what they love doing within the organization.

Moving Forward

In today’s constantly evolving work environment, employers and employees strive toward a common goal — preparing for the future. New work models, technological advancements and ongoing economic uncertainties are motivating employees to learn and grow. They’re seeking out organizations that will work with them to progress in their careers so both parties can reach greater heights. Companies embracing this opportunity to understand and invest in their employees’ success will reap the rewards of a skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of today while preparing for tomorrow.