HR Leads Business

Jan 25, 2019 | Ginny Engholm

What Workforce Skills Should You Be Developing in 2019?

The half-life of learned skills at work has dipped to about five years. This has created new challenges for HR leaders who must design hiring and learning strategies that can keep pace with this constant change.

Anna Tavis, a professor of leadership and human capital management at the NYU School of Professional Studies, says, “Skills are at the top of everyone's agenda.” This shift results from the rapid pace of business that technology has helped to accelerate, she says.

Technology has brought new tools into the workforce. Sarah Boivert, founder of the Fab Lab Hub, points out, when companies bring in new tools, it’s important that they both provide training on the tools and rethink their workforce structure to ensure that they are integrated into the workflow.

But as hiring managers look ahead in 2019, one question on their minds is what are the hot skills they will need to stay ahead of technological advances and move their company forward. Here are the workforce skills that employers need for 2019 and beyond.

Predictive Analytics 

Scott Snyder, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, says the three D’s -- design, development and data science -- will continue to be in high demand. “They are the core of developing new digital products and offerings,” he says. “There's no doubt a war for talent around those skills,” he points out, “but AI in particular has been almost an arms race for some companies, especially in the tech sector.”

But companies are also looking for talent with evolving skills in those areas as well. People analytics is one of the most in-demand skills when it comes to the next wave of data analytics, says Tavis. People who can blend behavioral sciences knowledge with analytics, software and coding skills will be highly sought after in all industries, she says.

“People who are actually able to work with data at a higher level, to understand what the data is telling us, to understand the accuracy and the biases that are built into the data, are in very high demand,” she says.

But people analytics is also becoming more domain specific. “The analytics field is evolving to a much more specialized analytics discipline in the domains of different fields,” Tavis says. Tech, healthcare, marketing, HR, they are all developing workers with people analytics skills based on particular expertise within that industry. 

The field is also evolving to focus more on predicting future behavior. “We’re seeing a move on the analytics maturity curve from using data to explain what happened in the past to a more predictive space,” Tavis says. “How do we predict what the organizations are going to need going forward?”
Digital Innovation
“People who can lead digital innovation to improve their core business today, while also incubating new offerings, new products and new ways of operating in the future are sought after talent in this field,” he says.

For example, companies are seeking product incubation managers, people who are able to envision how to apply digital to a new opportunity, a new innovation, and then actually run that through a very rapid experimentation process to deploy back into the business, Snyder says. Journey mappers, business modelers and innovation scouts who can dynamically model emerging trends or identify emerging technologies are coming to the forefront too, he says. 

People with the tech skills needed to support this digital innovation are also in high demand. “Another skill companies are looking for is emerging tech specialists, people that are able to translate things like AI or blockchain or other emerging technologies into a specific function of the business,” he says.

And all that new technology also requires people with the training and experience needed to run them. “Disruptive technologies like 3D Printing, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles and more are coming on the scene at exponential rates,” says Boisvert. Hands-on experience troubleshooting and servicing these machines will be a critically in-demand skill in next year and beyond.

Workplace Culture 

But all of this focus on analytics and innovation doesn’t mean that traditional workplace skills like communication and collaboration aren’t important too. Janine Yancey, CEO of Emtrain, a company that provides workforce training in harassment prevention, bias awareness and interpersonal skills, says there’s an increasing need for people to develop a “workplace culture skill.” 

This skill includes social awareness, respectful behavior, managing of biases and ethical decision-making. “The workplace culture skill is critical in the modern workplace which hosts an increasingly diverse employee population in an increasingly demanding environment,” says Yancey.

Developing a workplace culture skillset in your workforce can be an antidote to the #MeToo movement and help solve other workplace issues of stereotyping, bias and discrimination, she says. “It also influences the ability of a team or a workforce to be high functioning and high performing, or not,” she points out.