Earlier this year a Future of Work conference held in London told us that the sharing economy alongside technological innovation will lead to 47% of jobs being eliminated in the next 20 years.

The Economist quotes research conducted by Frey and Osborne (2013) which found there is a high likelihood of jobs such as telemarketing and audit will become computerised in two decades. The reason for this is simple; the combination of big data and smart machines will make computers better at things like text mining and providing insights from data analysis. Just like its predecessor, the industrial revolution, computerisation means even highly sought-after jobs and skills will be broken up between computers and humans so much so that the satisfaction and skill required for these roles will be dramatically reduced. Unsurprisingly, more specialist skills such as dentistry and personal training are less likely to be ‘computerised’ or taken over by robots but that does not mean that the job will not change. The recent introduction of virtual GP appointments show how highly skilled professions are already incorporating new technologies into their workplace.

Knowing this, should organisations be recruiting for skills that will be required in the next 20 years? Given that much of the workforce will still be in the workplace in 20 years time, the answer is quite obviously yes. But how does an organisation recruit for skills required now and skills required in the future, whatever they may be?

Well, rather than procrastinate over what we don’t and can’t know, let’s focus on the skills we know we will need…

  • Adaptive thinking:  We know that the workplace is constantly changing and so we should be challenging out talent to adapt to new situations. In the future this may mean analysing information and data quickly, making appropriate judgements and changing the way things are done to account for this change. The focus will be on coming up with new solutions to problems using trends rather than rule based thinking.


  • Ability to disrupt: The buzzword of the last few years has been ‘disruption’. We talk about technologies disrupting the market, but we rarely consider the art of disruption a skill. The ability to challenge, provoke ideas and re-think old methodologies is something that is embraced by children but caged by adulthood. The ability to design and iterate with constant feedback and disruption should be a sought after skill. While most assessment centres provide the fertile environment to seek out the disruptive team members, this is usually to remove them from the race rather than retain them.  


  • Working across multiple disciplines: Often the CV sifting process disqualifies candidates that have frequently moved organisation, roles or industries. However, in the future, the breadth of experience may be just as important as depth. As organisations become less siloed and departments work together more efficiently, leaders with transdisciplinary experience will be instrumental to driving business success.

Research over the last five years has alluded to changes in the skills we will need for future business success, however selection processes and competencies have not reflected these changes. While there has been some lip service to ‘adaptability’ and ‘creativity’ very few selection processes and interviewers have embraced this change. So, next time you are recruiting for your future leaders, perhaps choose the CV with cross disciplinary roles with a shorter length of service. Look for the candidate that comes up with a way of approaching a situation which may not currently fit with ‘the way you do things’. And finally, be brave – think again about the disruptive candidate that is willing to argue and challenge the status quo.