Next-Generation Skill Sets We Need Now

Apr 11th 2013
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By Phyllis Weiss Haserot

There's a great desire to get everyone back to work. But we've been made aware that there's a mismatch of skills between many of the unemployed and skills needed now and going forward. This isn't just about technology, as you will see, and it applies to various levels of seniority.

Many of the skills needed are not what the majority of the educated populations and current students in the United States and elsewhere are learning. Some used to be emphasized but are no longer. It's likely that employers will need to partner with educators to prepare executives and professionals with necessary skill sets. These managers, in turn, will then have to infuse their workforce with the needed skills to be competitive. 

Towers Watson's recent study – Global Talent 2021: How the New Geography of Talent Will Transform Human Resource Strategies – suggests that four types of skills will be more urgently needed in the next five to ten years.

  1. Perhaps the most obvious are digital skills for new forms of digital expression and marketing literacy. Most valued, according to the survey respondents, are digital business skills and the ability to work virtually.
  2. Agile thinking skills and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios are considered vital. Also valued in this skill set are innovative thinking and managing paradoxes.
  3. Interpersonal skills and communication skills are expected to be in high demand. These are thought to be increasingly lacking in responses to surveys on professionalism (including Practice Development Counsel's), human resources studies, and anecdotal evidence. Especially cited were: customer relationship building, co-creativity and brainstorming skills, and virtual teaming skills. The ability to align strategic goals, build consensus, and foster collaboration are considered crucial skills.
  4. Considered the most important global operating skill is the facility to manage diverse employees in this globally interdependent and multicultural world of businesses and customers.

Employers will be required to develop these skill sets among their employees to become effectively multicultural, multidisciplinary, multigenerational, and multimedia. Talk about diversity!

We need to accelerate the breaking down of silo walls in functions and modes of thinking to foster collaboration of academic departments; business units; business and law; and engineering, science, and academia. A good example is the Cornell NYC Tech Center partnership between Cornell University and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Tech Center trains graduate students in three hubs focused on healthy living, connective media, and a "smart" built environment, all with close involvement of the many related industries and companies. Another is LawWithoutWalls, a joint academic, law and business cross-border and cross-discipline collaboration to develop innovations in legal education and the profession. 

From a generational diversity point of view, will possession of these skill sets result in greater or lesser bonds across the four or five generations in the workplace by 2017-2022? To generalize, as of today, it's usually agreed that the Baby Boomers and Traditionalists have the greater interpersonal and customer/client communication as well as agile thinking skills. The younger generations have the edge in digital skills, virtual collaboration, and comfort with multiculturalism.

Since we need all of these skills, and few individuals will possess them all, training the different generations together to respect and embrace differences and build on complementary skills may be a useful approach to filling this global talent skill set void.

What are your thoughts? Please share your experience and observations on this topic.

Read more articles by Phyllis.

About the author:

Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the Cross-Generational Voice and the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm she founded over twenty years, A special focus is on the profitability of improving workplace inter-generational relations as well as transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners ( Phyllis is the author of The Rainmaking Machine and The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both Thomson Reuters/West 2011). [email protected]. URL:

© 2012 by Phyllis Weiss Haserot. All rights reserved.


Replies (2)

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By thoodcpa
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

Gail and Phyllis,

Great article and begins addressing the biggest issue to come out of the CPA Horizons 2025 Research - the generational gap (communication/technology/work styles)! Also love your skills list, the CPA profession identified its Top 5 Competencies for 2025 as: Leadership, Communications, Strategic Thinking, Collaboration & Synthesis, and Technologically Savvy. We have taken these and applied them to job levels in CPA firms and Corporations to create a career ladder/matrix we call theBounce

We are in the process of creating a generational summit in June to begin to address this issue. Thanks!

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By Kerry
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

Great article... gives me some sort of compass to help navigate my professional career.

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