Survive and Thrive in the 21st Century – the Three skills that you need

8 Sep 2020 9:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Virtual offices, augmented reality, artificial intelligence- these are only some of the revolutionary technological advances which have so far characterized the 21st-century. These innovations continuously transform the labor market and the modern workplace. For 2018-2022, the World Economic Forum estimates that such labor transformation may lead to 133 million new jobs and a simultaneous displacement of 75 million others. To survive and thrive in this new employment landscape, one must be equipped with the most in-demand 21st-century skills.

What are 21st Century Skills?

There is no universal definition of 21st-century skills. That is hardly surprising given the range of agendas being progressed by employers, policymakers, and others. But the adopted descriptions within the Global Partnership for Education's Report can give help us describe and categorize these new skills. They adapted the definition of Binkley et al. (2012), which states that "Twenty-first-century skills are abilities and attributes that can be taught or learned to enhance ways of thinking, learning, working and living in the world. We can look at these skills as tools to help individuals to cope with the modern world, allow people to unlock all the benefits of digitalization, keep up with the demands of everyday life, and participate in the innovation process.

Learning, Literacy, and Life Skills 

21st-century skills fall into three major categories. Let's dive into each:  

  • Learning skills
  • Literacy skills
  • Life skills

Learning refers to the understanding gained with experience, education, and practice.  Learning skills teach individuals about the mental processes needed to adjust to the modern work environment.

Literacy skills help individuals consume and create knowledge through traditional and digital platforms. They focus on how individuals can access and analyze information, discern fact from fiction, and grasp the influences that affect public information. It protects the individual from false information that floods the internet and helps them guard their security and privacy online.

Life skills focus on the "invisible" elements of an individual's everyday life. These emphasize both personal and professional qualities needed to fully and effectively participate in modern life.

A Closer Look at Learning Skills

The four C's under the Learning Skills category are the best known 21st Century skills. They are:

  • Critical thinking  
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication  

Critical Thinking refers to an individual's ability to analyze, question, and relate one set of information to another to solve complex problems. Critical thinking is a mechanism that weeds out issues in business settings and replaces them with productive endeavors. It's what helps individuals figure stuff out for themselves when they don't have a teacher at their disposal.

Creativity is an equally important means of adaptation.  It refers to a new way of seeing or doing things, or one's ability to deviate from the norm and see concepts in a different light. Learning creativity forces someone to shift their perspective and create novel solutions for both longstanding and emerging problems.  This ultimately leads to innovation, which is key to a company's adaptability and overall success in any field.

Collaboration, once it's mastered, can breathe new life into dying companies. This skill means getting individuals to work effectively together, achieve compromises, and get them to contribute to finding the best possible solution to any problem. Willingness is a crucial element of collaboration. All participants must be ready to sacrifice parts of their ideas and adopt others for the "greater good", which in this case tends to be the company's success.

Finally, communication is what ties these qualities together. Some companies may take it for granted, but effective communication is a requirement for any company to maintain profitability. Poor communication can make well-thought-out plans and projects fall apart. It may even lead to confusion and tension in the workplace. Thus, individuals must learn how to express their sentiments and convey their ideas across different personalities.

A Closer Look at Literacy skills

The four C's are only the beginning. 21st Century skills also demand that individuals understand the information that surrounds them.  Literacy skills are concerned with the different facets of digital comprehension. These are:

  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy

Information literacy is foundational of all the other literacy skills. It helps individuals understand data that they'll encounter online and critically evaluate content to separate fact from fiction. In this age of chronic misinformation, finding the truth online has become a job on its own. It's crucial that individuals can identify truth on their own. Otherwise, they can become victims of myths and misconceptions.

Media literacy helps individuals identify source and publishing methods and outlets while determining the ones that are credible and the ones that are inaccurate and unreliable. Media literacy is how individuals find trustworthy sources in a world that's saturated with misinformation. Without media literacy, anything that looks credible might be considered credible. With it, individuals can understand which media outlets to embrace and which ones to ignore. Both of which are equally important skills.

Technology literacy gives individuals the information needed to understand what gadgets perform what tasks and why. As robots, smart devices, and automation become more rampant, more people need to understand these inventions' concepts. According to the OECD Skills Outlook 2019 report, the adoption of new technologies can either enable workers to perform their tasks more efficiently (complementary effect) or replace workers with computers and robots that can perform routine tasks that can be entirely automated (substitution effect). Technology literacy can spell the difference between career advancement and unemployment. It unveils the intricacies of tools that run today's world. This leads to a deeper understanding that removes the intimidating feeling that humans tend toward new technology.  As a result, individuals can adapt and play an active role in the technological evolution.

A Closer Look at Life Skills

Workers need more than learning and literacy skills to navigate the 21st century. Life skills are also  crucial.  Life skills are as follows:

  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social Skills  

Flexibility refers to a person's ability to change his actions and take steps to adapt to changing circumstances. It is an expression of an individual's dynamism in the face of new situations and environments.  Being flexible can be a challenge to learn. It requires one to pierce their ego and abandon their preconceived notions when necessary.

It's a struggle for many individuals to learn, especially in an age when the accessibility and abundance of information often lead to a false sense of judgment and confidence. Flexibility requires humility and acceptance that they will always have a lot to learn despite their years of experience. This is crucial to an individual's long-term career success.

Leadership pertains to one's propensity to set goals and guide a team to work collaboratively to reach said targets. The ability to lead is crucial at any stage of one's career- whether someone is an experienced entrepreneur or a fresh hire entering the workforce.

Entry-level workers need leadership skills to help them comprehend the decisions that business leaders make. They can then apply their leadership skills when they're promoted or need to lead entire companies in the future. Workers must be allowed to hold leadership roles in their respective divisions at least once. This will help them learn the work process's ins and outs and enable them to demonstrate their collaboration and critical-thinking skills while directing a team.

Real success also requires initiative. Initiative often means beginning a task independently, working on projects outside of regular working hours, or spending an extra 30 minutes polishing something up before the weekend. It's mostly indicative of someone's work ethic and professional progress. The rewards for individuals with extreme initiative vary from person to person, but being a self-starter is an attribute that consistently earns rewards.

21st Century skills also require individuals to learn about productivity. An individual can complete work in a given amount of time. This is also known as efficiency and effectiveness.  The common goal of any professional is to get more done in less time. By understanding productivity strategies at every level, individuals discover the best practices for their work and others' work.

Social skills or an individual's ability to approach and persuade people, respect boundaries and differences, and empathize with people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds is crucial to professional success. Business is often made through networking and forging personal and professional relationships. With the rise of social media allowing instant communication and virtual contact, the nature of human interaction has transformed. Individuals now need a wide range of social skills in response to these developments. But beware; while virtual communication and instant messaging are the new norms, etiquette and manners can still differ in the modern world.

Adaptability is the Key

The 21st Century demands a wide base of skills from the individual. Whether physical or cognitive, repetitive tasks are being automated. This means that the remaining tasks require flexibility and willingness to change. These skills boil down to adaptability.

New ideas and methodologies can disrupt industries without warning. In an era of continuous change, no industry is immune. Their time just has not come yet. Every day, new tools, products, and ways of working and living are discovered. Nothing is guaranteed.

With that in mind, individuals and businesses must be committed to developing the skills that will help them harness the powerful changes that are consuming their lives.  They can either adapt to these changes or take the helms of innovation. Otherwise, they are on their way to obsolescence. With 21st Century skills, your individuals will have the qualities they need to survive and thrive in workplaces amid constant evolution.

About the Talent Transformation Guild

The Talent Transformation Guild provides resources for professionals that are preparing for upskilling being triggered by 4th industrial revolution and accelerated by Covid-19. Members include c-level executives, human resource professionals, consultants, and coaches. As a member-driven organization it promotes best practices via webcasts, webinars, podcasts, articles, white papers, research and conversations to improve and make the best of the talents of individuals for the benefit of themselves and the organisations they work for.

The Guild enable stimulating and meaningful discussions to help professionals prepare for talent transformations at individual, team and organizational levels. The Guild supports the Talent Transformation Pyramid, an open source model, designed specifically to recognize the widest possible range of talent influencers and skills. To date many decision-makers are caught in traditional, linear thinking and immediate concerns to consider this. The Talent Transformation Pyramid enables you to address the challenge by promoting more strategic thinking with a focus on an organization’s readiness to perform.

About the Future of Work

According to the World Economic Forum, new and emerging technologies are affecting our lives in ways that indicate we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. This new era will build and extend the impact of digitization in new and unimaginable ways. The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving new capabilities for people and machines. This will see new ways for technology to become embedded within societies and even our bodies.

With process automation, robotic automation, the internet of things the nature of work will change. Some analysts predict that more than 40% of tasks currently performed by humans will be delegated to machines. This does not mean that 40% of people will be put out of work but it does mean that most workers will have to upskill. HR experts are predicting this will dramatically change the landscape of our workforce.

About the Guild's Founders

Eric Shepherd an accomplished leader of international businesses and associations focused on talent, assessments, and success. Eric recently stepped away from a CEO role where he worked to build a SaaS company into a multi-million-dollar international assessment software business. Eric has also led industry and standards initiatives to promote best practices for assessments, learning, and interoperability. He currently serves as Chair of the IEEE P1484.20.2 working group developing Recommended Practice for Defining Competencies. Eric has previously served on Boards and working groups for:

  • HR Open Standards that defines interoperability standards for HR technology.
  • Association of Test Publishers and the European Association of Test Publishers that represents providers of tests and assessment tools.
  • The IEEE P1484.20.1 Standard for Learning Technology—Data Model for Reusable Competency Definitions working group.
  • IMS which defines interoperability standards for educational technology. 

Eric was instrumental in developing the IMS QTI interoperability standard and assisted with the US Department of Defense Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative to define the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and the Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC) to define launch and track standards for Learning Management Systems.

Martin Belton has provided marketing solutions to organizations supplying HR and Learning solutions throughout Europe. After working with some of the UK’s leading PR Consultancies, he joined Questionmark where he was Sales and Marketing Director working alongside Talent Transformation’s co-founder Eric Shepherd. He was also Sales & Marketing Director at Kallidus (formerly e2train) for seven years before working as a marketing consultant to organizations supplying talent and learning systems including Netex and Saba. Most recently Martin has organized the eLearning Network Annual conference and exhibition.

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