We’re facing a transformation of working at a pace like never before—these are the skills we need for the workplace of the future.
Throughout human history, we’ve seen major changes in which skills have been deemed valuable. In the nineteenth century, the United States headed into the industrial revolution, resulting in rural populations moving to join the new urban environments and apply for newly created jobs. This transformation of where and how we worked caused major educational shifts to prepare for manual and secretarial work within cities. By the early twentieth century, factories dominated the workforce and although this did alter our work, education only altered slightly with focus continuing to remain on improving efficiency in operation and repetitive tasks. As we moved into the later twentieth century, the workplace landscape was altered again—but this time including the invention of cubicles, the first successful fax machine, the floppy disc, and by 1981, the first laptop computer pushed any surviving typewriters into oblivion.
Now, as we navigate the workforce of the twenty-first century, we’re facing a transformation of working at a pace we have never been exposed to. According to a 2018 McKinsey Global Institute study, automation is creating the biggest seismic shift in required workforce skills that we’ve witnessed within the past 15 years.
“And that is a good thing,” says President and CEO of Community Brands, JP Guilbault. “While AI finds its place in the workflow, we’ll see a reduction in the need for repetitive work like data entry and work which requires physical strength. Anything that is standardized and outsourceable will become less and less valuable to an organization as technology marches on.”
Guilbault goes on to explain that, “as some skills fall to the wayside, others will evolve and grow in importance.” He shares, “the most in-demand skills of the future are what we define as soft skills—things like complex problem-solving and critical thinking. People management, the ability to drive negotiation and alignment and coordination — those are the skills of the future that will be necessary for organizations to thrive.”
Below, Guilbault breaks down the skills of the future and the importance of mindset when leading associations and their members down a path of success.
Mastering skills of the future
“We are in a constant wave of innovation. The number one skill that will propel people in the future of work is the skill to learn, unlearn and re-learn,” affirms Guilbault. “If you are able to adapt, you put yourself in a constant state of innovation.” Guilbault discourages sticking to tried-and-true methods and warns us that “although it may allow an organization to tread water, as the world moves on, they will eventually sink.” Rather than allowing ourselves to become complacent, Guilbault encourages “people to be curious, look beyond their walls and discover who is solving problems differently.”
Building a culture code of learning
“It is an association’s responsibility to prepare and protect their members for the changes happening within their organizations and industries. For associations to successfully protect and prepare their members, organizations will need to build a ‘culture code’ which fosters creative learning—a place where employees can come in each day and discover access points for learning,” says Guilbault.
“One of the greatest examples that has always stuck with me, is around promoting a culture of workplace learning, by a CEO who created an initiative to encourage learning which he called, ‘Culture by Accident’. His idea was this—he created a library within his company’s office space with a bookshelf of about fifty books. Inside each book was an incentive that, if an employee read a book, sat down at lunch with him to discuss what they learned and how they could apply it—the reward in the book had a dollar value. They were incentivized to be curious and to think! It’s a wonderful example of a leader dedicated to creating a learning culture and an incredible best practice for others to adopt.”
Guilbault goes on to further express how “association staff and their members can remain relevant by calling upon organizations to look internally and ask what is the definition of a learning culture, what are the mechanisms we are going to use to apply it, and how will we create it for our staff and members to understand.” Guilbault believes that associations will “naturally lean towards the learning and education which has a specific purpose for their organization or segment of an association industry.”
Extending new skills from staff to members
“Associations, by nature, are the second-largest educating body behind higher education so, they and of themselves, are the turn to industry for professions.” Guilbault highly advocates for “associations to meet their members where they are now when it comes to the formats of learning. Associations must become the distributers of the right information and the right content for the members they serve.” Guilbault gives us insight to the ways we are currently learning and simply put—we’re really only reading respected journals and authors. “However, in order to endure these big work chances of the future,” Guilbault asserts, “associations need to become much more digital and drive a digital platform of education. This education has to be relevant to the members and the emerging soft and hard skills within their profession.”
JP Guilbault reminds us that “the shift to a digital working environment is only the first step towards advancement. The crucial second step is ensuring the ability to deliver information digitally so it can be accessed anywhere and at any time. There is a technology component, but the most important part is truly thinking through the learner’s experience with the content and with the platform.”
Associations and industry relationships for mutual triumph
Guilbault reveals “the final phase of effort in maneuvering the work of the future relies on how our overall mindset will need to shift to place more value on building and creating partnerships within the industry. Associations need to be open to collaborating with partners in their industry in an impactful way. The problems of skill development and how we address the future of work, will not be solved by associations alone. Stronger relationships will be required between organizations in order to see results in the development of skills. Think about it as a three-dimensional partnership that needs to emerge—inclusive of associations, industry, and economic development councils.”
Guilbault confidently assures us that “this trifecta of partnerships will address the upcoming workforce needs as each organization would be incapable of achieving these results individually. Organizations should also work to create alignment with a fourth partner—educational institutions, focusing on emerging leaders and the future of work”
“When I think about the digital relationships associations have between their for-profit hiring organizations, career centers, and learning management systems—it’s incredible to think how much data sits between those systems. By examining the combined data, we have the opportunity to learn about the skills and questions we have about emerging jobs. There is so much value in that data that it potentially opens the door to becoming an authoritarian to say ‘we’re the tip of the spear on what is and is not working in fulfilling jobs or performing as a workforce.’”
Guilbault hopes to ignite organizations, “to bring in insight and their data back to educational institutions and use the three or four partner paradigms.” Guilbault puts into context how this teaming of organizations creates more digitally engaged skill development.
Guilbault uses an agricultural association as example of how these seismic skill shifts are affecting members, “Farming is becoming so technologically driven—yet those that are working in the industry are also lagging behind in how to adopt modern farming practices and struggle in the use of their technological equipment meant to help farmers become more productive. The agricultural association might partner up with industry that is building that equipment and together with the association, they are empowered to think about what are the right programs for the future of their farmers and how agricultural related professionals may become more educated and, importantly, apply the use of it.”
Ultimately, JP Guilbault summarizes his points by reassuring us “with associations teaming up with organizations to educate, promote, and build skillsets they can solve issues at a greater capacity than if they were to work separately to resolve it.”
About Community Brands & JP Guilbault
JP Guilbault currently serves as CEO and President of Community Brands, the leading provider of business management, engagement, commerce & payment solutions to member-based organizations. With 2,800 employees serving over 130,000 clients in 34 countries, CB empowers people and organizations to grow stronger, succeed faster, and achieve their dreams—because powerful work needs powerful tech.
Learn about tech for good at communitybrands.com