Since technology has arrived, there has been and will continue to be, a constant change in the workplace.   Technology has quietly taken over routine manual jobs and there has been an increase in jobs that require non-routine, analytical and interpersonal skills.  Skilled jobs are becoming centred on solving problems and analysing information.  New jobs are emerging all the time e.g. blogging and virtual assistants while other more traditional jobs are slowing disappearing.  With the rate that technology is changing, there is no certainty what jobs will be available in 2020.

According to a report written by the World Economic Forum: New Vision for Education (2015) they looked to uncover some of the skills that would be needed in a 21st century workplace in order to adapt this to learning at schools, so that when the students enter the workplace they are “work ready”.  Some countries e.g. Norway have already started the process at their primary and secondary school levels.  The report details the following as the competencies and character qualities that will be required by the 2020 workforce.


(how complex challenges are approached)

The following competencies will be essential to the 21st century workforce where being able to critically evaluate and convey knowledge, as well as work well with a team will become the norm.

  1. Critical thinking – the ability to identify, analyse and evaluate situations, ideas and information in order to give appropriate responses to problems.
  2. Creativity – the ability to imagine and devise new and exciting ways of addressing problems, answering questions or expressing meaning through the application, synthesis or repurposing of knowledge.
  3. Communication – the ability to communicate with others verbally and non-verbally. To understand cultural differences and be able to get the right message across to the right people using the correct medium.
  4. Collaboration – working in coordination with others (working as a team) to convey information or tackle problems.

Character qualities

(how the changing environment is approached)

  1. Persistence and adaptability – ensure greater resilience and success in the face of obstacles

To recognise that change is constant and to allow yourself to see the opportunities and benefits that will arise from the change.  To see feedback rather than failure and to keep on trying until you have achieved the desired outcome.

  1. Curiosity and initiative – starting points for discovering new concepts and ideas

To become childlike – to get back the kind of curiosity you had when you were younger.  Ask the question “why” until you have answer.  Have a willingness to do anything just to discover what would happen even if you don’t have everything you need.  You act as if you have everything and know what you are doing.  Be flexible so that you can control the outcome.

  1. Leadership, social and cultural awareness – constructive interactions with others in socially, ethically and culturally appropriate ways

Understanding that each person is unique and as Steven Covey put it, “seek first to understand before being understood.”

How do you rate yourself on these competencies and character qualities?  Are you ready for 2020?  The good news is that these competencies and qualities can be learnt and it is never too late.  When looking to attend workshops and conferences, ensure that you are looking for the competencies and qualities that you need to build on to make sure that you are ready for 2020.

Dawn Williams is an international trainer/facilitator for the administrative profession.  You can learn more about her and the workshops that are offered by Reach New Levels by visiting the website at

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