10 Future Work Skills to Teach Your Members

Is your association helping members develop the work skills they need for the future? Associations have traditionally offered education on the competencies members need to excel in their industry or profession. For example, association management societies like ASAE provide education on competencies such as governance, chapter relations, and membership engagement.

But if you look at this year’s program for the ASAE Annual Meeting, you’ll also see sessions on topics like:

  • Decision-making based on “infotuition”
  • Making a compelling case for anything
  • Slaying the fear of failure
  • Self-care for association CEOs

These skills aren’t specifically addressed in the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam, but they will be invaluable for association professionals as they deal with changes in their market and workplace.

What will your members need to know in the coming years to stay relevant, employable, and positioned for advancement? If you don’t provide education on future work skills, your members will find that education elsewhere.

Futurist Stowe Boyd believes the World Economic Forum’s list of skills for 2020 is already out of date. He came up with his own list of “skills that are helpful for operating in the wildly changing world of work.” These skills, he says, aren’t being taught in any sort of systematic way—and that opens up an opportunity for associations.

Let’s take a look at some of the skills Boyd identified for “the postnormal era.” Would your members benefit from adding these competencies to their skill set?

#1 - Boundless Curiosity and Postnormal Creativity

Boyd separates these two skills but I believe they go hand in hand. Everyone has the capacity to be creative. In a world of unknowns, your members must be able to draw on their own and their employees’ curiosity and creativity to ask difficult questions and imagine future scenarios, processes, services and products, and ways to leverage technology.

Boyd says, “We will need to educate ourselves in the pragmatics of how innovations move from dream to ‘dent’, from a lightbulb-in-a-thought-balloon to a world-altering contraption or concept.”

Topics for your professional development program: unleashing and leveraging creativity, ideation, innovation, divergent thinking, design thinking, agile methodology, and question formulation.

#2 - Freestyling

This futuristic skill is the ability to collaborate with artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Depending on your members’ industry, they may need this skill sooner than you’ve anticipated. Boyd says:

“We have to learn to dance with the robots...We will have to balance their strengths and blind spots, just as we do with people, and as programs grow even more capable, we will have to learn when to stand to the side when it is time for the algorithms to take the next step, make the next move, or to decide who to hire or fire.”

Topics for your professional development program: potential and limitations of AI, robotics, chatbots, and smart speakers; and advanced ‘human’ skills members must develop if their existing job functions are taken over by AI.

future work skill artificial intelligence

#3 - Emergent Leadership

Boyd calls this “the ability to steer things in the right direction, without the authority to do so, through social competence.” When members see an opportunity to implement change, they must know how to lead from the middle—and when to step back down again.

Topics for your professional development program: change management, persuasive communication, social dynamics and influence, and project management.

#4 - Constructive Uncertainty

Everyone has cognitive biases that impact their thoughts and actions. You can help members become more aware of these biases and learn how to counter their influence. Boyd says:

“We are learning from the cognitive scientists that a lot of what we ‘know’ isn’t so: it’s just biased decision-making acting like a short circuit, and blocking real learning from taking place…Learning to slow down decision-making, especially when it affects other people, can help reduce the impact of bias.”

Topics for your professional development program: cognitive biases, dissent in the decision-making process, and divergent thinking.

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) has its own list of ten skills for the future workforce—one of which, sense-making, Boyd mentions too.

#5 - Sense-Making

As robots take over some occupations, the demand will increase for this uniquely human (thank goodness) and higher-level thinking skill. Sense-making is the ability to understand what’s going on in a changing, complex environment. According to IFTF, it helps “us create unique insights critical to decision making.”

Topics for your professional development program: critical thinking, data story-telling, and values-based decision-making.

future work skill cognitive bias and load management

#6 - Cognitive Load Management

Many of us use this skill already to deal with our saturated and overwhelming information stream. Members need to learn how to develop their own abilities and use tools to filter information, manage distractions, and focus on what’s most important so they can “maximize [their] cognitive functioning.”

Topics for your professional development program: information curation, mindfulness, and 21st century work hacks and habits.

#7 - Computational Thinking

Members must learn how to extract and analyze data, understand the story the data is telling, and use that insight to make decisions. IFTF also believes “the use of simulations will become a core expertise” in data analytics.

Topics for your professional development program: data analytics, visualization, and presentation.

#8 - Virtual Collaboration

As remote work becomes more prevalent, members must learn how to engage and motivate virtual employees, and “share ideas and be productive despite physical separation.”

Topics for your professional development program: remote work tools and technology, processes for collaborative work cultures, and virtual team motivation and management.

future work skill virtual collaboration and new media literacy

#9 - New Media Literacy

Skills once the domain of specialists will soon be part of many job descriptions because of their importance to every organization’s sustainability.

Topics for your professional development program: writing for the web; creating, editing, and presenting videos and visual information; digital and social media; basic web development principles; and search engine optimization and marketing.

#10 - Cross-Cultural Competencies

IFTF says diversity will be a driver of innovation. Members must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, sense and respond to new contexts, and identify and leverage points of connection that transcend differences.

Topics for your professional development program: facilitation and conflict resolution, diversity and inclusion awareness, and cross-cultural leadership and collaboration.

Members join associations to gain a competitive edge that will help them advance in their career or help their business rise to the top. Your online learning program already helps them acquire the skills they need today. But your association can become an indispensable resource by helping them develop the skills they’ll need in the very near future.

Continuing Professional Development
future work skills
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