10 In-Demand Skills Your Members Need to Learn Now

Since 2015, the skillsets required for jobs changed by 28% in the U.S. LinkedIn expects this figure to double by 2027. Another recent study says 37% of the top 20 skills requested for the average U.S. job have changed since 2016.

Imagine, in four years, you might spend half the day using skills you don’t have now. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. If you skim job postings, you can already see a market demand for skills that were rare or non-existent in the last decade. People can’t get these skills fast enough. 

But only 39% of working U.S. adults say their current employer is helping them improve their current skills or gain new skills to do their job better. Industry professionals would love to see your association proclaim loudly and clearly how essential it is for employers to invest in their employees’ professional development so they can get the skills training they need.

Find out what members need to learn

Understand what your members need to learn right now, so they (and their employers) are prepared for the inevitable changes ahead. It’s likely your needs assessment data hasn’t caught up with the emergence of ChatGPT and other AI industry-specific tools.

An employer advisory council can tell you about skills gaps and help guide the development of educational pathways and programs. Employer and employee focus groups are additional resources. 

Polls reveal trends in individual needs. Find out what software, apps, and tools members need help with. Note the questions coming up in your online community. Watch attendance and viewing metrics for webinars, conference sessions, web pages, and email content. Monitor what competitors are offering.  

10 in-demand skills to teach your members 

Here’s what researchers have reported about in-demand skills.

#1: Digital literacy

Digital literacy is required to do all jobs effectively and safely. Employers expect people to come to them with the requisite level of digital literacy. 

You might not expect this: Gen Z is not as comfortable with new technology as many of us expect.

Sure, many Gen Zers are proficient with gaming and social media platforms, but not necessarily email, Office 365, or Slack. Remote and hybrid workplaces add additional challenges. Young professionals no longer get facetime with more experienced colleagues who might have helped them grow. Everyone assumes Gen Zers are naturally tech savvy, but they may lack the confidence to ask for help. 

Digital literacy also includes knowing how to: 

•    Find information online
•    Evaluate the credibility and quality of online information and sources
•    Attribute credit appropriately
•    Avoid copyright and plagiarism issues
•    Recognize phishing attempts
•    Practice good password hygiene

#2: Data literacy

The need for data literacy isn’t a surprise, judging by the number of webinars and conference session descriptions focusing on data.

Employees need to learn:

•    How data can help them do their jobs
•    What insight it can provide
•    What kind of data they need to make decisions
•    Where to find that data
•    How to interpret it
•    How to use it ethically to make decisions
•    How to present it to support their case

They must also be familiar with data analysis tools used in their profession.

#3: AI-assisted productivity

A Coursera executive describes AI as the new electricity. “It's going to infuse everything in society... Whether you're ready or not, almost anything digital is going to change and become AI enabled.”

Take ChatGPT, for example. Many professionals already use it as a timesaving tool that allows them to shift their focus to tasks requiring higher-level skills. Prompt engineering is already an in-demand skill. 

Employees must learn how to leverage AI tools safely and ethically, which means understanding their potential and limitations. The peak of ChatGPT’s hype cycle might be behind us, but 67% of senior IT leaders are prioritizing generative AI for their business within the next 18 months. You can bet generative AI and other AI tools are here to stay.

#4: Remote/hybrid management and working

Many organizations fell into remote or hybrid work during the pandemic, but soon realized it requires a different set of management skills—a market need perfectly suited to your association. 

Industry professionals may have figured out how to work remotely. But are they doing it well? They need help learning how to use communication and collaboration tools, and how to communicate, connect, and collaborate with others.

three professionals practicing in-demand skills, in this case, data literacy

#5: Emotional intelligence

Every professional should know how to communicate and get along with others. Yet, many people, including managers, struggle in the emotional intelligence department. People may like their work, co-workers, and company mission, but if they have a bad boss, they’re not sticking around. 

Help people master the components of emotional intelligence: 

•    Self-awareness and motivation
•    Self-management, including productivity and time management
•    Social awareness
•    Relationship building and management 

#6: Communication

69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees. That’s a shocker. Seriously. No wonder work is a drag for so many. 

Everyone, especially managers, would benefit from learning how to:

•    Practice empathy and active listening
•    Give regular feedback
•    Handle contentious conversations
•    Write appropriately and concisely—without using emojis and abbreviations to get their point across
•    Choose the right communication channel for the purpose

#7: Personal branding

Personal branding skills help people advance in their careers. People need to know how to build and maintain a good professional reputation—and association membership helps.

Members should know how to maintain an effective online profile on LinkedIn and other relevant platforms.

#8: Project management

Everyone benefits from knowing the principles of project management. Projects stay on track when employees know which processes and guidelines to use. When this skillset is recognized, perhaps employers won’t add project management to an employee’s already overloaded plate. 

#9: Critical thinking and business acumen

Business acumen training gives employees an understanding of how their work helps the company achieve its goals. This training could be generalized to the industry or profession, so a professional learns how to: 

•    Analyze situations
•    Make informed decisions
•    Identify opportunities
•    Evaluate threats
•    Anticipate trends
•    Develop solutions

Think of it as critical thinking—the #1 skill of 2023 per the Future of Jobs Report 2023 from the World Economic Forum (WEF)—in an industry context. By the way, the WEF’s #2 skill is creative thinking. 

What else, besides critical and creative thinking, does someone need to learn to improve their business acumen?

•    Analytical or data-driven decision-making skills
•    Problem-solving
•    Financial literacy
•    Sustainability and corporate social responsibility
•    Risk management
•    Consumer needs, preferences, and trends
•    Industry knowledge

#10: Growth mindset

Resilience, flexibility, and agility are the #3 skillset per the WEF. Years ago, I read a Fast Company article proclaiming the most important skill for our century would be the ability to learn new skills. 

Members must understand they’ll always have to learn new skills, adopt new tools, and perhaps change their role. A growth mindset is essential for success. They’ll have to learn and unlearn, become curious and entertain new ideas, and be confident in their ability to adapt.

Skills training programs

Test interest in these new training programs by finding an expert who can teach one of these skills in a webinar or pop-up session at a conference. Check with industry partners to see if they have anyone on staff who can share their expertise. Perhaps the company would be interested in sponsoring a program or becoming part of the faculty for soft skills or technical training. 

Award digital badges or microcredentials to learners who have proven mastery in a skill. This visual display of their accomplishment can help them in project assignments, promotions, and hiring. Offer stackable badges. For example, eight or ten badges for specific soft skills lead to a certificate. 

Offer individual and corporate learning passes or subscriptions so employees can take the classes they need without having to get approval for each one. They won’t have to admit their skills gaps but can work on closing them.

Include data from needs assessments, surveys, and polls when marketing your educational programs: “X% of industry employers seek professionals who have this skill.” 

Remind employers why they need to listen to your message about reskilling. For 80% of working U.S. adults, an employer’s training offerings are a key consideration when accepting a new job. If they want to remain competitive, they need to invest in their employees’ professional development. 

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