25725276_sTechnology is the game changer in career and industry in 2015 and beyond. It means workers now need very different skills than 10 years ago. Global Talent 2021, by Oxford Economics with support from Towers Watson and several major global employers, reports that these include digital skills, agile thinking, interpersonal skills, and global operating ability. In “21st Century Talent Spotting,” Claudio Fernandez-Araoz of global executive search firm Egon Zehnder reports that it’s potential.

Working virtually and understanding social media, the ability to handle complex and ambiguous information and scenarios, successful teamwork and collaboration, and managing diverse groups are becoming more and more important at work. But potential trumps them all as employees and managers must be able to adapt to complex work and working environments. Skills and values will be just a starting point.


What’s Behind the Need for New Competencies?

Why are new competencies surfacing? Aren’t traditional work values universal, like education and training, strong work ethic, and integrity still the basis of good employees and management? They are still important, but they are not going to be enough going forward because of the forces of globalization, demographics, and pipelines.

Global Talent 2021 reports that more than half of the world’s college graduates will come from countries around the world rather than just the industrialized countries. Workforces will soon become even more diverse with multiple generations from many different cultures working in nontraditional arrangements. That’s going to require the ability to collaborate with technology in new work environments and be culturally sensitive to work together with people from vastly different experiences to get the work done better, faster, and cheaper.


What’s the Most Important Competency of the Future?

Fernandez-Araoz says the same globalization that enables companies to gain customers beyond their local markets also makes them compete for talent across the world. He explains how shrinking demographics in the prime age bracket for rising executive talent, 35 to 44 year olds, means half the number of candidates for leadership roles at a time when large segments of the working population is leaving the workforce. In a few short years, there will be more people retiring than entering the workforce all across the world.

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This is a huge problem and will be even bigger soon because companies aren’t developing the future leadership they’ll need to run their companies. They’re neglecting vital employee development activities like job rotations that could prepare today’s workers for tomorrow’s leadership responsibilities. That will make people with potential all the more valuable in the very near future.


What to Look for in Candidates Now

The factors of modern business and work require new skills including novel and adaptive thinking, social intelligence, and the ability to operate in different cultural settings. Abilities such as  computational thinking to encompass the huge amounts of data being amassed, ability to understand and use new media, and cognitive load management to be able to filter and deal with vast amounts of information and communication without being overwhelmed will be essential for top performers.

Candidates with potential are candidates who can quickly adapt to changes in organizational forms and skills requirements, continually assess and communicate the skills they have and need, and recognize and embrace the need for lifelong learning. Fernandez-Araoz recommends looking and interviewing for motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination, asking candidates to explain these qualities in themselves with real life examples. He says that the rapid pace of change across business, jobs, and industries makes looking at competencies take second place to identifying and developing people with potential.

Candidates with potential have a strong motivation to excel, willingness to put the group first, curiosity for new ideas, insight into connections and patterns, strong engagement with work and colleagues, and determination to figure out solutions. These are the qualities and characteristics to look for in candidates now to build your workforce for the next 10 years.


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