#inspiredbystories

7 Skills for 2020

by Natascha Zeljko

How to take off in the new year and get ahead with your career? Here are the 7 skills for 2020 – from lifelong learning to storytelling

1. Willingness to Learn

In an increasingly complex world, in which knowledge expands exponentially and the work environment rapidly changes, the willingness to learn is the universal skill par excellence. To put it bluntly – one can say that learning is more important than knowledge itself. If you want to succeed at your job in the future, you have to be quick and motivated to learn new topics and innovative tools. But that is only one side of the coin, the technical part. Learning also has a cultural aspect, because learning is an exchange. It’s not about the elitist cascades of dominating knowledge. It is about democratic and decentralized knowledge transfer, learning from each other and about collaboration and connectivity on all levels. Between generations, hierarchical levels, social and ethnic backgrounds. “Tools that we had hardly heard of in 2010 now determine our everyday life and the pace of change is accelerating. In order to be able to continue to shape our careers in 2025, employees and managers need an immense willingness to learn and to make an effort and the curiosity and time to permanently deal with innovations alongside their day-to-day business”, says Dr. Monika Becker, Business Unit Director at Hager Unternehmensberatung and Sector Head IT & Digitalisation of the partner Horton International.

Nice to know: While the term “Lifelong Learning” (abbreviated: LLL) has become established in Germany, Austrians speak of “Companionship Learning“, which sounds much more relaxed and life-affirming.

Monika Becker
Dr. Monika Becker

2.  Concentration/Focus

In times of continuous firing our neurons by multi-channels, it is more difficult and, at the same time, more important than ever to focus. The American business psychologist and bestselling author Nir Eyal, even considers indistractibility to be the most important skill of the future. In his book “Indistractable. How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life”, the author outlines a four-step strategy for regaining control of your time and attention:

  1. Overcome the inner triggers (boredom, loneliness, insecurity, fatigue). 
  2. Clearly structure your working day. 
  3. Make a pact with yourself and the environment. 
  4. Reduce rigid app management and push notifications to a minimum.

This is not an anti-digital strategy, but a plea for the conscious handling of digital devices. 

Nice to know: Two thirds of employees use their smartphones for at least one hour a day. Experts estimate that these permanent distractions and micro-breaks add up to a productivity loss of several hundred billion US Dollars in the USA alone. 

3. Intercultural competence

A globally working world needs a global mind-set. The ability to communicate successfully –verbally and non-verbally – with colleagues and business partners from other cultures has become immensely important. In the age of VUCA (Volatility Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) intercultural competence is a key qualification – and a competitive factor. The term “ambiguity” is interesting in this context. If it is possible not only to endure irritation, but also to treat cultural differences with respect and openness, an enormous innovation potential can be created. “As is well known, diverse teams work more successfully. That’s why it makes sense in recruiting to bring together people with different professional biographies, from different cultural backgrounds and also of different ages. Managers should be aware that while mutual confirmation by like-minded people is convenient, progress is created by constructive tension,” explains Dr. Monika Becker.

Nice to know: While in 1999 an Internet search engine still found 58 entries on the topic of “intercultural competence”, this number had tripled to 1740 by the beginning of 2001. Today you can find 770,000 entries on “intercultural competence” on Google.

4. Self-management

A new decade is dawning, and it is high time to get rid of two prominent buzzwords in the literature: work-life balance and time-management. There can be no work-life balance at all, because there is always an imbalance in life – either “life” or “work” predominates in one phase of life. Creating an artificial balance creates unnecessary stress. Time-management suggests the insane assumption that one is able to control time. Time always runs at the same speed. It is therefore not a matter of time-management, but of self-management. Self-management is the contemporary answer to the changing world of work. Hierarchies are dissolving or flattening out, trivial top-down and micro-management are a thing of the past. Self-confident employees who organize themselves independently and orchestrate their private and working lives, according to the chord planning, organization, motivation and goal setting, set the tone. 

Nice to know: In addition to classic to-do lists, experts recommend keeping an not-to-do list of time-eaters and energy guzzlers: In this list there are noted tasks and behaviours, which are unnecessary or require excessive effort, do not lead to the desired goal or hinder personal development.

5. Customer orientation

Actually, it is quite astonishing that Customer Centricity has only made its career in recent years. Conversely, one would have to ask: For whom, if not for the customer, did you previously design your products and services? User Experience (UX) thus becomes the all-decisive factor, the customer is not only the addressee, but also becomes a co-creator. Marketing experts go even further and argue, that user experience outshines price and product promise. Data-based touch points have led to an innovation of the old business model, especially for manufacturing companies: Servitization. What is meant here, is that services are offered in addition to the product, i.e. digitization makes it possible to network between product and services. Recognizing and using these new opportunities will become the management skill of the new decade.

Nice to know: Servitization explained in one sentence? Peter Drucker, economist and management specialist, says: “ What the customer buys and considers value is never a product. It is always a utility – that is, what a product does for him.” In a nutshell, this means that customers do not want a lawn mower, but a well-tended lawn.

6. Decision-making power

With digitization the amount of data and information available has exploded, while at the same time, processes have accelerated. Anyone who wants to make qualified yet quick decisions in this hyperventilating setting needs a well-developed analytical sense. At the same time, the human factor is gaining importance in the digital transformation (every business is a people business), empathy and enabler qualities (and intercultural competence) are among the top skills par excellence. “Data promises managers the security in decision-making. But a digital “data avalanche” can also lead to paralysis. Managers, therefore, need courage to make decisions and, above all, the competence to reflect on decisions at an early stage and adapt them to changing conditions in an agile manner,” emphasizes Dr. Monika Becker.

Nice to know: The importance of innovation drivers within companies was already described by Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter at the beginning of the 20th century. Schumpeter has become much more popular in the recent years and his books have been reissued. The British “Economist” has named its regular column on innovation topics after him.

7. Storytelling/communication

“Those who tell the stories rule the world” is an old Hopi proverb. It’s never been as relevant as it is today. The ability to convince and inspire people is not only a skill for chiefs – to stay with the Hopis – but also for Indians. Hierarchical models are being replaced by cooperation models in the “peer to peer” sense. Teamwork, also cross-project and interdisciplinary work with many interfaces requires a different kind of communication. Instead of “command and control”, storytelling is also becoming increasingly important within organizations: exemplary, pictorial, allegorical instead of just pure facts. But storytelling means much more. It is about active listening – the one-man show is over. Even between companies that are in competition. Competition becomes coopetition. This requires new leaders who are able to move smoothly in these new ecosystems and diverse environments. “Leaders spend a lot of their time communicating. But they can only reach their employees, customers and partners effectively if they address not only the logic of the other person, but also their emotions,” says Dr. Monika Becker.

Nice to know: According to a study by Stanford University, only 5% of listeners can remember the statistics from a presentation – in return, 63% can remember the story.

This article is the start of a content cooperation between FemaleOneZero (F10) and Hager Unternehmensberatung. The company, which specializes in executive search, has repeatedly been named one of the best personnel consultancies in Germany by the magazines WirtschaftsWoche and Focus. Hager Unternehmensberatung employs around 110 people and, in addition to its extensive know-how in the field of digitalization, is also considered a specialist in issues relating to diversity and innovation.

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