The top 10 skills for professionals in the future

Futuristic office
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

1 November 2016

The LinkedIn Global Top Skills of 2016 report has shown a major demand for technical skills in the workplace with digital knowledge and understanding making up the entire top 10.

Employers are reportedly looking more and more to hire experts in data analysis, web design and software development, according to the hiring and recruiting activity that has happened on the professional networking site this year.

The report looked at the skill categories of site members who were most likely to start new jobs and receive interest from recruiters.

Seven countries, including the UK, Canada and Australia, put statistical analysis and data mining in poll position for 2016 while six, including the US and Germany, placed the most value on individuals with cloud computing experience.

Soft skills did not feature on the global list and made very few appearances in country-specific rankings. Employee compensation and benefits policy-making was the only non-technical skill in the UK's top 10 while other nations placed emphasis on legal expertise and communications experience.

Despite this, recent research from YouGov for Huthwaite International showed that leading business decision makers consider personal qualities such as leadership, communication and presentation skills to be key in a successful career.

With this in mind, Eleanor O'Neill has rounded up a balance of the top 10 key skills needed in the modern workplace.


1. Data analysis and presentation

As more companies begin to make use of big data, people who can extract, analyse and translate the useful information are in understandably high demand.

Today's standard data analytics largely presents numerical information via graphs and charts, summarising but rarely effectively simplifying data in a way that provides an actionable direction.

Understanding this data and being able to make decisions based on it is a highly important capability for businesses and, as such, data specialists are invaluable.

BPP, in partnership with ICAS, are offering beginner and intermediate courses in 'Using excel techniques to analyse data' throughout November.

2. Leadership and people management

If you can prove that you can drive others forward and encourage the best from them, then you will quickly become a desirable asset to any business.

There are many different kinds of leadership styles and methods that can come across as a positive and useful addition to any workplace.

Management and leadership is one of the key areas covered by the FutureLearn online courses available to ICAS members free of charge through the Make Your Professional Development Count programme.

3. Web architecture and development framework

A company website is arguably the most important public-facing aspect of any business as it is generally the first point of contact potential clients and customers will have.

As such, an in-house or outsourced web team is essential for any business serious about maintaining relations with a strong online presence and good user experience.

While these skills are likely to remain the domain of web specialists, understanding the importance of this element to the overall business is a sign of real engagement with the digital age.

4. Negotiation and persuasion

The ability to sell and effectively promote ideas and products is a far-reaching skill sought after in most industries, not just sales or retail.

Having a good base of communication abilities is vital to developing these skills. According to YouGov, financial services in particular advocate listening and questioning capabilities as being helpful to career progression.

'Negotiation mastery' is an online course offered by ICAS and CIMA is also holding an introductory class later this year.

5. Mobile development

Apps are where it's at across many industries and sectors. Banks alone, through necessity, are making huge in-roads into mobile and it is clearly a key component to digital innovation.

Like website development, this is an intensive skill set that requires expert knowledge and training to achieve proficiency.

However, showing a willingness to work with and deliver input to a mobile project will help you promote yourself as a forward-thinking and innovative member of the team.

6. HR benefits and compensation

Designing an attractive total reward is vital for businesses trying to attract and retain talent in a workforce becoming increasingly versatile, mobile, digital and automated.

A recent report from PwC indicated that, in order to keep up, financial services organisations will need to rebuild trust with their workers.

Specialising or being knowledgeable about the importance of human resources and benefits in this situation is a valuable asset. ICAS and BPP offer a range of online courses covering rewarding employees.

7. SEO/SEM marketing

Making sure your brand is visible online is essential and people with experience in search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) have been in high demand in recent years.

As the skill becomes more common and supply begins to meet demand, it is almost expected that most people today will have at least a basic knowledge of what it is.

Google offers a free starter guide to understanding and integrating SEO effectively.

8. Network and information security

With recent controversies about cyber security in high profile cases like Yahoo, Sage and Hilary Clinton's email, ensuring business data is kept secure has emerged as a top priority for businesses everywhere.

Aside from undergoing relevant training, there are practical steps you can take to demonstrate a proficiency and understanding of the issue.

Staying compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998 is becoming increasingly important for accountancy firms and ICAS offers a Cyber Security Framework to help.

Even something as simple as using social media at work can be a risk, as the ICAS/BPP 'The 21st Century workplace: managing social media use' online course points out.

9. Cloud and distributed computing

While not yet ranking very highly in the UK, cloud and distributed computing has topped LinkedIn's global skills lists for two years running.

According to a survey published last year by the British Chambers of Commerce, nearly seven out of 10 UK SMEs use cloud-based software, making a familiarity with the technology hugely useful.

Embracing and implementing a plan for the software makes for a more efficient business.

10. Specialist skills

Obviously, there will be skills specific to your industry and role that are paramount within that niche. For example, the LinkedIn skills rankings show developers proficient with scripting languages like Perl, Python and Ruby to be highly sought after.

You should keep as up to date as possible with new developments, updates and trends that will have an effect on your work.

ICAS offers a range of courses in conjunction with BPP and CIMA for professional development in the fields of accountancy, tax, financial services and business.


Future proofing your skill set

ICAS is dedicated to creating leaders of the future and helping our members stay at the forefront of business.

A wide range of online and on-location training courses are available to members through our partnerships with BPP, CIMA and FutureLearn.

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