In the tech-dominated future workplace, human skills will be more critical than ever


Learn how to code. Become versed in data analytics. Think strategically. Be highly adaptable. Commit to ongoing education and retraining for, well, the rest of your work life!

These are typical of the advice offered to workers if they want to flourish in an economy increasingly driven and dominated by technological advances. You know, that workplace of the future where people do their jobs alongside intelligent machines.

I’ve offered all of the above as advice many times in recent years, and I stand by them — with caveats.  For one, not every worker will want to learn coding or embrace analytics. Second, technology takes twists and turns as it evolves, so the coding skills you learn next year may not be that relevant in five or 10 years.

Slack CTO Cal Henderson made that very point at Business Insider‘s IGNITION conference. Asked which skills he would want his own two children to learn to prepare for the work world, Business Insider writes, Henderson said the rapid pace of technology change makes it impossible to predict the most valuable tech skills one or two decades down the road:

“I don’t know what the technological skills are going to be that they need, but I think that whatever the workplace looks like 20 years from now, we’re still going to have to work with other humans. And so the most important skills are communication and collaboration skills: empathy and courtesy.”

Henderson makes a great point. To be a valuable worker, you need more than specific job-related skills; you need to be an effective and reliable team player. That means you listen, show respect for other people’s ideas and contributions, don’t try to take credit for successes or avoid blame for failures, keep colleagues in the loop, and ensure that you are in the loop.

It’s easy to dismiss these “soft skills” as HR happy-talk, but think about this: Are organizations dysfunctional because of technology problems or people problems? I’d say it’s almost always the latter. So if you can have a positive impact on an enterprise through your ability to work with others on goal-oriented tasks, you will be part of the solution. That’s a lot more valuable than learning rudimentary Python skills (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

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