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World Economic Forum: Top 10 skills and workforce strategies in 2020

World Economic Forum: Top 10 skills and workforce strategies in 2020


It is no surprise that more than one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will change five years from now.


The World Economic Forum predicted current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labour market changes over the period 2015-2020, with a total loss of 7.1 million jobs.

Two thirds of jobs that could be lost are concentrated in routine white-collar office functions such as office and administrative roles. Meanwhile, there could be a total gain of two million jobs in computer and mathematical and architecture and engineering related fields.

Despite the tendency for manufacturing and production roles to bottom out, the roles have relatively good potential for upskilling, redeployment and productivity enhancements through technology.

The World Economic Forum’s recently published “The Future of Jobs” elaborated the top 10 skills demanded in 2020.

Top 10 skills in 2020

  1. Complex problem solving.
  2. Critical thinking.
  3. Creativity.
  4. People management.
  5. Co-ordinating with others.
  6. Emotional intelligence.
  7. Judgment and decision making.
  8. Service orientation.
  9. Negotiation.
  10. Cognitive flexibility.

Top 10 skills in 2005 (compared with 2020 statistics)

  1. Complex problem solving.
  2. Co-ordinating with others (-3).
  3. People management (-1).
  4. Critical thinking (+2).
  5. Negotiation (-4).
  6. Quality control. *
  7. Service orientation (-1).
  8. Judgment and decision making (+1).
  9. Active listening.*
  10. Creativity (+7).

*drop out of Top 10 skills in 2020

Negotiation and flexibility were high on the list of skills for 2015, however, in 2020 machines will replace the decision making process. Active listening will be dropped from the top 10, and replaced by emotional intelligence.

Future workforce strategies, industries overall: Share of respondents pursuing strategy (%)


Invest in reskilling current employees (65%). Support mobility and job rotation (39%). Collaborate, educational institutions (25%). Target female talent (25%). Attract foreign talent (22%). Offer apprenticeships (22%). Collaborate, other companies across industries (14%). Collaborate, other companies in industry (12%). Target minorities’ talent (12%). Hire more short-term workers (11%).


Two job types were perceived by respondents as critically important in 2020: data analysts and specialised sales representatives.

Companies expect data analysts will help them make sense and derive insights from the data generated by technological disruptions. Specialised sales representatives, who can effectively commercialise and explain offerings to business or government, will fit into the 2020 business landscape.

A particular need is also seen in industries as varied as energy and media, entertainment and information for a new type of senior manager.


The dataset that forms the basis of the report is the result of an extensive survey of CHROs and other senior talent and strategy executives from a total of 371 leading global employers, representing more than 13 million employees across nine broad industry sectors in 15 major developed and emerging economies and regional economic areas.


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