Three Key Skills Employees Need Now

Alan R. Ludmer

Alan R. Ludmer


The business world is constantly changing and now it’s changing at an accelerated speed. American workers no longer have decades to adapt to new technologies or business advancements. People need to be able to adapt — and adapt quickly — if they want to thrive in the business world and not fall behind or become obsolete. The idea that you can go to college and receive a two-year or four-year degree and then be equipped to work at a job for the next 30 years is not true anymore.

Bono, lead vocalist for the rock band U2, and Thomas L. Friedman, a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and author of the book, Thank You for Being Late, recently shared what skill sets workers should have to be successful now and in the future — whether they are a new graduate or have already been in the workforce for 10 years or 40 years. Here are the three traits workers should possess to help them quickly adapt to changes in business and set themselves apart as a leader in the workplace.

1. Embrace a lifelong passion for learning. We no longer live during a time where it’s beneficial to stock up a bunch of knowledge and resources and be set for your career. What you know today could be obsolete tomorrow or the job you perform now may be taken over by a computer system. This is why it’s imperative to embrace learning as a means to adapt to a shifting marketplace. When you have an accelerated pace of change, the single most competitive advantage is to be a lifelong learner.

Part of being a lifelong learner means being connected to the flow of the world. That is what digital globalization is all about, Friedman says. During the Middle Ages, it was wise to build a town near a river, because the river provided transportation, food, energy and ideas. It’s just as important today to be connected to the pulse of the world by surrounding yourself with innovative people, who have a global perspective as well as employees, who are able to take advantage of a changing marketplace.

2. Boost creativity by understanding the importance of pausing. Sometimes the best way to increase your creativity and produce a better product is to pause. That is exactly what the band U2 did when they were producing their latest album Songs of Experience. “Machines when they’re put on pause cease productivity, but humans when they’re put on pause begin a different kind of productivity,” says Bono.

Bono was referencing one of Friedman’s favorite quotes from Dov Seidman who says “when you press the pause button on a computer, it stops. But when you press the pause button on a human being, it starts. It starts to rethink, reimagine, reflect.”

This philosophy is a cornerstone of the health and wellness movement. It explains why it’s so beneficial for American workers to have balance in their lives. The human mind needs periods of downtime in order to generate new ideas, solve problems and imagine the next big thing. It may seem counterproductive, but changing your scenery is often the best way to jumpstart your creative process.

3. Focus on developing soft skills. The next generation of workers cannot ignore developing soft business skills, such as the ability to give and receive feedback, work collaboratively, use emotional intelligence, manage time, and be resourceful. It’s these self-developed skills that will catapult you into leadership positions. Machines are getting smarter and will continue to take over certain aspects of business. But interpersonal skills and understanding how to connect disconnected people is something that machines cannot take over. It’s also a skill that is sorely missing in the workplace today. Business leaders are looking for employees, “who know how to dress up, show up, sit up, learn up and, occasionally, shut up in order to do their job properly,” Friedman says.

The best advice for American workers is to continue to make learning a priority. Constantly upgrade your skills and keep your finger on the pulse of the world, because this will help you adapt to any changes in the business that affect you. Remember that sometimes the best way to increase your creativity is to pause. You can go for a walk, meditate or find another way to give your mind the breathing room it requires to reflect, think differently and be imaginative. Lastly, take time to develop interpersonal and communication skills. This means talking with people face to face and putting away those electronic devices. By embracing these three traits, you will be equipped to help lead your company into the future.

About the author

Alan Ludmer is the president of ARL, LLC; specializing in individual career transitions, outplacement, and career and executive coaching, search/recruitment, corporate marketing and branding. He is the lead consultant for the JF&CS LifeLine Program which has helped numerous members of the St. Louis Community successfully navigate difficult career transitions.  He is a frequent speaker and author on career transitions,  employment issues, and entrepreneurship. For more information contact [email protected] or visit his blog at