This article was originally published here on the Forbes website. This is a repost of Sander’s regular column.

As a formally trained engineer, the skills I acquired at university are valuable to me even today in my role as the CEO of a global talent organization. Approaching challenges with an analytical mindset, valuing different perspectives and finding solutions cooperatively with others are just some of the fundamental learnings that have served me well. That’s all to say that although AI and technology are advancing rapidly - many human skills are irreplaceable - and that is something to embrace as we arrive at a critical crossroad in the next industrial revolution. 

When it comes to leaning towards the position of fearing technologies' role in destroying jobs or embracing its potential to create jobs, I’m forever an optimist. Jobs and roles will continue to evolve with technology, as they always have. In fact, after attending last week’s World Economic Forum Growth Summit, where leaders discussed preparing the global workforce for technological disruptions, I came away believing that harnessing human skills is more important than ever. We need all hands on deck to meet the world’s challenges. 

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demand for cognitive skills is growing more quickly. Problem solving has become one of the most desired abilities, and companies often value this more than technical competencies. Businesses are keen to hire those possessing such talent and help them develop the technical skills they need later on.

sander van 't noordende
CEO, Randstad

Creativity and analysis lead the way

Abilities such as creative and analytical thinking, resiliency, flexibility and agility are expected to become more valued by 2027, according to WEF’s recently released 2023 Future of Jobs Report. This research was based on input from 803 companies employing 11.3 million workers. Humans are far better at ideation, collaboration, leadership, entrepreneurship — skills and attitudes hard to replicate with AI. 

Indeed, demand for cognitive skills is growing more quickly. Problem solving has become one of the most desired abilities, and companies often value this more than technical competencies. Businesses are keen to hire those possessing such talent and help them develop the technical skills they need later on.  

At the same time, employers can amplify such qualities through the careful deployment of tools that complement people’s abilities. By allowing AI or automation to take over time-consuming, repetitive tasks, workers can optimize their talents around customer engagement, analysis and collaboration. In our HR services industry, AI is facilitating talent acquisition in innovative ways. In addition to enhancing candidate matching, technology enables sourcing and screening, interview scheduling and relationship building. Such tools free up recruiters to establish closer and more personal connections with talent. The right tools can help people be even more effective, efficient and productive. This drives value creation and meaningful work, which also leads to a happier and more satisfied workforce.

Two men working together in an office
Two men working together in an office

Specialized skills in high demand

The enhancement of human abilities is also leading to more specialization. WEF’s survey showed that 44% of employers’ core skill sets will change during the next five years — the highest level since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, technology adoption will have the greatest impact on the transformation of their business, according to 85% of those surveyed.

These indicators suggest we need more creative problem solvers adept in emerging and specialized fields, such as healthcare, climate change and environmental management and more. Randstad’s 2022 Global In-demand Skills Report highlights the strategy of hiring to train. For example, some companies hire programmers who possess a core set of capabilities and then give them additional skills to address future talent needs. This approach maximizes agility and flexibility while ensuring access to a robust candidate pipeline. 

Jobs will become increasingly specialized as a result of technology. Consider auto mechanics, whose role has expanded to include software diagnostics and battery management due to more sophisticated and green energy vehicles. Similarly, surgeons accustomed to performing procedures with their hands may need to learn robotic technology to deliver remote care. Adapting to the changing nature of work is a valuable skill in itself, and it’s a mandate that billions of people must heed.

Specialization also offers tremendous benefits to talent. Because of significant churn in the labor market — the WEF predicts a 23% change in jobs created vs. jobs lost over the next five years —  workers with a mastery of a particular field are more likely to have marketable skills than those with rudimentary skills. Moreover, specialists are likely to have greater earning potential as well.

Specialization is equally important to both white and blue collar workers, so there is an incentive for everyone to sharpen their skills. In fact, jobs that will experience the highest growth in the near future are non-office based, such as agricultural equipment operators, heavy truck and bus drivers, vocational education teachers, and mechanics and machinery repair specialists. 

As the world of work continues to evolve and restructure, helping people prepare for what’s ahead will be a monumental task. Individual initiatives — whether from governments, the private sector or labor organizations — will not be enough. A coordinated and unified effort from all stakeholders is a must. Fortunately from discussions heard at last week’s Growth Summit, including one on what’s next for jobs, many are already collaborating to reskill and upskill millions of their constituents. And that may be the most encouraging news to come out of Geneva last week.

about the author
CEO_sander van noordende
CEO_sander van noordende

Sander van 't Noordende

ceo, randstad

I am the Chief Executive Officer of Randstad, the world’s largest talent company and a workplace equity advocate. Throughout my career, as a business leader, I have advocated for true equity in the workplace. The world of work is changing rapidly and with talent in the driving seat, employers must adapt to meet the growing demands for a more tailored, flexible and purpose-driven approach to work. Through our insights, such as our flagship Workmonitor report, and our ambition to be the most equitable and specialized talent company, we are well-positioned to help both talent and clients navigate the ever-changing global labor market. Prior to joining Randstad, I spent 30 years at Accenture most recently serving as Group Chief Executive of the Products Operating Group and have been featured by Fortune, CNBC, BBC, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal discussing the world of work.