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7 business skills desperately needed in today's economy

7 business skills desperately needed in today's economy

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Organizations need individuals who are not only tech-savvy, but also know how to analyze, engage and create value in new ways.

Unemployment remains high, and in the current economy, there is a dearth of opportunities for many types of jobs and professions.

But, at the same time, companies have been scrambling to find certain sets of  talent they desperately need to compete in today's hyper-competitive global economy.  Organizations need individuals who are not only tech-savvy, but also know how to analyze, engage, create and maintain value in new ways.

Here are 7 leading business skills seeing insatiable demand from organizations seeking to compete in today's tough global economy:

  1. Data mining/analytics: With mass-computerization and mass production, the playing field is very level for organizations, and very little they can do to differentiate themselves in today's markets. Except for one thing -- the way they can understand and act on data. To this end, "data scientist" is a fast-emerging job category. "Every minute YouTube users upload 48 hours of video, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content, and Google receives 2 million search queries," write Parag Khanna and Aaron Smith in Foreign Policy. "As Big Data gets even bigger, fewer people will be needed to collect information, and more people will be needed to analyze and discover the value stored within these billions of terabytes. Some of the sexiest and best-paying jobs of the next 10 years will belong to the likes of Internet statisticians and data miners, people who don't just crunch raw numbers but analyze their hidden patterns to shape business decisions."
  2. Cross-cultural competency and communications: To succeed, companies need to be highly competitive within a global economy, and thus be able to connect with various markets. "In a truly globally connected world, a worker’s skill set could see them posted in any number of locations—they need to be able to operate in whatever environment they find themselves," according according to Anna Davies, Devin Fidler and Marina Gorbis, authors of Future Work Skills: 2020, published by the Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute. "This demands specific content, such as linguistic skills, but also adaptability to changing circumstances and an ability to sense and respond to new contexts. Cross-cultural competency will become an important skill for all workers, not just those who have to operate in diverse geographical environments."
  3. Social business acumen: To get ahead and get their companies ahead, professionals need to be well-versed "in forms such as video, able to critically read and assess them in the same way that they currently assess a paper or presentation," according to the Institute of the Future report. "They will also need to be comfortable creating and presenting their own visual information. Knowledge of fonts and layouts was once restricted to a small set of print designers and typesetters, until word processing programs brought this within the reach of everyday office workers. Similarly, user-friendly production editing tools will make video language—concepts such as frame, depth of field etc—part of the common vernacular. As immersive and visually stimulating presentation of information becomes the norm, workers will need more sophisticated skills to use these tools to engage and persuade their audiences."
  4. Automated manufacturing: Today's factory managers and workers need more than assembly-line know-how: they need to understand and design the systems and processes that encompass today's production lines. This includes everything from robotics to 3D printing, or "additive manufacturing," as it's called at the industrial level. In a recent Washington Post column, Vivek Wadhwa points out that 3D printing and computer design "will also need legions of 3D designers and people who can operate and maintain sophisticated computer-based equipment," he says. Additional skills require knowledge of simulation and virtual control systems -- all part of  today's information technology-driven manufacturing plants. Also, Wadhwa adds, at the materials level, employers are hungry for individuals with the abilities to deliver new products with the latest generation of lightweight, composite materials, requiring "innovations in material processing technologies and more highly skilled employees to manage the complex, new manufacturing processes."
  5. Entrepreneurship: Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, calls entrepreneurship the “scarcest, rarest, hardest energy and talent in the world to find.” There are actually three types of entrepreneurship that are vital to succeeding in the current economy. There's, first, the ability to form a startup based on a business idea, or simply buy someone else's business, and be able to build upon that. Second, there's the freelance model, in which individuals provide services on a contract or project basis to clients. Third, there's the idea of being an internal entrepreneur (often called "intrapreneur") within the walls of the organization, either to launch new products or a new piece of the business.
  6. Design mindset: This approach not only encompasses product design, but work design as well, as pointed out in the Institute for the Future report. "The sensors, communication tools and processing power of the computational world will bring with them new opportunities to take a design approach to our work."
  7. Cybersecurity: With online messaging now the lifeblood of businesses, organizations risk losing billions of dollars to external and inside hackers and fraudsters. as a result, there is insatiable demand for professionals who can help protect valuable data and networks. “If any college student asked me what career would most assure thirty years of steady, well-paying employment, I would respond, ‘cybersecurity,’” says Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation at the US State Department, quoted in Mashable.

(Photo: Joe McKendrick. Corridor at National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.)

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure