If you're looking for a new job but not having any luck, it could be your communication, adaptability or digital proficiency that's letting you down, according to a survey of 951 employers by recruiting specialist Hays.
The research shows that further down the list are emotional intelligence, technical skills, self-learning, data-based decision making and coding. It's important to future-proof your work so you're not being left behind in what's being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or digital revolution.
Jason Walker, Hays managing director for New Zealand, says there's one thing you can guarantee — that the workforce is going to change. And it's changing at a faster pace than ever before. "A lot of that is down to automation, artificial intelligence and other technology. It's changing how we do things, how we work with information, and it's providing employers with a lot of opportunity to reduce their workforce in certain areas and sectors."
He says this is especially around areas of data retrieval or data management. Where there were previously a lot of people employed in those roles, now there's a lot of technology replacing those people.
"If you look at the recruitment world, a lot of what's done around screening applicants, and checks will at some time be outsourced using technology. If the workplace is going to move more to technology taking certain roles, we're going to need a workforce that can adapt and change relatively quickly or be left behind."
Walker's advice is: "Don't be like a rock, because you'll be left behind. Be a river rather than a rock — flow through it."
He says if you're not being properly upskilled by your workplace, you should consider the value of investing in yourself and keep on learning.
"A lot of courses on the internet don't take a lot of money. Sometimes it's just time commitment that's needed. Pay yourself first in terms of time. This will help you create the future you may desire. Find out what tools are available from others — there's plenty to find — even Pinterest can be a place of learning."
There will be so much noise around technology that it's going to be important that the knowledge workforce can provide consultancy advice and expertise.
Walker says: "When we did our survey among 951 employers, 77 per cent said communication will still be important or essential. Adaptability, digital efficiency, innovation, critical thinking — all these things are about being flexible and engaging change.
He says, having a good communication style, with some emotional intelligence is vital. "This is because we're moving to the knowledge workforce. We're going to have all these products that the organisation is going to be promoting — you'll still need to connect, engage, communicate, network and influence. That's where the ability to engage and persuade about what these products can do will be important.
"The Fourth Industrial Revolution means a lot of roles are taken over by technology. There still will be a need for people, a workforce, to engage with people, train people, convince them about the technology, network and influence others. It's about developing relationships and generating opportunities for whoever they're working for or with.
"Soft skills become significantly more important. Creativity is part of the skill set employers are looking for too. Although technology can do a lot of things — it's about the information you put into products. Creativity, innovation and critical thinking are still going to be the skill sets that will enable an organisation to maximise those technologies and maximise what they have."
Walker says: "I told my son who has just become a hairdresser that I can't see that anyone will want to put their head into a machine and get their hair done — there still will be jobs that humans will be best at.
"Also when the technology fails, there's still going to be a need for a human who can go in and fix it."
He says: "There's still a lot of tactile, kinesthetic roles that will demand creativity — those roles will still be there. The squeeze will be more in the middle, around things that are data-related. Where we get people to put things into a system, that will be done automatically. Customer service will become more and more about checking boxes."
Walker agrees there will be a group who will be disenfranchised by all of this. "This comes into what Government will need to do around social policy to help these people."
Government regulation can also have an effect on the impact of the new technology as is being seen in Europe around privacy laws. Automation can only be learned from the amount of data that's been put in. If the data is being restricted, through privacy laws, this can be limited.
So there are still some unknowns around what the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring.