PwC’s 2022 Global Hopes and Fears survey found that so-called ‘soft skills’ – human capabilities such as leadership, creative thinking, problem-solving and conflict resolution – will remain as important as ever.

Participants within the workforce have now recognised that more skills are needed outside of having the requirements to do a specific job to remain productive and competent when disruptions such as the pandemic, supply chain changes, the green transition, and technological transformation occur.

As a result, there has been a sharp focus on upskilling within South African organisations and a pivot from hard skills – such as job title, level, or educational qualifications – to soft skills.

“This process of upskilling and pivoting to soft skills will lead to developing attitudes and aspirations that will equip people with the skills to continually adapt to and take part in the changing world of work,” said PwC.

According to PwC’s survey, employee respondents felt the need to enhancetechnology skills and knowledge in automation, programming and coding, modelling and data analysis to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

The survey also noted that becoming a future-fit organisation requires an agile and employee-centric approach to work – where employees are valued for hard and soft skills.

PwC outlined some of the critical skills organisations in South Africa are looking for, which are:

  • Productivity – the ability to set goals and meet them, prioritise needs, and manage time while working ethically and collaboratively with colleagues and clients
  • Agility – the ability to cut through unnecessary work and focus only on essential work.
  • Strong emotional intelligence – the ability to have sound judgement under pressure and remain calm under stress.
  • Leadership in motivating and coaching to guide and support teams throughout a project.
  • Collaboration – working cross-functionally and across the business lines of service, coming together around the business’s shared purpose, which moves away from siloed ways of working.
  • Fluidity – fluid intelligence is the ability to think abstractly, reason quickly, and problem-solve independent of any previously acquired knowledge.

The cause of the shift in skills

The modern workplace has undergone significant changes in the past two years, brought about by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with an exponentially increasing digitisation drive.

Experts generally agree that the way business is conducted in South Africa has shifted permanently and that the working world – at least in terms of office jobs – will never return to the pre-Covid nine-to-five model of in-office employment.

This disruption of the workspace and shift to hybrid work has uprooted the needs and competencies required by both employees and employers to adapt to the new world of work post-Covid 19.

Employees are increasingly demanding work-from-home flexibility and are generally turning their noses up at warnings about the negatives – like the loss of team collaboration, presenteeism bias, and losing out on mentorship and training opportunities in the workplace – in favour of a better work-life balance.

The shift has disrupted not just the labour market and business operations but entire cities and provinces.

For example, Cape Town and other coastal towns have had to accommodate a growing number semigrants who can now do their jobs from home.

Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, assistant director-general and regional director for Africa for the International Labour Organisation, says the shift isn’t entirely negative for employers and that those who embrace the change will be able to expand their hiring processes rather than limit them.

“(Businesses) now have the flexibility to find workers who best fit their business interests. They have begun to change their hiring criteria to include new groups of workers who had not been previously considered, including those who live far from their workplaces. This has expanded the scope for businesses to access the skills they want.”