Six skills that are vital for the workforce of the future

The world of work has changed considerably in a relatively short timeframe thanks to technology and innovation across industries, propelling the world and its markets ever onward and upward. Covid-19 has of course also played a crucial role in the direction that careers are taking, having changed how, where and when people work, but also dictating the skills that are required from here on out.

While most predictions typically focus on the technical skills needed for workers to thrive in the future – such as digital literacy and data analytics – research bodies, companies and HR departments are increasingly paying attention to the soft skills too.

In fact, in the Soft Skills for Business Success report, Deloitte analysts estimated that by 2030, almost two-thirds of all occupations would be based on soft skills. The automation and digitalisation of work processes has a lot to do with this, pushing employees to develop and deepen their soft skills to stay ahead of competitors and bring value to their organisations.

These are some of the top soft skills that are already growing in demand among employers.

  1. Problem-solving – employees with problem-solving mindsets, no matter what department or field they operate in, are an asset to organisations. These employees see a problem as an opportunity to grow and are motivated to find solutions, thereby focussing on growth and achieving positive results.
  2. Negotiations and reasoning – Being able to deal effectively and sensitively with conflict, as well as understanding the social, political and cultural contexts that organisations operate in, is crucial, particularly among managers.
  3. Critical thinking – this skill allows an individual to make logical and informed decisions without being swayed by personal opinions, emotions or inherent biases.
  4. Time management – Stress, anxiety and burnout are on the rise among workers, particularly as remote working has blurred the boundaries of normal working hours. Having good time management skills ensures workers are using their allotted working hours wisely  and effectively.
  5. Resilience – Resilience is the ability to face and adapt to challenges to overcome them. A person with strong resilience skills can handle disappointments because they don’t let setbacks keep them from progressing.
  6. Leadership and social influence – The ability to influence is an essential skill, especially among managers and leaders. To influence is to have an impact on the behaviours, attitudes, opinions and choices of others, which is not to be confused with power or control – it’s not about manipulating others to get your way.


As a Services SETA accredited training provider, Awakening Excellence has designed and developed material incorporating positive psychology, emotional intelligence, Appreciative Inquiry, Neuroscience and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) embedding a growth mind-set in the way we facilitate and train. We offer both SETA-accredited and non-accredited training; our courses range from short one-day training workshops to 12-month training programmes.

Get in touch with us at info@awakeningexcellence.co.za for more information.

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Coaching: Fad or Fallacy?

Globalisation of business; flatter, leaner organisations; rapid changes, restructuring and cost-cutting strategies; and the inadequacy of training on its own have been some of the driving forces behind the greater need for coaching.

The demands placed on organisational leadership in the new business environment has expanded greatly; talent, skills and leadership have been lost through downsizing. In the mean-time, those left in charge often do not have the years of experience needed to inform their decision-making.

According to Valerio and Lee (2005), coaching emerged as the preferred “just-in-time” learning to help leverage the areas that would have the greatest impact on results.

There is much confusion as to what coaching really is and how it differs from counselling and mentoring. The general definitions of coaching suggest that a coach works with an individual to unlock their potential with a focus on taking an individual from their current state, to a positive desired future state.

Counselling, from a psychological perspective, addresses historical issues of the past and focuses on understanding and working on how past experiences impact on an individual’s current behaviour.
Mentoring is the transfer of skills from an experienced and skilled individual on a specific subject to another requiring this skill. A coach does not need to be a subject-matter expert to coach an individual.
It is the technique of questioning, listening and motivating as well as being goal-oriented that is key to the coaching relationship.

In South Africa coaching has been introduced in organisations for a number of reasons. Retaining talent, refining leadership style, enhancing and supplementing training, and addressing under-performance are among the many outcomes an organisation anticipates from coaching. And what transpires as coaching is often a combination of teaching, mentoring, counselling and coaching.

In organisations where it has been introduced as an under-performance improvement measure, coaching as a positive tool is often tainted by negative perceptions, where people shy away from the experience. When clear and measurable objectives are not set by coach and coachees for the coaching intervention, imprecise outcomes are formed that call the value of coaching into question. In this way and for this reason, some organisations are reluctant in creating a coaching culture.

However, research confirms that coaching taps into the natural way the brain functions, improving and enhancing individual performance. Because of this, coaching is certainly valuable for underperformers, talented individuals or anyone wanting to change behaviour or achieve a goal. Creating a coaching culture empowers every individual in the organisation to take on a leadership role by applying the coaching methodology in their leadership style.

In addition, the move away from instructions and authoritarian styles of management means that individuals are respected for their contribution through an ingrained belief that they have the answers to their problems. As such, coaching is powerful and effective, because individuals reach their own conclusions, deciding on actions that they willingly commit to. This culture creates a climate that empowers individuals and teams to generate results.

Furthermore, research shows that training supported by coaching is significantly more effective than coaching alone. According to a survey by the International Personnel Management Association, the impact of training on productivity is 22.4%, whereas, training plus coaching achieves a dramatic 88% increase in productivity. Hence, coaching in the workplace has a positive impact on the bottom line.

The International Coaching Federation (2009) reported that executives who were coached for a minimum of six months experienced a 77% improvement in their working relationships with direct reports; 71% with supervisors; and 63% with peers. Additionally, job satisfaction rose by 61% and organizational commitment went up 44%.

Coaching is not a fad, nor the latest trend in management, neither is it seen as a ‘feel-good’ exercise unrelated to business objectives. Coaching is increasingly recognised as a methodology for creating effective conversations, assessing and reformulating values and goals, and reaching solutions (Zeus and Skiffington, 2002).

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Mistakes organisations make when implementing a coaching programme

The need for coaching and training interventions within organisations is now widely accepted and acknowledged, with 75% of organisations currently offering coaching and mentoring, according to a 2014 survey report by CIPD*.

The impact of implementing a coaching programme is certainly significant and measurable, however there are a few common mistakes that organisations tend to make when applying a coaching programme. To ensure practices are embedded in the culture of the organisation and there is long term sustainability, consider the points below when implementing a coaching programme.

What follows is an extract from Dr Mariam Sha’s book, The Engaged Workforce: 6 practical steps to creating a coaching culture): – 

Ignoring the bigger picture, the larger map
Employees do not work in isolation, behaviour is impacted by groups and peers. In an organisation, cultural norms prevail that can either enable or prevent an employee from implementing change in a positive way. When offering coaching to an employee, an organisation should adopt a holistic approach. Employees being coached cannot change their behaviour if the system does not allow and welcome the change.

Set clear measurable objectives/goals – measure return on investment
Neglecting to set individual, team and organisational goals prior to commencing with a coaching programme leaves little room for measuring improvements and achieving outcomes. Track progress on the achievement of individual, team and organisational objectives. Encourage feedback on the programme and make the necessary changes to ensure that the strategic goals are met.

Participation is voluntary
Not every manager has the competencies or perhaps even the desire to be a coach. When deciding to implement coaching, an organisation needs to account for those managers who may lack the will or ability to coach their employees. Start with those managers that are committed to changing their style of management to a coaching style. Their success will encourage other managers to do so.

Skills and competencies
Workplace coaches should be carefully selected. The sponsor or HR need to be clear and in agreement on the specific competencies and behaviours of a coach, taking into consideration how these will be acquired and applied to ensure success.

Continuation of coaching after training
Training may be a step towards accreditation for a workplace coach. It’s vital that organisations provide ongoing supervision and monitoring for sustainability.

Coaches don’t have the answers
The explanations and expectations of coaching should be discussed upfront with all stakeholders. Everyone needs to understand that the coach should not be providing answers and solutions. The coach has the techniques and skills to listen, probe and question. If or when a coach responds to pressure from the coachee or the organisation to achieve ‘quick’ results, the outcome is likely to be superficial rather than a sustained behavioural change.

Coach and psychologist
Whether or not a coach is qualified in the discipline, psycho-therapy should not be brought into a coaching session. A coach can state and acknowledge the need for a psychologist where necessary, stepping away from the relationship. Note that people being coached may have major interpersonal difficulties, and, as such, it is essential that a coach determines at the outset why such a relationship would not reap the expected results.

Make time for coaching
Often managers raise time constraints as obstacles coaching their staff. Coaching is a style of management, it’s not an add-on requiring additional time. Create coachable moments: apply the coaching methodology during one-on-one meetings, performance appraisals or discussions on key issues. This serves to encourage individuals to think of solutions rather than the manager always providing solutions. Individuals are more likely to implement solutions they had thought of than those they have been instructed to carry out.

Order your copy of “An Engaged Workforce: 6 practical steps to creating a coaching culture”. Contact info@awakeningexcellence.co.za

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Bottom line: a toxic work culture is bad for business

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker’s famous quote rings just as true today as it did in 2006 when he first uttered the words, reminding us that no matter how well considered your strategy may be, it’s nothing more than a paper exercise without engaged employees who contribute meaningfully to company culture to execute it.

Reaching the end of the financial year only to find that there was no shift in business performance, despite ticking all the boxes on strategy is an experience many leaders dread, especially with the Board and key stakeholders to answer to.

An unhappy work environment casts a dark cloud over a company, its people, and its operations. It causes an unfortunate ripple effect that permeates every facet of a business and threatens its very existence. By now, most leaders are aware of this cycle: toxic, disabling work cultures result in unhappy, disengaged employees and, by extension, poor productivity. All this spells trouble for a business’s bottom line.

From dealing with organisational change to navigating office politics, there are many factors constantly at play and contributing toward the overall culture of an organisation. Leadership teams have an important role to play in this regard, ensuring there is effective communication and dialogue taking place between employees and management, that there are measures in place to prevent favouritism, bullying, and unhealthy workplace practices.

It sounds simple enough to just tick these items off the ‘detoxify your workplace’ list. However, taking a well-considered and holistic approach to improving workplace culture is crucial to ensuring sustainable transformation in the long run.

What do we mean when we talk about a ‘holistic’ approach? It has to do with taking the whole organisation and all its parts into consideration, instead of zeroing in on or trying to ‘fix’ just one single aspect. Consider, for example, the ripple effect that unhappy employees have on productivity and the bottom line – remedying this involves examining the environment that people operate within and performing a complete evaluation of all its parts.

  1. Leadership

A strong leadership team fosters an engaged workforce and helps to retain valuable talent. Strengthening the leaders of an organisation starts with role modelling the organisational values, involving employees in setting and achieving business objectives, and participating in decision making. We know that a lack of communication often leads to distrust, dissatisfaction and grapevine talk across all levels of an organisation – keeping everyone in the loop, especially when it comes to change and decision-making, prevents dissension and misinformation through gossip.

  1. Management

Next in line are the managers of a company, who have a direct impact on staff morale and productivity. It is a known fact and well researched that people leave managers not the organisation, a manager’s behaviour should be enabling, open, encouraging and supportive, but in many cases, we find that they are the opposite, taking the fun out of work by stifling innovation and growth.

Across countries we have witnessed the promotion of technically skilled individuals to management positions without equipping them with the skills to manage. Management is not just a title but a job, like any other, this important role requires the manager to develop people, provide feedback, recognise, and appreciate work performance, coach, and mentor to name a few. Ensuring managers have the tools they need to manage effectively is crucial. Coaching interventions and training programmes designed to educate inexperienced managers on how to find their feet in their new roles are key to positive transformation.

  1. People

Employees need to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. If these are unclear, they cannot be expected to perform well or achieve their targets. Performance reviews that have been properly thought out and aligned with these responsibilities form part of this, and the implementation thereof is the responsibility of leadership and management.

In addition, encouraging employees to ‘buy in’ to the objectives, vision and values of the organisation is a crucial step in the cultural transformation process. Having a better understanding of these fundamental basics is key, as employees who don’t understand or believe in what an organisation is trying to achieve, won’t care about the role they play in contributing to this.

  1. Your strategic narrative

A strategic narrative is vital to ignite the passion in people, making them believe in the positive difference the organisation makes to people and greater communities.

According to a popular legend, during a tour of NASA headquarters in 1961, John F. Kennedy encountered a janitor mopping the floors. “Why are you working so late?” Kennedy asked. “Mr President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

What great work does your organisation do?

“Employee engagement is not a tangible input,

but a result of the many practices

that create an environment and culture of engagement.”

It’s time to transform your workplace (including your work-from-home policy) to a more positive, enabling one. Finding out what your employees are feeling and experiencing working at your organisation is a major part of this.

Contact us now to take our employee engagement/climate and culture survey at info@awakeningexcellence.co.za.