Embracing soft skills in the face of change

Soft skills from employees and great cultures set by employers, are the future of the workplace as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, so says the Future of Work Panel at EduTECH Sydney.

After a keynote address by Sophie Lanyon, Manager Professional Practice Credentials at DeakinCo., Nerida Bewick, General Manager Operations at UAC lead a discussion with Greg Miller, Executive Director at Faethm, Evvie Smith, Learning and Performance Strategist at Deakin Co., Stephanie Brien, Senior Customer Success Coach at Culture Amp and Tony Dunford, Head of Enterprise Curricula at Westpac Group.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to the increasing automation and replacement of jobs by machines and artificial intelligence. 

“5 million jobs will cease to exist in the next decade, however, by 2030, soft skills based roles will make up two thirds of the workforce” Sophie Lanyon says of this trend. 

Sophie argues that automation will augment jobs, and that humans will be needed for what we do best: creativity, emotional judgement and decision making. 


“The future of human work will be centered around soft skills and the combination of these with AR (augmented reality) and machine learning,” Tony Dunford said.

Employers are already waking up to this trend, looking less for new employees who can tick technical skills off, but rather have these soft skills: the ability to learn, problem solve and communicate effectively. In fact, of 160 job ads surveyed, 70% wanted only communication and digital skills. 

Employers increasingly understand that these skills are developed by the individual, and on the job, not by formal training. 

While there is some discomfort and fear for the loss of jobs, Tony Dunford argues that employees need to be given an environment where they can feel safe, understand the changes and adapt.

Sophie Brien said: “Organisations have realised that their success is not measured by the bottomline alone. Success measures will include their people, and how likely they are to stay, enjoy their work and perform well.” 

The panel want to see greater inclusivity and diversity in workplaces, arguing that happy and valued employees are effective employees.

“Diversity creates a more productive work force. Only 24% of companies have LGBT inclusion policies. It’s very important that people feel comfortable in the work space to actually perform. It’s important to be authentic with who you are,” said Evvie Smith.

Creating great cultures is vital to the success of any organisation. “The more engaged people are with their work, the less health care assistance they require,” Sophie added. 

With career journeys lasting 60-70 years now, it’s important that employees keep developing their soft skills and marketing those to employers, while at the same time employers look at the kind of culture and workplace they’ve created. 

‘The Future of Work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was a thought leadership panel session sponsored by Deakin Co., held on the Innovation Stage at EduTECH Conference, Thursday 6 June 2019.