Jobs and the Future of Work

Are your skills in high demand? And are they valued the same across your global team?

The Future of Jobs Report 2023 highlights in demand skills for the coming years but an inter-cultural approach will give them more impact.

The Future of Jobs Report 2023 highlights in demand skills for the coming years but an inter-cultural approach will give them more impact. Image: Unsplash/Tim Gouw

Tatiana Reuil
Global Shaper, Buenos Aires Hub, Buenos Aires Hub
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Jobs and Skills

This article is part of: Global Shapers Annual Summit

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  • The Future of Jobs Reports 2023 has established the high-demand skills for the coming years.
  • Getting the most out of high-demand skills when working in a global team depends upon adopting an intercultural mindset and appreciating the nuances of applying skills across cultures.
  • An example of cultural nuance in skills is the value placed within power dynamics, with some countries appreciating an egalitarian approach to hierarchy and vice versa.

Your professional skillset has always been the lede in any career pursuit, so it follows that as job markets change, developing and enhancing professional skills is crucial to your future goals. The Future of Jobs Report 2023 has eliminated some hard work in establishing what skills are in high demand over the coming years. However, when working in multicultural and global work environments, there’s an added layer of consideration to make them have the most impact.

Here are some ways to manage your professional skills to make the most of them in a global team.

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Deploying skills strategically in global teams

The Future of Jobs Report starts with its proposed most relevant skills in 2023 related to cognition, self-efficacy, technology, working with others and management.

It also presents the skills for which demand is expected to grow in the coming years. Notable additions from the Forum’s report include systems thinking, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, talent management, service orientation and customer service.

As these skills become more critical to business operations, their development is crucial. Lack of skills in some areas can also present challenges working within a team in the same location as well as in other locations with diverse cultures and customs. In the latter case, however, the value of certain skills or working methods may change with culture. That may not mean there are inherently right or wrong ways of working, but there are diverse ways of working.

Put simply, good communication, great leadership or creativity may vary across geographies, regionally and globally, and of course, person-to-person. Understanding your ways of working and cultures and how they compare with your counterparts is key to building bridges and success, including closing deals, managing a great team or reporting correctly to your team lead. But getting the skills right here relies on considering cultural patterns rather than stereotypes.

Top 10 skills of 2023.
Top 10 skills of 2023. Image: World Economic Forum

Diverse interpretations

All organizations expect excellent leadership, good communication, a high level of empathy, flexibility and other skills perceived to achieve success. However, these may look different across cultures. For instance, as explained by the social psychologist Geert Hofstede and author Erin Meyer, leadership can span two poles: egalitarian and hierarchical. As such, some cultures might tend to lead with low power distance (e.g. Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden); that is, employees with different seniority expect equal distribution of power. Others might emphasize a high power distance (e.g. Japan, Nigeria, Korea) and expect team members to keep distance and respect hierarchical lines according to their level of authority. And then there are some with an approach that tends to fall somewhere in the middle (e.g. Germany, UK, Brazil).

The same rationale applies to social influence and how communication and influencing skills change someone’s ideas, actions or behaviours. Some cultures may prioritize facts, statements and opinions (e.g. Italy, France and Spain fall into this camp), while others might organize their speech around theoretical and complex arguments (e.g. as seen in the United States, Canada, Australia, etc). However, somewhere between those styles, you might find Argentina, Denmark and Brazil, among others.

The cultural expectations created around these in-demand and ordinarily transferable skills vary across cultures and this variance could become challenging. For example, when a manager expects their employee to possess analytical skills and be comfortable voicing their opinion within a group setting, they may not like to contradict others with higher seniority. That worker could be the most innovative, analytical and creative team member, so their deference to more senior colleagues does not make them any less of an asset.

Therefore, learning how to identify and work with cultural nuances makes sense in order to connect with colleagues. That is why there is a need to approach talent management from an intercultural point of view if working within global teams.

Mastering most of the top key skills from an intercultural approach will help teams succeed internally and externally across cultures, even more so than learning the dominant language for your field and organization because intercultural skills are what will help you engage effectively. Resilience, flexibility, motivation, self-awareness, curiosity and lifelong learning – adapted to cultural nuances – are thus vital to helping people thrive in a global team.

No level playing field

Technological literacy, systems thinking and AI and big data are the skills of the future, if not already. But who has access to educate themselves in those fields? Who has the opportunity to upskill and get the opportunity to develop professionally?

According to Our World in Data, only 60% of the world's population had access to the internet in 2020. Then consider that out of the total annual number of newly-funded AI companies in 2021, 40% were from the United States, with China and the European Union following as areas with the highest number of companies, incidentally where there are the biggest private investments in AI.

Education and literacy also differ at a country level and systemic inequalities, such as gender biases, racism and class inequalities, can impact the talent coming in and the training and development they have been privy to.

The bottom line is that when you work in a global team, your colleagues, managers and reports will hail from various cultures and realities where the value they give to different skills and how they apply them could differ. Therefore, harnessing the best in people relies on continually adopting an intercultural mindset, empathy and flexibility. And that involves considering team members from other cultures, their expectations and a proactive approach to building bridges with your international counterparts.

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