Learning Strategy Skills

The Skills To Thrive For The Next 5 Years

Survival is the game of the human race.

At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to figure out how to survive. Skills are the currency of that game. They’re how we position ourselves in the marketplace of employability.

That was a rather philosophical line.

Last week, we focused on the 5 skills that matter most, and why too many companies are ignoring the most important skill of this year in AI delegation. Today we’ll unpack how these skills co-exist with each other and the next 5 year outlook for our skills.

The Skills Brain

This viz is from the Microsoft Work Trend report. I’ve adapted it for purposes of clarity.

Newsflash: Learning isn’t keeping up with the pace of work.

You probably knew that already.

It’s not just AI skills that leaders are looking for employees to develop. They want those that will enhance an AI-powered future too. As we covered last time, the future is human-powered.

Human + AI skills are the winning combo.

You’ve probably seen that line in some form on social media. I believe it’s the future we’re currently building. Look at generative AI as a tool. Like any tool, it has a time and place for use, and its real power is in the hands of a skilled operator.

If these are the baseline skills, what else can we expect to craft in the next 5 years of both reskilling and upskilling programmes?

Let’s dive deeper down the rabbit hole, friend.

Back to the future…or 2027

Like many other reports, WSE drops their 10 skills for the reskilling and upskilling scene:

  1. Analytical thinking
  2. Creative thinking
  3. AI and big data
  4. Leadership and social influence
  5. Resilience, flexibility and agility
  6. Curiosity and lifelong learning
  7. Technological literacy
  8. Design and user experience
  9. Motivation and self-awareness
  10. Empathy and active listening

The takeaway: Skills are always being disrupted. It is the nature of life.

Are you seeing the pattern here?

Human + digital technology together. These are the perfect combo to navigate the career game.

In the year of AI, is it any surprise companies rank analytical thinking as the #1 core skill for work?

Human thinking on any level is something generative AI can’t do.

In an evolving workplace where we’ll likely partner with AI tools, the ability to think like a human will be a prized asset. That’s why it’s no surprise, critical thinking came in at #2 on this list.

The social skills pandemic

Digital technology is beautiful.

I’m a huge fan of what it’s contributed to and enabled in society. Yet, I’m also aware of what we’ve lost.

I feel like we struggle to talk with and engage with each other more as the years pass by. I heard from organisations recently how their next generation of talent struggles to do simple things outside of a screen.

More data on this is now coming to light.

That’s why it’s no surprise this report’s top 10 skills for the future are stuffed with social skills like:

  • Leading: As workplaces become more collaborative and less hierarchical, the ability to lead and influence others is no longer restricted to the C-suite.

  • Empathy and Active Listening: With remote work and digital communication becoming the norm, the need for empathy and active listening skyrockets. These skills are vital for effective communication and teamwork, particularly when face-to-face interactions are limited.

  • Emotional Intelligence: High EQ, represented by these social skills, is increasingly seen as a predictor of success, sometimes even over IQ. It’s not just about being smart. It’s about being smart with people.

Evolving & emerging skills

I find we never do enough skill health checks.

Which is weird, IMO.

They’re the objects that grant us the power to improve our earnings and freedom, yet we don’t tend to them like you would a garden. Your skills need constant attention in the form of watering and pruning ya know.

  • Every quarter I recommend you do this:
  • Open a doc or grab a notebook
  • Create a 3-column table
  • Place these 3 headers – ‘expiring’, ‘evolving’ and ‘emerging’ in one of the column headers
  • Now, the good stuff. Reflect on your current skills and place each of them in the best column.

The power of this exercise enables you to:

  1. Chuck out the skills which no longer serve you and the world
  2. Double down on the skills that can give you a performance advantage
  3. Identify advantageous skills to add to separate you from the crowd

To help you with the last two columns, here’s what the World Economic Forums identified as the most pressing evolving and emerging skills across industries:

Skills are the biggest barrier to success

This is true for both you personally, and organisations.

We cannot understate the importance of skills in life and work. We each partake in the career marketplace. The currency in this market is skills.

The better skills you have, the better opportunities you can unlock.

You will see the reverse of this on the company side. For any company to succeed, they need the people with the best skills. And, those with the best skills can command the best opportunities.

Are you following me? Good.

We see this backed up in more data from the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report. The single biggest barrier to businesses evolving is skills.

We have two big opportunities as L&D operators and leaders here:

1/ Focus deeply on your skills

As those often responsible for helping others improve, we tend to forget ourselves.

Don’t make this mistake.

You play in the career marketplace with the rest of the world. Spend time investing in the skills explored above with the how-to frameworks shared last time. These will be your route to being a high-performing operator with opportunities knocking at your door and a strategic L&D leader, should that be the path you want.

Pair these human skills with the 7 skills L&D pros need today and you will be unstoppable.

2/ Crafting the right skills strategies

Let’s be real, most companies have no clue what skills they have or need.

I see a lot of posturing online but very few have a real grasp on this. In next week’s chat, I’m going to share ideas and examples to help you close your company’s skills gap. For now, I’ll say this.

Lean on your internal and external market data to focus on the right skills, not more skills.

Too many of these fancy skill-based organisation strategies are focused on opinions rather than concrete evidence.

Questions to consider right now are:

  • Do I have a view of the key skills my organisation needs to succeed today
  • If not, how can I get this? (talent management data, HR and L&D systems etc)
  • Are these skills aligned with my organisation’s goals?
  • What are the skills we need to be successful in the next 3 years? Future-proof your workforce
  • How do I get the answers to these in the simplest and most minimal way? This is very important ←

You can learn more about skill-based organisations in this piece from Degreed.

Final thoughts

In sum:

  • Don’t forget to invest in your own skills
  • Focus on the right skills, not more skills
  • Skill strategies are worthless without the right data

Also read: The 5 skills that matter for work and how to build them

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

Learning Strategy

How To Build High-Quality Learning And Performance Solutions

Here’s the process I use for designing high-quality performance solutions.

You can use this to solve a problem as opposed to doing what I like to call the McDonald’s conveyor belt of just taking orders and not doing anything that has a return on investment.

Let’s be hypothetical here.

Imagine someone has come to you with a performance or capability issue in their team. I like to look at the problem as a window and break it down into four sections.

The Four Performance Discovery Zones

1/ What are the key things users need to know about that topic?

How can you get them from A → B in a logical manner?

Consider the things which will move the needle.

2/ What do they know today?

It’s key to get an assessment of what is known today.

Without this, it’s like the blind leading the blind. You’re going to find it difficult to pitch your solution at the right level.


  • What do these people know today about this topic?
  • Do they know its importance?
  • How it supports them in their role, and how it supports them potentially in their future growth.

3/ What do they need to know that’s not been identified?

Your stakeholder’s view is only one side of the coin.

Think like a consultant (or detective) to uncover what might have been missed.

Reflect on things that they need to know to succeed in the modern era but have not been identified either by the team or the stakeholder. We can frame this as what they think they need versus what they actually need.

Quite often I find stakeholders will come to you and say, ‘This is what I think we need’.

Sometimes that might be 100% of the picture.

But I find that 9 times out of 10, there is more than meets the eye to what is shared in those conversations. It’s key that you take a consultant approach to dig down and find out what is it people think they need to know, but what is it they actually need to know?

This enables you to trim the fat.

→ You can add lots of value by taking things away.

4/ The not-known zone

The last bit is what I call the not-known zone.

This data will become apparent during the design process as you speak with both stakeholders and users in more detail.

At the beginning of the process, you don’t know about this. It’s something that reveals itself because it’s unknown to everyone during the process. It reveals itself through retros and continuous feedback.

This is a good thing. This is not something to worry about at all.

It’s part of the design process. It’s why I advocate looking at building solutions or products as minimal viable products where you can ship something that meets the basic user needs quickly.

This enables you to test and learn at speed and tweak your solutions for a final product.

Happy problem-solving!

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

Learning Strategy

The Easy 4-Step Learning Experience Design Playbook

This is a classic mistake with digital courses.

Someone asked why my course only takes about 3 hours to speed through.

They wanted more. It was a crash course, FYI.

This is my answer 👇


  1. 300 lessons
  2. 1000 hours of video
  3. 200 PDF documents

Doesn’t make your digital experience more valuable.

The goal is always to get a user to their goal in the quickest time possible.

If there are two learning experiences with the same outcome but one is 2 hrs vs 40 hrs. Guess what I’m buying?

Good design is about looking through a user’s eyes.

We too often fall prey to the more must be better fallacy. In most scenarios, it is not. Think about your own consumption methods, how many times have you:

  • Not finished that course
  • Not finished that book
  • Fallen asleep halfway through that bloated project update email

We tend to make this more complex than they should be.

That’s my experience after 15 years in the industry. I’ve been part of many experiences which would have been more useful as a 5-minute article.

This is why thoughtful design is such an important element of most work.

It’s not L&D exclusive. Anyone who builds products will benefit from more thoughtful design.

The thoughtful design playbook

1/ Understand the user’s goals and objectives

If you don’t know this, you’re in trouble.

Use research techniques to identify their needs, pain points, and desired outcomes. You cannot build the best solution to solve the problem without this. This can be done through techniques such as user interviews and surveys.

Get as close to the problem as possible.

  1. What do the users know about it today?
  2. What are their motivations for solving it?
  3. Do they even care about it?

The more you know the better you can help.

2/ Simplify complex concepts and information

A thoughtful design should aim to simplify complex concepts and information.

I always see any L&D operator’s role as a context guide. You can be most effective when providing context on a complicated subject. The ability to lift the veil and say “Hey, this is what it means” is your superpower.

Once again, speaking to your audience helps here.

Knowing your user’s current knowledge and motivations on the subject will inform your design. It has to, otherwise, you end up building something that no one wants.

3/ Prioritise usability and ease of navigation

This is ‘THE’ crucial aspect of thoughtful design.

It doesn’t matter if you built the best solution our world has seen. If it’s drowned in a poor user interface and experience, it’s worthless. I know this sounds harsh.

Yet, I see this happen every day.

It literally happened an hour before I typed these words. I enjoy learning from smart people, but even they fall victim to poor design. I had to stop reading a newsletter this morning, even though I knew the content was fantastic.

It was horribly formatted.

My eyes were overwhelmed with huge blocks of text with never-ending paragraphs.

I kept scrolling and they kept coming. It doesn’t matter how great the content is if I can’t clearly and easily consume it. Users should be able to effortlessly navigate through an interface and find the information they need.

You must order content in a logical and intuitive manner

Get smart. Use clear labels and headings, and provide search and filtering options. Make it easy for users to unlock the value your design provides.

4/ Test and iterate based on feedback

Experiment, test and improve – always.

The best way to do this is through your users. Build minimum viable products (MVPs) for your audience to play with. Then talk to them.

Discover what worked, what didn’t and you might even uncover things you never thought of before.

Build feedback reflections into your design process.

It’s really a no-brainer if you want to build solutions that solve problems and will give people value.

Final thoughts

In sum, challenge yourself on what is useful, why is it useful and how can you share this in the simplest possible way.

More content doesn’t equal more value.

It often leads to bloat, poor experiences and no performance outcome.

Be smart, and design with a human mind.

If you want to take that crash course on working smarter with AI. I’d love to have you onboard.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

You might also like

Learning Strategy

The Simple 6 Step Guide For a High-Performing Talent Strategy

I don’t care what anyone says.

Building a talent strategy is tough. I have a few war stories. I’m sure you do too.

Smart companies are reshaping their talent strategies

Bain & Company provides some useful pointers to future-proof your talent strategies in their working futures report.

I’ve summed them up here with a sprinkle of my own thoughts:

1/ From Talent Taker to Talent Maker

In the cutthroat world of business, companies have often acted as “talent takers,” looking externally to fill skill gaps. It’s the classic ‘build vs. buy’ dilemma.

The New Way: Bain & Co. suggests a paradigm shift—become a “Talent Maker.” Focus on the goldmine of untapped potential within your existing workforce.

Something to try: Why not start an internal “Talent Marketplace” where employees can pitch their hidden skills? It’s like eBay but for talent within your company.

Tool to Consider: Check out Gloat, a talent marketplace platform that can help you unlock internal mobility.

2/ Rethink L&D Models

Traditional L&D models are as outdated as flip phones. Side note: I saw one in the wild the other day. Trippy!

The New Way: Bain recommends creating frameworks that align with individual strengths and career aspirations. Sounds simple but not so straightforward.

Something to try: Consider creating specific learning pathways that match skills and roles in your organisation.

Tool to Consider: Degreed offers skill-building pathways tailored to individual needs.

3/ Think Laterally About Career Journeys

Vertical career ladders are so last decade.

The New Way: Embrace lateral career paths to cater to diverse strengths and interests. That means more than your typical ‘traditional’ skills.

Something to try: Encourage career maps instead of a ladder, offering multiple directions for growth. Check this article for more inspo.

Tool to Consider: Progression is great for building modern-day career maps. I’ve used the tool with two previous companies and it worked well.

4/ Create Better Visibility on Evolving Talent Needs

Companies often struggle to articulate their future talent needs, leaving employees in the dark about their career paths.

Future skills discussions often end up as opinion circuses rather than data-driven dialogues.

The New Way: Be transparent about the skills needed for future business goals. Chase real data not ad-hoc opinions from conversations.

Something to try: Use data analytics to forecast skill needs—no more guessing games. Your HR and L&D systems should help with this. If they don’t, lose them.

Tool to Consider: TechWolf is a platform I like the more I read about it. Check it out for yourself to learn more.

5/ Support Career Development

While each of us is ultimately responsible for our career development, companies can play a supportive role too.

Provide the right tools, better visibility, and an open environment for career discussions. People don’t want to feel like cogs in a machine but rather active participants in shaping their career paths.

The New Way: Empower them as active participants in their career paths.

Something to try: Regular Career Health Check-ups can go a long way. Yes, it’s simple but always effective.

Tool to Consider: Quite a few in this space. Progression can help with their career check-in support tools. As can Culture Amp. Always do your own research!

6/ Diverse Skill Sets

Skills pay the bills!

They’re the currency we use to play in the career marketplace.

The New Way: Bain encourages investment in a diverse and adaptable set of skills to keep pace with global shifts.

Something to try: Run a quarterly skills health check to identify gaps and opportunities. This is probably one of the best tools I ever implemented in the corpo world.

Tool to Consider: You could do this manually, but that would be a pain. My advice is to see if you can leverage existing HR and L&D tech to do this. If not, investigate something like TechWolf.

Go do your thing!

Ok. Now go forth, and kick-ass with your super-amazing talent strategy.

You’re welcome 😉

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

L&D Tools Learning Strategy

The Gap Between Education and Work That Kills Performance

Key Terms 💡

Just in case = amassing reams of knowledge in multiple topics with the hope that you might need it later.

Just in time = acquiring the knowledge to serve a specific task, challenge or new skill acquisition for the now.