Article: From Empathy to Critical Thinking

5 Soft Skills for 2020

Office workers look on a ceremony to celebrate the new year from their offices in Seoul, South Korea, December 31, 2019.    REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Jan. 7, 2020

At the dawn of 2020, soft skills are more important than ever.

These are changing times that we live in, as you can probably tell by the ubiquity of buzzwords such as Industry 4.0 and digital transformation (DT). There is no denying that the world is on to something.

Chances are that, sometime in the 2020s, we will pass a threshold, after which the very fabric of business will be transformed.

As that new dawn approaches, skills which once gave one the upper hand in the job market are becoming less relevant.

Businesses and employers, meanwhile, are on the lookout for a new set of skills: qualities such as communication literacy and social intelligence which enable professionals to navigate their way through the uncharted waters of the post-2020 world.

Simply put, employers are these days looking for so-called soft skills which, not incidentally, cannot be mimicked by computers and artificial intelligence—for the time being anyway!

Unlike technical and occupational skills, soft skills are not domain-specific and can be easily transferred across sectors, giving you an edge in interviews, in negotiations, and in short, in making the right impression.

A 2012 study by Robles, published in Business Communication Quarterly, discovered that employers wanted their “new employees to have strong soft skills."

After contemplating over 500 soft skills and consulting many business executives, the study concluded that soft skills such as “integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, social skills, positive attitude, professionalism, flexibility, teamwork, and work ethic" are highly sought-after in the workplace.

Much has changed, however, since 2012, and though qualities such as integrity and professionalism will always be valued, the world of post-2020 may demand even more soft skills.

Below, we propose five soft skills which will be in demand in the 2020s.

Critical thinking

Fake news and misinformation are inevitable downsides of the age of social media and high-speed internet.
And, critical thinking is the only tool helping us to weed out the nonsensical and keep the right pieces of information in the forefront of our minds.

Critical thinking can be learned, and it is not without good reason that top business schools are increasingly adjusting their curricula to foster critical thinking.

Ad-hoc problem solving

In an increasingly complex world, businesspeople, and other professionals need to tackle problems emerging out of nowhere on a daily basis.

As such, those who can think on their feet and come up with ad-hoc solutions which save time and money will be perceived as more resourceful employees.

Written communication

We might have switched from handwritten memos and typewritten letters to email and instant messaging, but these new forms of communication still use the medium of writing.

There is plenty of bad writing in the world, lacking clarity, economy, and good style. You should not add to it.

Honing your writing skills will enable you to avoid the pitfalls of fuzzy communication, grab the attention of your audience, and gain an edge in doing business.

Verbal skills

Oral communication skills can be improved, too.

We are now equipped with Big Data and elaborate statistical tools which give us a picture of reality. But raw information means little to us humans unless it is presented to us through the abstractions of language.

There is more to verbal skills in the workplace than fancy talking, namedropping, and using buzzwords. Highbrow verbal communication calls for the clear delivery of messages as well as being a good listener.


The level of automation, digitalization, and uberization—among countless other trends ending in “ion"—is at an all-time high, in many cases making our lives easier.

In such a mechanized world, however, we need empathy and a human touch more than ever to keep things together in the workplace.