10 workplace skills for 2020

THRIVE’s take on the future of workplace skills.

Laura Broad Senior Learning Designer

10 workplace skills for 2020

We’ve been waiting with bated breath for 2020. A new decade, a new era… and along with it a whole bunch of skills your employees are going to need to keep up with the demands of your modern workplace? But what exactly do these new “skills for 2020” look like? 

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. THRIVE have sifted through “must-read” articles and here’s our take on it…

Adaptability and flexibility

In an ever-changing world, people need to adapt to change: what works today might not work tomorrow. For employees, that means adapting to change in processes, products and clients, as well as big picture organisational change. But also in a personal sense – understanding there will be new skills to learn, and old habits to unlearn.

For leaders and managers, this means being able to lead through and manage change effectively, and support your teams through this. 


Without a shadow of a doubt, collaboration deserves to be in this list. Possibly not a new or revolutionary skill for 2020, but one that is crucial to any workplace. We spend so much of our lives at work, developing the social skills to help teams work effectively together are important for the success of a team and an organisation.

But we believe collaboration is more than just one skill. Teamworkgiving and receiving feedback, conflict management, negotiationbuilding relationshipscommunication… just a few of the skills that make a team work like a well-oiled machine. 


In a world of evolving technology and AI, there’s definitely one thing that humans still have the advantage on. Creativity. It’s a skill integral to so many workplaces – from coming up with new ideas and innovation, to rethinking working practices and processes. 

And though a few big voices keep stating this is a skill that can’t be learned, we adamantly disagree. You just need to get into the right mindset for some cracking new ideas.

Critical thinking and cognitive flexibility

Both skills in their own right, but really both are about being a bit more open-minded.

When it comes to critical thinking, it’s about not taking the information you receive at face value. Whether that’s the trashy news stories you see on social media, the gossip you overhear at lunch, or the stats you find when researching at work, thinking critically helps you sort the fact from the fiction and make sure the information you pay attention to is trustworthy.

Cognitive flexibility (or flexible thinking), is being open to see things from different perspectives. It lets you see both sides of the argument, help you understand other people’s points of view, and opens you up to other possibilities.

Cultural intelligence and diversity

It would seem equality and diversity principles are largely embedded into workplace culture. But with organisations and teams becoming more international and widespread, there’s a rising need for more. 

There’s a need to go beyond the standard equality & diversity topics – an awareness of and sensitivity to different cultures, languages and norms. Plus topics around aspects of gender and neurodiversity factor into a wider concept of inclusion. 

Emotional intelligence

Now, this is something that people have been banging on about for years. “The ability to be aware of, control and express our own emotions, and also understand others emotions” is definitely an important skill. But the big question is: how do we teach this? And that probably the crux of why it’s been on everyone’s radar for so long.

THRIVE think talking about emotional intelligence in isolation isn’t enough. It’s such an intangible thing that it needs the right context. In fact, it underpins many of our bundles – leadership, customer service, and our upcoming communication bundle.

Judgement and complex decision making

There’s a lot of talk around using judgement and making good decisions when it comes to data, and how humans still need to play a part. But, surely it’s more simple than that?

We don’t discount what others are saying, but would argue the focus here should be on the more day-to-day. With a push towards autonomy and agile workforces, developing good judgementdecision making and problem solving are all important skills, both in and out of work. They’ll create more versatile people and teams who can truly take ownership and initiative.

Leadership skills

Although not a particularly new skill, leadership is being redefined for the modern employee. It seems others are in agreement with us that leadership and management are two very different skills, and that anyone has the potential to be a leader.

Being a leader is much more than telling people what to do and when to do it, it’s about fostering a working environment that encourages everyone to be the best version of themselves: being inspirational, being a mentor, and supporting your team when things get tough.

Negotiating and persuasion

Humans have the unique ability, it would seem, to see the grey areas of a situation. This is where negotiation and persuasion come in. 

In reality, we use both of these way more than you might think. Ever tried to convince your child that 7pm is a reasonable bedtime? How about deciding with your partner who’s going to cook dinner? Or maybe you had to convince your colleague to try a new way of working? 

People management

As they say, a company is only as good as its people. So it’s no surprise that looking after your team is a key skill for 2020. Whether you’re a manager or a leader, it’s your job to make sure your team is motivated and productive. But it’s not just about meeting deadlines – their wellbeing is equally important. You need to be able to respond to their needs and keep them happy. This means investment in your team, but also in yourself as a leader.

So what now?

Sure, the lifespan of a workplace skill is getting ever shorter – from 10 years to now less than 5 years. But what does that actually mean? Well basically, L&D teams need to step up to the plate now more than ever before to make sure employees aren’t getting left behind. 

What that looks like is up to you. Different skills will be higher priority for different people and workplaces, so we’ll leave you to decide what’s important for your employees.

But what we can help you with is giving your team the tools to upskill in all these important areas. THRIVE’s elearning catalogue covers off nearly all of these vital skills and most of our clients are using this uncertain time of isolation and remote working to prioritise the personal learning and development of their teams, and these skills are an excellent place to start. Subscribe to the catalogue and get 170+ microlearning modules for just £5,000 a year.

Microlearning catalogue

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