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Automation is redefining the types of skills employers want

Business meeting in black and white
A business meeting in 1964. Photo: McKeown/Daily Express/Hulton via Getty Images

Some experts warn of an impending automation-fueled upending of work, and they argue that non-technical skills will become increasingly valuable as rote tasks are handed over to computers and robots.

What's happening: Automation is roiling jobs, but in a way that is redefining the skills in demand. The top five skills companies now seek, according to a LinkedIn analysis, are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management. Their popularity outstripped more than two dozen hard skills.

Why it matters: These are skills on which humans still have a monopoly — they're far beyond the reach of even the most advanced AI systems. (Granted, they'd be useful even if robots weren't on the horizon.)

Trawling its vast database of profiles and job postings, LinkedIn says these skills are in high demand relative to supply. People who list them on their profiles go on to be hired into a wide variety of jobs, LinkedIn tells Axios:

  • People who count "creativity" as a skill are mostly hired as marketing specialists, graphic designers, teachers and project managers.
  • People who describe themselves as "adaptable" were hired as teachers and project managers, too — plus customer service representatives and nurses.
  • Oral communication skills are in highest demand relative to supply, LinkedIn reports.

Hard skills, however, have not gone out of style.

  • Employers also want expertise in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and user-experience design, as well as good managers and analytical thinkers.

"Soft skills are in hot demand because talents such as creativity and collaboration are vital for the digital economy," says Darrell West, director of Brookings' Center for Technology Innovation. One example, says West:

"Software designers need people who can translate their work and make devices easy to use by non-specialists. That means teams of technical and non-technical people who can work well together. One without the other will mean devices that are too complicated to use."