The future world of work is calling. And it needs these #skills.

Research by McKinsey, based on a survey of 18,000 people in 15 countries, provides suggestions to identify the new skills needed to face the present and future challenges in the world of work, in the perspective of the loss of many traditional jobs.

The crisis linked to the pandemic acted as a catalyst for an already existing technological revolution. For the world of work, the increasingly massive arrival of digital tools connected to artificial intelligence, robotics, and 3D printing makes it essential to re-train today’s workforce.

The Research by the McKinsey Global Institute states that the need for manual and physical skills and basic cognitive ones will decrease. While the demand for technological, social, and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will grow.

How should governments behave to stand alongside their citizens in this transition period?

The research tries to answer by defining possible future scenarios and identifying the skills needed to be ready for the future world of work. The result is a set of 56 foundational skills that will benefit all citizens: a higher knowledge in them is already connected with better opportunities in terms of job satisfaction, higher incomes, and the likelihood of employment.



While it is inevitable that part of the work activities will be highly specialized, on the other hand, regardless of the type of role, each of us will benefit from acquiring a series of basic skills that help achieve these three standards:

– add value to what can be performed by automated systems and intelligent machines

– work in a digital setting

– adapt to different methods of operating and new jobs

The research, which is based on McKinsey’s experience in adult education, first identified four categories of macro skills, which are subdivided in 56 different elements of talent called DELTAs, which are based on a mix of skills and attitudes

1. Cognitive

Critical thinking

● Structured problem solving

● Logical reasoning

● Understanding biases

● Seeking relevant information


● Storytelling and public speaking

● Asking the right questions

● Synthesizing messages

● Active listening

Planning and ways of working 

● Work-plan development

● Time management and prioritization

● Agile thinking

Mental  Flexibility

● Creativity and imagination

● Translating knowledge to different contexts

● Adopting a different perspective

● Adaptability

● Ability to learn



Mobilizing systems

● Role modeling

● Win-win negotiations

● Crafting an inspiring vision

● Organizational awareness

Developing relationships 

● Empathy

● Inspiring trust

● Humility

● Sociability

Teamwork effectiveness 

● Fostering inclusiveness

● Motivating different personalities

● Resolving confl­icts

● Collaboration

● Coaching

● Empowering



Self-awareness and self-management

● Understanding own emotions

● Integrity and triggers

● Self-motivation and wellness

● Self-control and regulation

● Understanding own strengths.

● Self-confidence


● Courage and risk-taking.

● Energy, passion, and optimism

● Driving change and innovation

● Breaking orthodoxies

Goals achievement

● Ownership and decisiveness

● Achievement orientation

● Grit and persistence

● Coping with uncertainty

● Self-development



Digital  fluency and citizenship

● Digital literacy

● Digital learning

● Digital collaboration

● Digital ethics

Software use and development

● Programming literacy

● Data analysis and statistics

● Computational and algorithmic thinking

Understanding digital systems

● Data literacy

● Smart systems

● Cybersecurity literacy

● Tech translation and enablement



The researchers conducted two other activities:

  1. measure the level of knowledge in the 56 DELTAs amidst today’s workers confronted with the one they assumed will be asked in the future
  2. assess if proficiency in these DELTAs was already linked with specific work-related results.

Here, some of the results:

– participants with a university qualification had higher average proficiency scores: this fact suggests that higher levels of education are helpful to be ready for future changes in the workplace

– a higher level of education is not associated with higher proficiency in all DELTAs (for example, in self-leadership and interpersonal categories)

– knowledge was weakest in two skill groups in the digital category: “software use and development” and “understanding digital systems.”

– proficiency in specific DELTAs in the self-leadership category is linked with a higher possibility of employment and a greater job satisfaction, while high incomes were most associated with a general command in the four skill groups.

The top three DELTAs in which proficiency predicts better outcomes are:



Synthesizing messages

Coping with uncertainty



High income


Work-plan development

Organizational awareness


Job satisfaction


Coping with uncertainty

Self-motivation and wellness



The research helps the specific skills people will require in the future world of work. It also suggests that it is crucial to get a good proficiency to get better opportunities for employment, income, and job satisfaction.

In such a scenario, there are three actions governments should take:

Reform education systems

– reviewing and updating curricula to focus more deeply on the DELTAs

– leading additional research

– setting up institutions for research and innovation in education to fund the study

– facilitate researchers’ access to schools to test innovative solutions, and establish which methods work for which DELTAs


Reform adult-training systems

– provide constant adult training, changing and improving the curricula

– elaborate specific actions to encourage relevant adult learning: establish an AI aggregator of training programs to attract adult learners and encourage lifelong learning; introduce a skill-based certification system; fund schemes that encourage a higher focus on DELTAs.


Ensure affordability of lifelong education

– create an affordable system to develop certain mindsets and attitudes from a very young age, overcoming the limits of the classical approach linked to the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century

– such a system must remain affordable until retirement is reached, and the DELTAs that will future-proof citizens’ skills in the world of work.