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Skills for a digital world of work

Be curious about and grateful for change

Skills for a digital world of work

How does digitalisation impact the world of work? And which skills will be in demand in future? During our "Voice of HR" podcast, our presenter, Alexandra Gaspar, discussed these questions with digital expert Dr Sarah Genner. In this article, we distil the essence of the discussion, with tips about work-life balance in the digital world and the future importance of the willingness to learn and to change, curiosity, the ability to work as part of a team and a high level of toleration for frustration.

Separation for a healthy work-life balance

It soon became apparent from the discussion that the blurred line between professional and personal life is one of the biggest challenges. In the working from home era, it is therefore important for an employer to set out guidelines concerning when your presence is required. Whether someone is more productive at home or in the office is down to the individual. According to Sarah Genner, research has shown that we are more productive at home, but that important exchanges of information and social dialogue take place in the office. Hybrid forms are also possible. It is, however, essential that this is clearly communicated and coordinated, and separation is more important than ever.

Genner is aware of the challenges and as a result talks about the right to be unreachable. Working from home makes it easier to perform and fulfil several roles at once. You can thus structure your life more flexibly. But you also run the risk of confusing the boundaries between work and leisure time, or forget to take breaks. This increases the number of people suffering from burnout. The right structures that build in natural breaks have a preventative effect. The ultimate responsibility, though, lies with the employees.

Sarah Genner admits in the podcast that this is easier said than done: "I sometimes find it very hard to stick to my own advice on separation. And it's also hard for me to admit it." Nevertheless, she exhorts us to persist and gives the following advice for healthy separation:

  • State your working hours in your email signature
  • Comprehensible and clear communication from managers regarding expectations
  • Take time for breaks
  • Delegate clearly
  • Don't take your mobile phone to bed with you
  • Create an absence message
Emails at the weekend or in the evening don't have to be answered within two hours.

Skills of the future – mental fitness

When Sarah Genner talks about skills of the future, this has surprisingly little to do with technology. Genner's focus is on other traits. Willingness to learn and to change, curiosity, the ability to work as part of a team and a high level of tolerance for frustration. We have to accept that sometimes technology does not work. When Genner references the employees of the future, she compares them to diamonds in the rough. Company-specific knowledge makes the precious stones shine. Accordingly, when recruiting new employees, she shifts the focus from know-how to personal purpose – the value framework. These personal drivers must concur with the company's purpose and values. If there is a high level of concordance of values, the employees' lifecycle journey is transformed in the longer term into satisfaction on both sides.

Employees have to access new channels constantly, learn digital programmes and tools that address clients' changing needs. This is not possible without continuing professional development and reflection on one's own work pattern. Mental fitness and willingness to learn play a dominant role, as well as flexibility and agility. Companies must ensure that the willingness and ability to learn is embedded in the corporate culture. The incentives must be positioned so that the question of education or training never arises, they are seen as a matter of course. This is how companies remain innovative leaders.

Everyone has to find out for themselves how they learn best. Businesses can promote education and training as follows:

  • Internal knowledge transfer – online, hybrid or face to face when employees require the knowledge
  • Knowledge platforms – linked to AI to suggest new content to employees based on their prior knowledge
  • External education and training offers – support for the organisation of fresh input and network expansion.
Centrally placed coffee machines are places of education. Relevant knowledge is also shared there.

Which generation benefits from digitalisation?

The discussion does not make absolutely clear whether it is young or old who benefit from the changes. Young people have grown up with digital media, tools and channels and move nimbly in these worlds. Although the older generation have to learn more, they achieve separation better as a result of their life experience and their clear identity. According to Sarah Genner, positive psychology provides support through sensible crash barriers. "Enjoyment of life, gratitude and love of learning are the most important fundamental values that create strong and happy people. They are the right traits for mastering the future."


Presenter, HR strategy advisor

Alexandra Gastpar

Alexandra Gastpar works for HR Campus as an HR strategy and total workforce management consultant and, in advising a range of clients, is guided by the motto "HR is the soul of a company and the soul makes us what we are". As the presenter of the Voice of HR podcast, she talks to interesting people and HR professionals about blunders, highlights and trends in the HR world.

Digital expert

Dr. Sarah Genner

Dr Sarah Genner is a digital expert, lecturer and member of the Board of Directors. Her special fields are the impact of digital media and technologies on people, society and the world of work. In the process, she focuses on protection of personal privacy and achieving the balance between leisure and work time. She also conducts research into the skills of the future.

Published: 8. February 2022

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