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These 5 Skills Will Prepare Your Students for the Future Workforce

Since 2020, there has been a lot of talk about the new workplace. McKinsey and Company, have been calling for workplaces to embrace the changes in their Future of the Workplace reports. The reports discuss everything from the types of jobs to the occupational transition that we will continue to see happening in the market. So, what can we as educators learn from this? If there is a call to action for employers to understand how the nature of work is changing, how do we as the educators of the workforce need to change what we are doing? We will look at five skills the workforce is predicted to need in the future and ways we can infuse this content into our curriculum.

1)     Visual CommunicationMcKinsey’s 2021 report notes state there is a rise in photography because more organizations are infusing visual forms of communication into their marketing, training, and general communication. There is also an increase in data visualization techniques and platforms that are being used. So how can we infuse this into the courses that we teach? One way is to adjust our expectations of students in submitting assignments. There are some very creative ways to introduce visualization, like the work of Wang et al. (2019) that introduce data visualization through comics, but it does not have to be that creative of a change to your curriculum.  For example, one could require the use of videos submissions using software like Camtasia or Vidyards, or request data visualization using software like Tableau or Excel.  The basic report or essay may not be providing students the experience they will need to effectively communicate in the workplace. A one-paragraph email with a lot of detail may be thorough but would it be effective? One needs to can take students beyond just finding the solutions to problems or data analytics but require effective data visualization as well.

2)     Virtual Communication – Although McKinsey’s 2021 report states that the majority of American employees will have to return to work because of specialized resources needed to conduct their job, there is a large portion of the workplace that is choosing to adopt a hybrid model. Workplaces need to consider the hybrid workplace. This means that organizations need employees that can effectively communicate and collaborate across digital formats. Can we adopt this within our curriculums as well? With half of all College students taking online classes, a number of schools have both online and in-person classes which help students learn about flexibility in communication, but how effective are they? Are you requiring the students to follow certain etiquette? There has been a lot of work on what etiquette looks like from the medical field to the field of library science (Nagaraj, 2022; Virello, 2022). Can you integrate learning best practices within your curriculum? What about learning the basics of virtual interviewing, setting background, and being able to use multiple types of platforms?

3)     Collaboration – Having students work together is nothing new, professors have been using some form of group work for years. How is this different? Collaboration is a group of people working together to achieve something and so is teamwork. The difference, however, is that collaboration is often people with different skills coming together to be able to augment the work of one another to achieve something greater. It takes self-awareness. People need to know their strengths and develop their weaknesses while effectively working with other people. This requires more than posting an assignment that requires that you have 4-5 people complete it together. It takes getting to know one another, setting goals, and developing standards. Collaboration comes with challenges (Ellis, 2021), and having intentional setup activities can help. One can have students develop a set of collaboration documents before they begin group work in your class can help set the stage for a smoother process.

4)     Skills – Organizations are looking for more than the general concepts of critical thinking and evidenced-based decision making, they are looking for specific skills working with different tools, platforms, and technologies. When looking at the reskilling of the workplace due to automation efforts, for example, digital skills are one of the main gap areas. In my own experience, companies are looking for business students to be proficient in excel or data visualization, so how can they be infused into our courses and curriculum? There needs to be a balance of theoretical concepts and tangible skills. Some of the great ways to infuse this into your curriculum are to have subject matter experts host weeklong boot camps, encourage LinkedIn learning badges, or work with student success centers to create skills-based programs to augment the classroom activity.

5)     Social and Emotional Intelligence – In the current workplace there are a lot of tensions and a lot of change. Between changes to the workplace and issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion, people are experiencing difficult conversations and big emotions. This requires that all of us become more aware of the potential stress and strain that is caused changed. We are seeing increased levels of reported burnout and as such need to help people develop the coping mechanism, starting with being more emotionally aware of themselves and their surroundings. In addition to the specific content of our programs, we need to be providing avenues within our curriculum for people to develop these skills in meaningful ways.

As we continue to readjust from the Pandemic, change is going to continue to happen. This is unprecedented change and I think it is paramount that each of us, as academics, consider what this means for our students and how we can better prepare them for the changes that lie ahead.


Wang, Z., Dingwall, H., & Bach, B. (2019, May). Teaching data visualization and storytelling with data comic workshops. In Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-9).

Cho, H. Y., & Lee, H. J. (2022). Digital transformation for efficient communication in the workplace: Analyzing the flow coworking tool. Business Communication Research and Practice5(1), 20-28.

Nagaraj, M. B., Wick, N., & AbdelFattah, K. R. (2022). Assessing Videoconference Etiquette in Academia: Determining Positive and Negative Associations With Online Interactions. Journal of Surgical Research275, 129-136.

Virello, M. (2022). Daily Routines, Communication, and Digital Etiquette. Working Remotely: A Practical Guide for Librarians79, 47.

Ellis, R. A., Bliuc, A. M., & Han, F. (2021). Challenges in assessing the nature of effective collaboration in blended university courses. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology37(1), 1-14.

About the Author

Dr. Doreen MacAulay is an Instructor at the Muma College of Business, University of South Florida. She is passionate about helping individuals and organizations learn how to be better versions of themselves. She teaches principles of management, organizational behavior, and executive leadership at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research focuses on identity, gender, and history of organizational studies. MacAulay has taught in both Canada and the US. She is a member of the Academy of Management Association, the Southern Academy of Management Association, and the Midwest Academy of Management Association. She has served as a reviewer for several conferences and journals. MacAulay earned a Ph.D. in management from St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia, an MBA from the University of New Brunswick, and a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

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