Job Skills Are Changing Quickly

Imagine the world before the Industrial Revolution, a landscape of slow, incremental progress. Knowledge passed through generations, innovations unfolded at a glacial pace, and life remained largely unchanged for centuries. Then came the spark of the steam engine, igniting a revolution that ushered in an era of rapid advancements. Railroads crisscrossed continents, factories hummed with mechanized production, and cities swelled with opportunity. The pace of change, once a gentle breeze, had become a steady wind.

But the 20th century truly kicked things into high gear. Technological breakthroughs followed one another at dizzying speeds – airplanes soared, computers revolutionized communication, and the internet connected the world like never before. This wasn’t just a wind anymore; it was a whirlwind, accelerating the pace of change to an unprecedented level. Information disseminates instantaneously, trends shift overnight, and entire industries can be transformed within a decade.

Today, we stand at the precipice of another paradigm shift. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetic engineering are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, promising even more dramatic transformations. The future, once a hazy horizon, is now a blur of possibilities unfolding at an ever-increasing rate. 

Applying this to managers hiring

The cost of choosing the wrong path is high.

Hiring solely for today’s fit leaves your company unprepared when functions transform, potentially costing billions in untapped potential.

Up to 85 percent of the jobs that today’s college students will have in 11 years haven’t been invented yet.

Institute for the Future

65% of young people will be employed in jobs that don’t yet exist.

British Council

So, how do we strike a nuanced balance between finding the right fit now and future-proofing our teams? The answer lies in understanding the unique challenges and opportunities faced by companies of different sizes.

Large Companies: Embracing Agility in the Slow Dance of Change

Think of a massive cruise ship. Turning it takes time and planning. Similarly, large organizations navigate change gradually. While current needs matter, solely focusing on them risks missing out on agile learners who can seamlessly adapt as roles evolve.

Yes, filling openings with seemingly perfect candidates offers immediate comfort. But if the role itself undergoes a sea change within a few years, those hires might struggle to keep up. Remember, the “perfect fit” on paper might not exist, especially in a competitive talent market.

The Key: Balancing Fit and Raw Potential

Large companies can win by blending immediate fit with raw talent. Consider the example of a social media manager opening. A candidate with relevant experience ticks all the boxes. But what about someone with less direct experience but brimming with creativity, communication skills, and adaptability? They, too, could thrive and grow alongside the evolving role.

Don’t dismiss extraordinary talent simply because they don’t perfectly fit the mold. Consider creating new positions for them. Or give them time to build the skills that they lack. While there might be initial inefficiencies, the long-term gain from adaptable employees far outweighs short-term hiccups.

Small Companies: Thriving on Flexibility in the Agile Dance

Startups and small businesses move like gazelles, nimble and responsive. Roles are fluid, demanding employees who wear many hats and seamlessly shift gears. Here, precise fit matters less than general capabilities and a hunger to tackle diverse responsibilities.

Imagine a sales opening. A candidate with direct experience seems safe. Yet, someone with less background but overflowing with hustle, initiative, and flexibility might excel in this dynamic role. Despite tight budgets, prioritizing raw talent over exact fit makes strategic sense.

In a small team, each individual significantly impacts the direction. An employee with strong general skills who joins the team can redefine their role over time, take on new responsibilities, or help reinvent the way things are done. This agility is a superpower for small companies.

The Ever-Present Example: AI Reshaping Roles at Lightning Speed

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting labor markets, with automation replacing some roles and demand surging for ‘human’ skills like complex problem-solving and adaptability.

World Economic Forum

80% of enterprise executives say that AI makes workers more productive and creates jobs.


Technological change sweeps across industries, transforming even seemingly stable roles. Just two years ago, who could have imagined AI chatbots assisting park and recreation managers with grant writing and event promotion? Yet, a forward-thinking manager I spoke with recently embraced this very scenario, taking a class on incorporating AI into his work.

This example underscores the critical need for managers to keep an open mind about evolving functions and hire flexibly for the future.

Finding the Right Talent: Beyond the Traditional Checklist

Ultimately, hiring the right talent demands a multifaceted approach, valuing both immediate fit and long-term skill potential. With job functions transforming rapidly, adaptability and flexibility are paramount. Ensure you’re setting up teams for success now and in the future by:

  • Prioritizing transferable skills: Look for candidates who can learn and adapt, applying their skills across different functions.
  • Seeking growth potential: Identify individuals with a thirst for learning and a willingness to step outside their comfort zones.
  • Building diverse talent pipelines: Cast a wider net, actively seeking underrepresented talent with the potential to thrive in your unique company culture.

By adopting these strategies, companies of all sizes can harness the power of adaptable employees who might not fit neatly into traditional boxes but can become invaluable drivers of performance as priorities shift. Remember, in the ever-changing landscape of work, the most valuable asset isn’t a specific skill, but the ability to learn, adapt, and embrace the unknown.

Now, go forth and hire the right talent to take advantage of change while at the same time future-proofing your workforce!


Roger Brinkley · February 27, 2024 at 1:35 am

I agree with the three strategies. The question is, how integrated are those strategies in the hiring process? Are they on equal footing with the job’s current requirements, or are they in the bonus points category for a given candidate? Are they company-wide or just an individual manager?

Agreed that managers should not just be hiring for a given position but for the long term. But how many businesses today, let alone managers, have any form of a growth plan for their new hires as well as their current employees? These strategies would benefit greatly from a company-wide employee growth plan. At that point, a manager (and AI tools) could effectively look at an applicant and see the long-term relationship that would benefit both the future employee and the company.

At that point, the manager would have a great opportunity to entice the prospective employee with not just the current position but the long-term possibilities at the company. They could also evaluate the prospect using those three strategies against the long-term potential.

And any company that isn’t looking for employment retention with growth plans is looking at 1-3 year employment at the most. That and losing one of their most important resources, their employees. · February 27, 2024 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks, Roger for the comments!

    I believe the ability to look forward and adapt to change in today’s world is a key component of a manager’s job. I see it as a prerequisite for individual and team success. Therefore hiring with this in mind must be prioritized as highly as having the required skills for the job.

    I love your comment about companies driving the more broadly!

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *