The changing nature of skills requirements for OHS professionals
3 Apr, 2023

When identifying and recruiting talent, organisations are increasingly emphasising a desired ‘skill set’ rather than a job or role description. A skill set consists of not only technical or subject matter-specific competencies and capabilities but also human capabilities or skills (such as critical thinking and emotional intelligence) and potential (including latent or adjacent qualities, abilities and skills that can be developed and lead to future success). Deloitte, a management consulting firm, states that the word ‘skills’ is becoming ‘short-hand for more granularly defining workers as unique, whole individuals—each with an array of skills, interests, passions, motivations, work or cultural styles, location preferences and needs, and more’ (Cantrell et al., 2022).

The ongoing changes to the world of work and the workplace have a fundamental impact on the skills requirements for OHS professionals. Several emerging global trends indicate that these professionals will require a more diverse and complex skill set in order to fulfil their responsibilities. The roles of OHS professionals are becoming more general in nature and less OHS specific. These professionals will therefore need to have skills that are adjacent and complementary to the field of OHS but not technically related to OHS.

Four key factors are shaping this:

  • Digitalisation: The increasing digitalisation of the world of work requires OHS professionals to have an understanding of digital transformation and the effect of technology on work
  • Mental wellness: Organisations are acknowledging the effect of mental well-being on the safety and productivity of individuals. OHS professionals therefore need to help manage and maintain the mental wellness of employees together with the human resources function in organisations
  • Training technologies: OHS professionals must be able to engage with OHS training and development interventions that are technology-infused and differ vastly from traditional classroom-based training and development interventions. This requires an understanding of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, simulated environments and the metaverse as a training and learning environment
  • Environmental, social and governance elements: Empirical evidence indicates that individuals in OHS roles are increasingly becoming involved in implementing environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies. Specifically, OHS professionals are required to monitor and report on three specific aspects relating to ESG: environmental performance, net zero target setting and social compliance. OHS professionals must have an understanding of the use of cloud solutions to meet the corporate demand for ESG functionality. Additionally, these professionals need a broader understanding of corporate functions adjacent to OHS capabilities and the interrelatedness of corporate functions to ensure organisational compliance with ESG targets.