Business Magazine

Essential Skills for the 21st Century Employee

Posted on the 11 June 2020 by Andreaantal @andreaeantal

For employers, finding the right people means identifying people with the right skills and abilities to fill the role and contribute to the organisation's success. Candidates may have the technical skills required to be able to manage the job role but, without a well-honed set of soft skills, employers may be less motivated to hire.

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employers actually care more about soft skills, such as reading comprehension and mathematics, than they do technical abilities.

The ability to demonstrate these transferable skills may have a direct impact on your employability and ultimate success within your role.

One reason soft skills are so revered is that they help facilitate human connections. "Soft skills are key to building relationships, gaining visibility, and creating more opportunities for advancement," says Kathy Robinson, founder of TurningPoint, a Boston career-coaching.

For many people today, a singular lifelong career is no longer an option. The average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) throughout his or her career, with an average employee tenure of 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in January 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Soft skills are portable, transferable skills, and the foundation of professional development.

They are often mentioned in the media as deficient in school-leavers, graduates and even those already employed. They are the skills and attitudes that enable employees to participate effectively as a member of a team, satisfy customers and stakeholder expectations, negotiate, make decisions, manage your time effectively, take responsibility, and work cooperatively with fellow employees.

A recent study, Life in the 21stCentury Workforce: A National Perspective, identified five soft skills that workers say are most important when it comes to getting hired and being successful in the workplace:

  • Ability and willingness to learn new skills (84%)
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving (82%)
  • Collaboration and teamwork (74%)
  • Interpersonal communication (72%)
  • Ability to analyze and synthesize information (69%)

Ability and willingness to learn new skills

Today's fast-moving work environment requires us to learn new skills on an ongoing basis. Employers value lifelong learners because they help the organisation stay ahead of the competition and develop better ways of doing things. An employee who is open to learning and welcomes change (whether predictable or unforeseen) will be more prosperous than someone who is resistant to change and personal development in the organisation. Most jobs involve some degree of change, and employers are on the hunt for candidates who are adaptable, flexible, and enduring.

Self-motivation, self-awareness and confidence are critical areas of personal development. We use these skills to to manage our personal feelings and how we react to the challenges and problems we might face in both our personal and professional lives. These include the coping skills to avoid potentially negative emotions such as anger and stress while developing assertiveness and effective negotiation skills.

Critical thinking and problem solving

Companies depend on problem solvers to navigate unforeseen challenges and look for employees who can effectively solve problems using creative solutions, rationale and past experiences.

Decision making and problem-solving require gathering reliable information, evaluating the information for a variety of solutions and selecting the most appropriate option based on the criteria and situation at hand. Although the ability to solve problems and make appropriate decisions is critical in any job, individuals with these skills are especially helpful in customer-facing roles.

For example, being able to constructively work through a customer complaint is a sure sign of maturity-as well as leadership potential. Someone like this helps to promote a healthy, united workplace.

Creative thinkers are resourceful and imaginative and are more likely to come up with new ways of doing things that add value to the work environment, making processes more efficient. Creative thinkers can offer outside-the-box perspectives about the job and the company.

Collaboration and teamwork

An organisation's success is most often the result of many people working together to achieve a common goal. When employees integrate their varied talents, everyone wins.

Being able to collaborate well with your co-workers strengthens the quality of your own work.

Employers actively seek out team players to help build a positive corporate culture which helps retain employees and, in turn, attracts top talent. In many cases, revered leaders are effective team players, allowing them to work in a group to achieve the best results for a greater goal. Leaders show social skills by respecting the thoughts, opinions and ideas of others - they gain the respect of others and aim for credibility.

Interpersonal communication

One of the most important employability skills for any job - and in life - is communication. Whether you work in IT, construction, customer service, or any other industry, the ability to interact clearly and effectively with others through verbal and written communications are all essential skills that employers seek out. This includes the ability to maintain eye contact, writing clearly and concisely, demonstrating a wide-ranging vocabulary and tailoring your language to your audience.

Similarly, effective listening skills involve not only hearing but understanding and interpreting information that minimises the risk of mistakes and a greater understanding of the needs of employer and client.

Ability to analyze and synthesize information

Facts and figures don't mean much if you don't know how to interpret them. Dissecting information through analytical eyes can help determine odd patterns, seek out missing pieces of the puzzle, and so forth.

Companies need critical thinkers-people who bring a fresh perspective and offer intuitive solutions and ideas-to help the company get a leg up on the competition or improve internal processes.

To be a critical observer, you need to be able to analyze information and determine how it is put it to use. For example, do your customers actually read your e-newsletters? What's the best time of day to approach your boss with a question? By observing how people respond to the constant and varied flow of information you can better understand the important aspects of enhancing business processes.

For more information, visit

This article was commissioned by Arc Skills For Work.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog