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5 In-Demand Interpersonal Skills That Employers Look For

With the advent of globalisation and the rise of the digital economy, we live in a world today where change is the only constant. With organisations adopting agility, integrating AI and next-gen technology, and driving automation to boost operational efficiency and employee productivity, the landscape of modern business, the very nature of jobs, and the skills required to execute them are evolving by the day.

Struggling to keep pace with disruption, over 70% of corporate leaders report a widening skills gap, particularly in cognitive and interpersonal skills, within their workforce today – one that is derailing performance and overall business growth. While organisations invest in training, developing, and retaining their talent, the onus is on employees to constantly upskill and reskill themselves in order to stay competitive and be future-ready.

“As businesses continue to recognise the criticality of training and developing their people, to help close the skills gap, the ownership is also on the individual to invest in developing their skills for today and for the future.” - Abbie Morris, Director, Organisational Development, Allegis Group

On top of hard skills that underpin your ability to perform the technical aspects of your day-to-day work, most employers look for all-rounded team players equipped with a multitude of soft skills, who bring significantly more value to the table than just individual contributors. Beyond the technical skills and competencies on your resume, what accelerates your career progression and makes you successful in the long run are your interpersonal skills at work. They differentiate the great from the good.

Interpersonal Skills Matter More Than Ever

Gone are the days when you could be hired solely due to your technical prowess in object-oriented programming, cloud computing, or business intelligence development. Even the most technical of roles today require extensive communication with co-workers and the ability to work in cross-functional teams, be highly adaptable and people-oriented, and effectively engage with different stakeholders. Unsurprisingly, most hiring managers and talent professionals believe that soft skills are equally, if not more, important than hard skills.

Interpersonal skills are a subset of soft skills, and they enable you to interact, engage, and work effectively with other people. They are highly transferrable in nature and transcend beyond specific job functions, designations, or industries. Be it texts, emails, phone calls, team meetings, presentations, client interactions, or even socials, you need to demonstrate solid interpersonal skills at nearly every single touchpoint at work, regardless of your role or seniority. Numerous studies indicate a direct correlation between the interpersonal skills of employees and their performance, productivity, satisfaction, and progression at work.

Looking at 2024 and beyond, here are the five most in-demand interpersonal skills that will help you stay competitive and become an indispensable asset to your organisation:

1. Analytical Thinking and Innovation

With organisations undergoing rapid digital transformation, the need of the hour is dynamic and resourceful professionals who can ride the tides of complexity and uncertainty. Employers are embedding problem-solving and analytical thinking assessments in their hiring process to ensure that the talent they onboard have the ability to think on their feet and out of the box in order to find effective and innovative solutions to day-to-day challenges. Be it while investigating problems, ideating solutions, or making strategic decisions, your analytical thinking and innovation skills are constantly at play.

2. Proactive and Continuous Learning

No matter how experienced you are, there is an abundance of knowledge and skills that you are yet to be equipped with. Therefore, the appetite to constantly learn, and learning how to learn effectively, are attributes of particular importance. Whenever you onboard into a new job, there are plenty of unknowns, as you enter a completely new environment, team, and scope of work. Your ability to be proactive in quickly getting up to speed and being resourceful in picking up the necessary knowledge are pivotal to your long-term success. From entry-level positions all the way up to C-level roles, employees who are always hungry to learn and proactively upskill themselves tend to excel and outperform their peers.

3. Emotional Intelligence and Resilience

Emotional intelligence, also known as Emotional Quotient (EQ), refers to the ability of people to acknowledge, understand, and manage their own emotions, as well as those around them. It plays a critical role in team collaboration and communication, leadership, conflict management, and decision making at work, so much so that over 58% of your overall job performance is impacted by EQ. Emotionally intelligent people are able to empathise and build relationships with others, stay positive, channel their thoughts and feelings appropriately, and have an innate ability to always read the room they are in. Particularly during stressful situations and while navigating through uncertainty, having a high EQ goes a long way in helping you cope with challenges, maintain composure when things don’t go according to plan, and stay resilient amidst adversity.

4. Active Listening and Feedbacking

While articulating your points effectively and amplifying your voice in a team setting matter, the ability to actively listen without assumptions sets great employees apart. When you collaborate with people or lead them, it is important that you hear them out and provide a safe space that facilitates authentic conversations. Active listening enables you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, thereby reducing communication barriers and building mutual trust, transparency, and respect. This skill is intricately tied to your ability to give and receive feedback in an effective manner, making you a competent teammate and leader at work.

5. Effective Communication and Influence

72% of business leaders believe that effective communication leads to increased employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, most hiring managers look for strong communication skills while interviewing and assessing potential candidates for their vacancies. No matter if you work in IT, customer service, sales and marketing, or human resources, verbal and written communication skills are required across every single function within an organisation. On top of communication, the art of persuasion and influence are also key in getting your points across to your stakeholders, articulating your value proposition, and driving decision-making. Whether you are closing a deal with a prospective customer or convincing your colleagues to try your go-to restaurant for lunch, you are directly or indirectly influencing and being influenced by others all the time, which makes it critical to hone this skill.

In today’s fast-paced and hyperconnected world, interpersonal skills are becoming increasingly indispensable in the workplace. While honing these skills can make you a more effective communicator, collaborator, and team player, it is important to acknowledge that it takes time, diligence, and constant practice to develop them. Your goal should be to make steady progress, rather than seek mastery of all the skills overnight. Ultimately, small steps in developing your interpersonal skills each day can make a significant impact in the long run – not only helping you evolve into a better employee, but also a better person outside of work.