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Examples of Essential Workplace Skills in 2024

March 28, 2022 - Dom Barnard

In 1775, Adam Smith wrote ‘An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ and explored varying levels of productivity, using the examples of a pin factory and farmers across Europe. He found that:

“The increase of the quantity of work which the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to… the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour and enable one man to do the work of many.”

It is remarkable that, even though he was writing over two centuries ago, many of his deductions are still pertinent today. While there are new challenges that the modern worker faces, given the surging growth in technology and the world’s semi-shift towards remote-working, the importance of the worker’s skills and their utilisation of these were just as important in 1775 as they are in 2024.

This article seeks to outline some of the most essential workplace skills, with examples and hopes to offer ways to improve and maximise one’s role in a professional environment.

What are workplace skills?

Workplace skills are the essential traits a person should possess and refine in order to succeed professionally. They are comprised of the central knowledge and abilities that permit workers to comprehend instructions, find solutions to problems, get along with colleagues and contribute to a productive, engaging and thriving work environment.

Communication skills drawing

1. Communication

What is effective communication?

Accurate communication is a critical workplace skill and is essential in helping to build strong working relationships across a company.

What are the benefits of effective communication?

Employers and employees who concentrate on providing coherent methods of communication will quickly build rapport and trust among their colleagues, resulting in increases in efficiency, productivity and morale.

How do we communicate effectively?

1. Give everyone a voice

Morale in a workplace can often rely on having each voice heard, whether it’s an idea someone would like to propose or a complaint they need to make. Clear lines of dialogue should offer everyone, regardless of their role in an organisation, the opportunity to openly communicate.

2. Clearly deliver your message

To achieve effective communication, the message that needs to be delivered must be cogent and accessible to the intended audience. It is critical that it is delivered in a plain and civil manner; it is crucial that the message is received without provoking confusion or offence.

3. Listen and show empathy

Communication is a skill that is reciprocal, and no organisation or individual will find success if it doesn’t listen to and create a dialogue with others. Listening demonstrates a fundamental level of respect that is key to creating a thriving, productive environment.

Digital skills drawing

2. Digital skills

Since the pandemic began, the importance of developing one’s digital skills has been on full display. For instance, one study has shown that the percentage of grocery shopping conducted online tripled in 2020, the time spent streaming video entertainment jumped by more than 40%, and videoconferencing skyrocketed by over 110%. Digital skills are now a fundamental part of any workplace.

And, indeed, it doesn’t look likely that this area is going to decelerate. Rather, digital technologies will continue to advance and create opportunities for revolution, affecting how one is to act in the workplace.

Digital is no longer exclusively about websites, automation, and apps, either. It is about innovation; it’s about the capacity to harness the digital world to create a competitive advantage in the core sections of your business. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to help improve and practise in this area:

  • Take an online course, such as the government’s The Skills Toolkit or a soft skills course
  • Utilise digital skills as much as possible in one’s personal life. For example, online banking, social media or helping children with schoolwork
  • It is possible to book time on a PC in a local library and spend time with their learning resources
  • Enrol in a course at your nearest college or adult education service
Feedback skills drawing

3. Effective feedback

What is feedback?

Feedback is an essential part of any workplace, and it is a skill that mustn’t be ignored. Truly fruitful and actionable feedback can be strikingly difficult to both give and receive. Emotions can cloud our judgement, expectations may not be properly set, and offensive or incorrect language may often be used, which can often lead to demoralisation.

What are the benefits of effective feedback?

If feedback is given concisely, efficiently and effectively, it can rapidly bring about change in an individual or team. Some of these benefits include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Improvement in performance
  • Personal development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Improved teamwork
  • Better relationships
  • Confirmation of strengths
  • Highlighting areas for development

Further, many workers actually desire more feedback, or at least another pair of eyes to alert us as to how we could improve. We all strive to be the most productive person we can be and yearn for instruction on how to achieve it.

How do we give effective feedback?

The fundamentals of providing constructive feedback can be boiled down to a few key ingredients.

1. Specificity

Be concise about precisely what you are referring to and support your observations with some evidence. General comments like ‘You were great’ or ‘that was bad’ are too vague and lack the necessary precision to have an impact.

2. Description

Discuss what you actually witnessed and analyse the impact, rather than passing any personal judgements.

3. Positivity

A colleague is far more likely to absorb a constructive piece of feedback if a strength is outlined first.

4. Clarity

It might be helpful to have the individual recite back what they have deduced from your comments, or if they have any further questions. This will allow for clarification.

Flexibility skills drawing

4. Flexibility

What is flexibility?

It is becoming increasingly necessary for companies to act faster and more flexibly and they are frequently asking their employees to become more adaptable, cooperative and versatile, especially as we head out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is of utmost importance, therefore, that each employee can work both within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how to achieve it).

What are the benefits of being flexible?

Flexibility is a helpful tool for problem-solving. Larger projects are easier to manage when coordinating between flexible colleagues whose skill sets overlap. Flexibility in the workplace is a major resource for most employers, and those who willingly show their ability to perceptively react to a changing environment are immensely valued.

Perhaps more importantly, however, less anxiety in the workplace allows for a healthier work-life balance and an eagerness to encounter new experiences could introduce you to career paths you hadn’t previously thought about.

How do we work flexibly?

1. Stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry

It’s natural to fall into a habitual routine and to reject fresh ideas, especially when you have a lot of experience in your field. It can be beneficial, however, to keep a close eye on the latest trends and to observe those who are new to your industry. It is important to stay curious, especially if those ideas are divergent from your typical ways of operating.

2. Practice optimism

Endeavour to find the possible benefits of an unexpected problem and seek to act from a place of positivity. It is, by all means, important to acknowledge the consequences of an unexpected event, but a cynical or inflexible attitude can frequently have a harmful effect on morale.

3. Disclose your expectations

Flexibility is a two-way street, and everyone becomes far less productive when they’re not achieving an adequate work-life balance. If your commute is causing stress, or if you’re perhaps finding it hard to cope with remote-working, it is important that your desire for a more satisfactory solution is communicated.

There are flexible ways to deal with these problems, such as arriving later or working at a co-working space closer to home.

Organisational skills drawing

5. Organisational Skills

What is organisation?

Organisation in the workplace requires persistent effort and thought. By partaking in a culture of cleanliness and order, maintained by keeping the space clean and praising those who take these systems seriously, the rewards of such an essential workplace skill will make themselves apparent.

What are the benefits of being organised?

Keeping the workplace uncluttered guarantees company information, documents and files remain safe and invulnerable. By creating a thorough and systematic structure of organisation, the company’s efficiency and productivity levels will also significantly increase.

How do we work in an organised manner?

1. Sorting

To ensure that all documents and necessary items are easy to find, it is key to sort and label them regularly.

2. Cleanliness

Cleaning the workplace regularly certifies that it is an environment that is healthy to operate in.

3. Standardisation

Forming and sticking to workplace standards, regulations and policies ensure that everyone is held responsible for their role in keeping the workplace organised.

4. Review

It is important to periodically review any processes and to ask for feedback from the company on how to improve.

While this is, by no means, a comprehensive list of every possible trait an efficient employer or employee should possess, a combination of these select skills should stand any prospective worker in good stead and prepare them for success in the modern-day workplace.