Top skills you need to succeed in the modern workplace

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On April 11th, IBM Training & Skills ran a Twitter Chat to explore what skills are needed for success in the modern workplace. Over the course of an hour, we posted 5 questions to spark discussion. In total, the 5 questions yielded 8,604 total impressions and 452 engagements (likes, retweets, responses, etc.).

We have future Twitter Chats scheduled on May 9, June 6, and September 12, all at noon Eastern time.

Please join us to add your voice to the next discussion around “how to build your eminence in your organization” on May 9th.

We had additional questions prepared and would have used them if the conversation here were dragging. It was not.

I ran the Twitter Chat from the campus of my alma mater, Wabash College (where I am actively engaged with students and serve as the president of the alumni board). With the great help of their Career Services office, we had 11 students together in a classroom for lunch and had the Twitter feed projected on a large screen (which really wasn’t needed; the students were participating in the chat on the devices they brought with them). One of my team suggested that we have a back-channel WebEx going in case we needed to collaborate on any discussions happening in Twitter; we took the opportunity to use the WebEx for an open discussion between the students and the IBMers to talk about careers, delve into the topics more deeply, etc. The IBMers and students found that time valuable, engaging, and fun. The students described the conversations as “really valuable” with a team that was “so approachable”. Justin Kopp ‘21 (@AHS_Spanish2017) remarked, “The IBM Training Twitter Chat was a great experience and a cool way to interact with a large corporation. It offered questions that required me to think critically to produce answers on topics I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. Additionally, being able to see other people’s responses brought in many other viewpoints, which enriched my experience even more. I think the Twitter Chat has a lot of potential and is a phenomenal way for IBM to interact with Twitter users.” Career Services hopes that we – and other companies – will use this way of connecting with students in the future.

Here’s a summary of the conversations that took place:

Q1: How are skills needs changing in the workforce? 

Highlighted discussion:

  • Technology changes rapidly & we don’t always know what skills we’ll need in X years. Continuing to upskill as opportunity is available is important for every role. Exciting to see what’s next.
    • This really interests me – the “tech changes fast” is definitely true. But it has been true for a long time. Which skill(s) do you think are important / necessary as tech continues to change – which at this point is a predicable thing?
      • Great question! The need for professional skills & curiosity won’t change while the technical skills will, predictably
      • I do think even professional skills change… Instead of “communication skills” being working with a team in the same office, it’s now connecting people globally and collaborating on projects with differences of language, culture, etc.
        • Agreed, which is why professional skills is more of a bucket of skills that evolves or is nuanced, rather than a specific technical skill like programming in Python.
  • Not necessarily knowing how to code, but being familiar with the process of coding to help with communication between sales members and software developers
    • Yes! Completely agree. Software / technology companies increasingly need people to cross the divide of “software / development” and “sales / business development” – required technical knowledge AND exception people skills.
  • From my recent experience searching for a summer internship many companies are looking for prospects that are willing to stay current with technology. It seems companies that value this enjoy prospects with the ability to move quickly from one task to another
  • Technology has certainly been the driving factor for the change in the skills necessary in today’s workforce. That being said, it is more important than ever that you are able to effectively use technology to enhance your versatility and appeal as a candidate
  • The skills needed in today’s world are changing in a lot of ways. I’ve realized employers are stressing EQ over IQ, and are stressing the importance of having a few skills that you’re really, really good at.
  • Industry 4.0 is yielding rapid and extraordinary technological advances causing skills to expire faster than ever. Life long learning is now an essential way of working.

Q2: Name the top skills needed in the workforce, and does this vary by one’s point in career (college hire, later career, etc.)? 

Highlighted discussion:

  • Communications, Adaptability, Patience, and listening skills.
  • technical skills perhaps initially and thereafter soft skills, communication for example
  • emotional intelligence: this skill helps employees not only see the attributes in themselves, but helps see the attributes in coworkers that are crucial for mental health, personal success, and success for the greater company.
  • My opinion; Having a Growth Mindset is #1. It doesn’t vary by point in career, & is ongoing.
  • Top skills a person needs early and throughout their career are adaptability and communication. Being able to adapt to the changing environment around them and having the communication skills to learn and ask for help when trying to adapt are very important.
  • The number one skill needed in the workforce is the ability to communicate effectively and build strong relationships in order to create powerful team dynamics.
  • I am not really sure if communication can be measured in full, but it should be noted that when an individual is able to have a personal connection with those they work with rather than just a business front is a quality of an effective communicator. Thanks Jake!
  • Awesome. I think effective comm. is leaving a conversation knowing what the other person is thinking & what they are going to do next.
  • I agree, especially as it relates to working in a team! When you can understand what everyone is thinking within the group and everyone knows the part they play it creates a very productive dynamic.

Q3: How do you define soft skills? 

Highlighted discussion:

  • I view soft skills as one’s ability to not only communicate effectively, but actually LISTEN. l believe listening enables you to make the best decisions, and allows the other person you are speaking with to feel valued and continue contributing.
  • This is a great one! Soft skills are the types of things that you develop when you interact with people. The eye-contact, speaking style, and personal interactions all play in to this.
  • I would define “#softskills” as the ability to effectively communicate with others from a team aspect, external aspect, problem solving, resolution whether by way of verbal and written communication methods.
  • I would say any skill that isn’t technical / tangible. Often related to people, but ALSO related to yourself. Skills involved in interaction and motivation.
  • Soft skills are interpersonal (people) skills. These are much harder to define and evaluate but are critical for success given today’s workforce challenges
  • Soft skills are skills that require a high level of EQ. They are attributes that relate more to personality and presence that allow meaningful communication to take place in the workplace, rather than technical skills.
  • I would describe soft skills as being good with people. Being able to clearly get your ideas across to people and to be able to build relationships

Q4: Why are soft skills needed in IT? 

Highlighted discussion:

  • Research has found that the highest-paying jobs of the future are complex and multi-disciplinary, often blending left brain (logical, organized) and right brain (creative, artistic). These hybrid jobs are 20-40% higher paying and need both hard and soft skills
  • Almost ALL companies are tech/tech-enabled companies now. Every company has IT, even if it’s not an IT company. Companies NEED people that can both understand IT/tech and utilize soft skills to sell/improve/work with tech.
  • Soft skills/professional skills/business acumen are needed, regardless of industry. Tech & IT employees work in teams on projects, & we have to be able to interact & communicate w/ colleagues with diverse experience & skills.
  • Soft skills enhance the communication between the IT department and the customer/client. Customers may have different understanding of technology, so it is important that soft skills can be utilized to make the customer feel welcomed/appreciated
  • #Softskills are essential for driving successful business and user outcomes. As an HR professional, we often see #softskills over #technicalskills as the reason a manager chooses to hire or promote talent.
  • Soft skills are a must in IT. Teams have to be able to work together effectively to tackle any problem that comes before the group, and they do this best when the team can work together through open communication, and personal relationships between each individual on the team.
  • IT can often be criticized for a lack of a human touch that everyone appreciates. If the human on the other end of IT has a high EQ and a surplus of soft skills can eliminate that stigma that some have for IT.
  • A cool thing about coding: coding doesn’t care who you are & what your background is. People from such diverse lives can/often are working together on teams and that requires massive skills to make progress & achieve success.
  • I believe soft skills are necessary in IT because of team dynamics-both internally and within clients. Hard skills are busy resources at both places and being able to understand processes and navigate that world is essential for business success.

Q5: What are the best ways to build soft skills? 

Highlighted discussion:

  • Experiences are probably the BEST way to develop your soft skills. Whether it’s travel, attending a conference, working on a project, volunteering for stretch assignments OR you could also attend a class to gain some skills which can then be applied
  • Make soft skill growth apart of your life. So don’t just think about growing your communication skills when you’re in the office, but when you’re at dinner with your buddies or talking to your girlfriends parents. Every conversation is an opportunity to grow
  • Here are some actionable steps that I’ve practiced. First, engage with others online or in person. The best way to improve is to practice! Two, read! People have written plenty on the topic, so don’t be afraid to read their thoughts and take what works!
  • I think the best way to build soft skills is just taking the time to have conversations with other people. It doesn’t matter who the conversation is with, just that you are having a conversation in the first place.
  • Adopt or continue a Growth Mindset, be curious and practice! We have a free IBM New Collar Professional Skills badge that’s a great start for anyone. #IBMTrainingChat
  • Developing #Softskills takes a thoughtful approach and can be some of the easiest skills to build because you can practice them every day with every social interaction, while at school, at work or even while interacting with family and friends.
  • Create a list of the most essential skills you want to develop, put an action plan in place and visit IBM skills gateway for free classes and badges to help you succeed.
  • More seriously, if you have seen someone’s character previously (and it’s not good), don’t make a “business case” or “career decision” to justify working with them.
  • One can gain soft skills by being put in uncomfortable situations. Going to college or getting a new job and not knowing anyone is a great way. One can continue to grow their skills by continuing to talk to new people and building new relationships.
  • There are many ways to learn about soft skills whether its reading books, TED talks, or attending workshops, but the best way to build soft skills is to practice them. Openly and rigorously practicing soft skills are the best way to implement and build them.
  • During an internship, I asked each person “who is the most interesting person u know in this company?” I ended up meeting 50+ people (for no business reason) and learned so much about people, internal functions, the company, and careers. Can hardly remember my real intern work…
  • Practice, practice, practice. You get better at soft skills by getting out of your comfort zone, making a few mistakes, and learning from those mistakes, so you do better the next time you push yourself.

See you on May 9th!

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