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The new skill set needed to succeed in the hybrid workplace

July 21, 2022 - 6 min read

The new crucial. skill set for the hybrid workplace

 

The world of work is in a constant state of flux—and after the monumental changes that we’ve seen over the last couple of years, it’s clear the dust hasn’t settled yet. Many employers are still adjusting to managing hybrid and remote workflows, embracing more flexible work policies, and evolving to retain their best talent. At the same time, employees are also adapting to the new world of work.

Amid all these changes, we wanted to know how employees’ skills and strengths translate to a dispersed work setting: Are the skills that made them successful in a traditional office setting applicable to the remote teams they’re on now? Or will they need to develop new skills or advance in certain areas to be effective?  

In a recent collaboration with ICONIQ, we analyzed manager assessments of employee performance and skill sets to understand how in-office employees were performing compared to their remote colleagues. This data helps us understand what skills employees need to focus on to excel in remote settings.

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Soft skills are hard to spot

Our analysis of more than 54,000 performance assessments found gaps in skill sets between in-office and remote workers. Those gaps were most pronounced in areas such as network leadership, executive presence, alignment, relationship building, authenticity, inspiring others, and empowerment.

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The largest gaps we identified tended to be in so-called “soft skills” that aren’t as easily identifiable in remote working situations as compared to in-person offices. Authenticity, for example, may be harder to detect over Zoom calls and Slack messages than in-person meetings around a conference table or team lunches at a local restaurant.

How workplaces can help close the skills gap

The findings suggest that as more workplaces shift to remote or hybrid environments, they’ll need to focus on increasing skills that are most valuable in these dispersed settings. Those skills may be different than the ones employers used to value most—in particular, workers will need excellent soft skills to succeed in the changing work landscape.

Soft skills include communication, collaboration, creativity, adaptability, and persuasion. These skills are especially important in leading teams, managing projects, and driving productivity and innovation. Workers who excel in these areas help keep their teammates engaged in their work and efficient in making decisions. And they often infuse the workplace with the encouragement and inspiration necessary to overcome challenges.

Soft skills have always been critical in the workplace—and notoriously difficult to measure. But the data suggest that in a dispersed workplace, where it may be more common for workers to feel isolated and disconnected, soft skills are even more important. Skill-building activities for employees need to shift to focus more on increasing skills in these areas.

To help employees strengthen these soft skills, employers may need to intentionally create situations to foster and build these skills. The good news is that soft skills can be demonstrated and practiced in many different ways—a formal classroom is far from the only place to advance this type of knowledge. Some ideas for helping your team enhance their soft skill set: 

  1. Establish a mentorship program. Match newer employees with more senior veterans who act as mentors can help facilitate communication, relationship-building, and the transfer of critical skills.
  2. Offer leadership opportunities. Employees don’t need to wait for a big promotion to become leaders—create less formal leadership roles that allow employees to practice and build soft skills.
  3. Hold regular one-on-ones. Even if you’re not sharing an office space, you can still schedule a regular meeting time to check in and gauge how an employee is doing—professionally and personally. This time also gives managers more insight into the soft skills an employee needs to develop.
  4. Create opportunities for collaboration. Provide employees a chance to get to know each other, build trust, and problem-solve together.
  5. Invest in soft skills training. Many employees may lack soft skills because they’ve long been undervalued and under-taught. Soft skills education can help employees improve and gain new strengths. 

Finally, employers can help their workers’ soft skills shine by creating a culture that encourages open communication, celebrates employees’ great work, and makes employees feel safe, included, and empowered. Under these conditions, workers have more opportunity to bring creative ideas to the table, to let managers know what they need when a problem arises, and to treat their colleagues with empathy.    

Hybrid and remote workplaces offer a lot of advantages to workers—and they stand to attract a smart, talented, diverse workforce. But closing the skills gap will be essential to sustaining strong, successful teams. In these new work settings, the most successful workers will be those who are able to develop and enhance soft skills to foster alignment, authenticity, and empowerment.

 

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Published July 21, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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