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Interpersonal skills at the top of employers’ radar

Interpersonal skills are now some of the most sought-after in potential employees, according to a study by CSIRO published last week.

Jan 15, 2024, updated Feb 13, 2024

Over 12 million job ads from 2015-2022 were analysed, showing the COVID-19 pandemic made employers more focused on finding people who can work well with others, especially when working from home.

These results came as a surprise to CSIRO scientist David Evans, given the unemployment rate was at a record low of 3.5 per cent between 2021 and 2022.

“Periods of low employment are usually associated with a dampening of employer’s skills expectations,” Evans said.

“You’d also be forgiven for thinking the rise of remote working arrangements might suit introverts or more independent workers. But the data shows working from home is not working alone.

“We observed job postings offering remote work were 1.2 times more likely to mention interpersonal skills than face-to-face roles.”

“Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an acceleration of the pre-existing trend of increasing demand for interpersonal skills,” the report said.

Hender Consulting executive consultant Justin Hinora agreed interpersonal skills remain crucial even when working from home.

“Given people working from home and flexible working arrangements, above and beyond technical skills is the ability to communicate effectively and be collaborative from a team perspective,” Hinora said.

“I’d suggest that this is not a new trend. We saw even pre-GFC in 2007-2008 when there were staff shortages, people had to look beyond technical skills and look for people’s ability in terms of behavioural aspects.

“There are certain jobs that require minimum qualifications, so you can’t avoid that. But I think it’s fair to suggest that generally speaking, best practice in recruitment would be to look well beyond just minimum technical competency.

“Those with the capacity to learn who bring all the other soft skills add tremendous value to the workplace.”

The report suggested education systems should place a higher focus on the development of these skills.

“[This would] improve the alignment between workers’ skills and firms’ skill requirements,” the report said.

The most sought-after interpersonal skills across the job postings considered were communication and collaboration.

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