While people in the workforce have a wide range of unique technical abilities and behavioral competencies that can help them be successful in various roles, certain workplace skills may prove more valuable than others. A finance team member may never need coding skills, and a developer may never need financial modeling expertise. However, both these individuals will excel in their roles if they’re skilled communicators and collaborators.
As the pace of change accelerates, leaders increasingly recognize that people need ‘baseline skills’ to maximize their impact in a complex, interconnected world. So which skills matter most? We asked C-suite executives to share their take on top skills for the future. Here’s what they said—and how your organization can help develop your people to have the right skills for success.
The 5 most important skills for work
Top Skill #1: Adaptability
Roles, teams and organizations are evolving faster than ever. As organizations prioritize agility, they’re pivoting and revising strategies faster. Adaptability—the ability to embrace these changes and make the most of them—is critical for long-term success. It’s also at the heart of successful leadership and innovation.
"An adaptable leader can meet new challenges as they arise and not be halted by sudden change, remaining comfortable with uncertainty,” says Daniel Goleman, Contributor, Korn Ferry Institute. “Being adaptable means you’re less emotionally triggered by unexpected events. When a problem arises, you don’t dwell on how difficult it is, but rather quickly shift to search for solutions—communicating with your team about next steps and creating a strategy for action.”
For example, today’s work landscape includes tools built with generative AI and machine learning. Individuals with a strong ability to adapt don’t feel threatened by these tools. Instead, they embrace the possibilities that come with them and stay focused on what matters most—driving business success.
Top Skill #2: Collaboration
Collaboration is the ability to embrace a “We before I” mindset, setting aside an individual agenda and working together as a team to explore what’s possible. Effective collaboration leads to more innovation, better communication and smarter decision-making. It also plays an important role in culture building.
“Team collaboration is one of the biggest drivers for culture setting, culture shaping and culture building. It’s in teams and in the context of ‘real work’ that we test our values, assumptions and perception of norms,” says Sarah Jensen Clayton, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry Culture & Change.
As how we work continues to evolve, how we collaborate is changing, too. In highly matrixed organizations, collaboration is an opportunity to enhance one’s personal brand and build trust with coworkers. Whether teams connect in person or remotely, people are more effective collaborators when there’s a sense of psychological safety. Strong collaborators help facilitate this psychological safety, helping their team feel comfortable experimenting and being creative. Collaborators embrace experimentation and continually ask, “How can we be better?”
Top Skill #3: Communication
Communication takes many forms, and having employees fluent in multiple communication avenues benefits an organization. While being a strong writer or speaker is one component, successful communicators are also adept at clearly articulating a point of view and tailoring this message for their intended audience to maximize impact.
Communication increasingly happens in real-time in the flow of work. Conversations are carried out over multiple mediums simultaneously: across Teams or Slack, in the comments section of a shared document, over email and even through impromptu in-person meetings. A company leader may present to external stakeholders, share news of an internal structure change across teams, and then turn around and ideate with other executives on a critical analysis.
Amid the challenges of operating through a complex business and regulatory environment, organizations are also strengthening their own communications teams to further a clear and compelling narrative about the company’s future. The Chief Communications Officer (CCO) role continues to grow with a broad purview over corporate communications, media relations, crisis management, and social and digital media.