3 Essential Skills for 2023

In a tough economy, firms are looking for workers with a special mindset. 

More than 70% of businesses say that their employees lack key skills. Yet many of those businesses aren’t necessarily seeking workers with so-called “hard” skills, like project-management expertise, technical know-how, or even analytical abilities. Instead, it’s soft skills that are winning the day, experts say.

“Many companies have concerns about re-skilling and upskilling employees, especially with so much uncertainty about the economy,” says Mark Royal, a Korn Ferry senior client partner. These firms are looking beyond work history and experience to focus on what employees can learn and apply at work, he says—as opposed to what they already know or have accomplished.

With many companies cutting back on staff, employees who stay will be expected to pick up the slack. They may be asked to work in areas and on projects outside of their comfort zones, says Dan Kaplan, a senior client partner for Korn Ferry's CHRO practice. As a result, many of 2023’s in-demand skills have more to do with mindset than with quantifiable, existing abilities. Here are three skills to focus on this year to advance your career.

Agility and flexibility

Companies are seeking employees who are eager to learn, Royal says—who are open to new solutions and creative ways of approaching ongoing challenges; who don’t default to the old ways of doing things; and who aren’t put off by making decisions at a time of uncertainty.

“Companies are looking for employees with the ability to deal with ambiguity, because we’re living in a world where people get less face time with the boss and less direction, yet are confronting enormous demands,” Kaplan says. Be the employee who knows what to do when they don’t know what to do, Royal says.

Work capacity

Employees have been consistently asked to do more with less over the last two years. That trend will continue in 2023, especially as companies increasingly eye staff reductions. Managers are looking for workers who can get more done in a day than their peers can in a week, Kaplan says. “People who have the willingness to do more work, especially outside their area of expertise, are the ones who are thriving right now,” he says.

He adds that this need for more work capacity may affect work-from-home policies: “Everyone has been trying to make the argument that if they work from home, they can get more done, but that will be put to the test.”

True grit

Companies are looking for employees who can persevere and work toward a goal amid significant obstacles and distractions, says David Meintrup, a Korn Ferry Advance coach.

Employees who hit roadblocks during the past two years often looked to change jobs rather than trying to move forward in their current position, Meintrup says. But companies want employees who are willing to persist, he says: “Instead of fleeing, stand your ground and figure out how to work through anticipated setbacks and obstacles.”