The top ten employee skills to look out for

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) research has highlighted a lack of key workplace skills in new recruits. So what exactly should you be looking out for in new members of staff?

When hiring new staff, it is all too easy to put too much emphasis on their academic qualifications. However, this often tells you little about how they would cope in the workplace.

It’s also important to take into account their practical and transferable skills, as this is often what will determine how well they will adapt to the world of work. However, these are often exactly what new recruits are lacking, with research from the CBI showing that 55% of employers feel school leavers lack the key attributes they are looking for to ensure their business is successful, including problem solving and technical skills.#

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So what should employers concentrate on when making hiring decisions?

Research by the University of Kent has identified the top ten skills which are deemed most important by businesses:

1 – Verbal communication

The top most sought after skill was good verbal communication. Almost every job will involve talking to colleagues or customers at some point and employees should be able to express themselves clearly, confidently and concisely, tailoring their style to their audience. Communication is not all about talking, the best employees will be able to listen to what people are saying, process it and act on it. However, despite communication being a highly-desired skill, 33% of companies think their workers are lacking it, according to a survey by HR Magazine.

2 – Teamwork

Many companies ask people to work in groups on projects, or in less hierarchical organisations, in self-managed teams. To succeed in these environments, employees should be able to cooperate with their colleagues, taking their share of the responsibility and putting forward their ideas in a confident, rather than passive or aggressive manner.

3 – Commercial awareness

If workers have a good understanding of the wider environment in which a business operates and knowledge of its customer base then they can demonstrate their commitment to that particular sector. A survey by CBI and Universities UK found that over a third of employers were dissatisfied with the business acumen and customer awareness graduates displayed.

4 – Analysing and investigating

Problems crop up all the time and you need employees who are able to deal with them in a logical and analytical manner rather than getting into a panic or simply ignoring them.

5 – Self-motivation

Managers can’t spend every minute of the day monitoring their staff, so it’s important that employees are self-motivated and able to use their initiative to prioritise their tasks, come up with better ways of working and take responsibility for their own projects.

6 – Drive

Companies need employees who can get things done and are motivated to do the best job they possibly can. CBI research shows that over a third of employers felt that school-leavers lacked the right attitude towards work.

7 – Written communication

Data from Skills for Life shows that 15% of adults don’t have basic literacy skills. It’s normally something which employers are made aware of straight away, as data from the Recruitment and Employment Commission highlights that around half of all CVs received by recruitment consultants contain spelling or grammatical errors. Being able to write emails, letters and reports with a clear structure and appropriate style and content is a valuable skill.

8 – Planning and organising

For workers to be at their most productive, they need to be able to organise their workload and plan their daily tasks effectively. Being able to work to deadlines and set themselves achievable targets is a beneficial skill.

9 – Flexibility

The workplace is constantly changing and the best workers can adapt to new circumstances and environments. Good employees should be able to take on new challenges at short notice and deal with altering priorities and shifting workloads.

10 – Time management

Rounding off the top ten and edging out skills such as leadership, negotiation, creativity and stress tolerance is time management. Businesses want employees to be able to cope with the conflicting demands on their time, make the most of their hours at work and prioritise certain tasks.

While these ten are all great skills to look out for in potential recruits, once you have hired someone you should help them hone their abilities by providing regular training.

Offering training to staff is proven to boost productivity and motivation and improve staff retention. Research from the London School of Economics highlights that for every one percentage point increase in the proportion of a workforce receiving training, productivity per hour increases by 0.6%, while over half of the businesses questioned by the Association in Accounting Technicians believe that the main benefits of improving staff skill levels are increased commitment and retention.

Here at learndirect we offer a number of courses which can equip your staff with valuable workplace skills. Take a look at the various courses and qualifications we offer and call 0800 101 901 or request a copy of our information pack.