Good help is hard to find. At least that’s what one-third of hiring managers say, and the talent shortage isn’t just in technical fields. Good sales reps, managers, executives, and financial professionals are among the most difficult to find, according to a 2015 survey by Manpower Group.
Sought-after people have a good mix of hard and soft skills, and those skills are always changing because today’s business climate is in constant flux. If you’re looking to get hired, hire someone new, or grow your company, here are eight skills that will help you do it in 2016:
With four generations of employees in the workplace, an ability to understand and manage diversity is increasingly important, says workplace consultant Stan Kimer.
"People from different generations in general have different views of the workplace, motivations, and communication preferences," he says. "Managers need to use different management and communications styles for each employee."
Having a strategy to leverage diversity will give a company a competitive advantage. They’ll be able to recruit the best talent from the widest pool of candidates, motivate and retain top employees who feel a part of the team, and develop the best solutions to business issues by starting with a diverse set of ideas and input, says Kimer.
CEOs name cultural competence as one of the most critical leadership skills, according to a recent DDI survey, but managers rank working with people from different cultures as their weakest skill, says Paula Caligiuri, professor of international business and strategy at Northeastern University.
"The disconnect poses an opportunity for those who can demonstrate cultural agility in 2016," she says, adding that the skill includes tolerance of ambiguity, perspective taking, resilience, and humility.
"Culturally agile professionals are not necessarily those with the greatest number of frequent flyer miles or passport stamps," she says. "Developing cultural agility is more of an active process requiring social learning in a novel context with opportunities to practice new culturally appropriate behaviors, make some mistakes, receive feedback, and question one's own assumptions."
An ability to work with diverse cultures also helps companies compete as they conduct business in other countries. In today’s business climate, it’s increasingly crucial to have an understanding of the political and societal impacts on business across multiple countries.
"Almost any company can do business worldwide and employ talent all over the globe," says Kimer. "The fastest-growing economies are in Asia and South America, and a key skill will be knowing how to market, sell, and communicate in these global markets."
Companies are placing an increasing emphasis on team members who can work well with others, address issues as they arise, and mitigate major conflicts, says Nihal Parthasarathi, CEO and cofounder of the learning opportunity website CourseHorse.
"Also in this bucket are soft skills, such as ‘nonviolent communication,' the art of finding the right words to voice your conflict," he says. "This is critical and often dictates a hire/no-hire [decision] for us."
Another skill needed to be successful is flexibility and openness to learning something new, says Karen Southall Watts, author of Messenger: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Communication.
"Gone are the days when a professional in any field could consider their education done and over," she says. Instead, you must be willing to learn and accept that you will always be adding new skills.
"Specific skills like how to use particular software or equipment can be taught relatively easily when you've got an open and ready learner with solid reading, listening, and thinking ability," she says.
One-third of the U.S. workforce is freelance, and sites like Upwork have 10 million independent contractors doing more than $1 billion of work each year, says innovation consultant Jane Young. But companies need to be able to effectively hire and manage outside talent.
"The primary skill required for successfully outsourcing a task or project is the ability to describe what you want clearly and concisely," she says. "It’s important to bear in mind that English may not be the freelancer’s first language, so articulating your requirements simply, with examples where possible, will help avoid any misunderstandings, delays, and disappointments."
Consider splitting the project into stages, providing checkpoints, suggests Young. "The more checkpoints you build into any freelance project, the sooner you’ll pick up potential problems, giving you the opportunity to adjust course," she says.
As technical skills continue to be in high demand, an ability to pair them with communication skills will be critical to advancing your career, says Daniel Alexander Usera, career consultant and professor at Arkansas State University.
"A lot of times degree programs and employers focus on the hard skills, but then end up with employees who do not know how to work with other people or can't communicate a complex thought in an effective manner," he says. "Although STEM degrees will continue to be in high demand, those skills are not as impactful if the person can't function in a team-based, information-sharing context."
Analytics are relevant to all facets of your business and career, and to get ahead, you will need to be able to read and understand them, says Ken Bodnar, chief technology officer of the online auto auction Selectbidder.com.
Analytics can help target a larger customer base by analyzing the demographic of your current customer. They help support projections, and they can increase revenue stream by offering areas to exploit disruptive uses for your products and services.
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