Finding the ideal candidate (or the ideal job) is no easy task. Candidates must possess specific knowledge and technical skills. In many cases, hands-on experience is a requirement, too. As is cultural fit. While working to assemble all that, it can be easy to overlook the basics – or simply assume that they are in already place. Yet certain basic skills are vital for every employee, regardless of position.

Soft skills make the difference between filling a seat and filling a niche

We may be living in The Digital Age, increasingly powered by technology, but problem-solving and people skills are still essential in the workplace. So whether you’re an HR pro or an aspiring new hire, keep in mind the following basic skills that every employee should have:

  • Communication

Basic composition and verbal skills are fundamental for clear communication.

  • Math

Sales clerks have to make change (what if that “smart” cash register breaks down?). In an office setting, without decent math skills, learning to develop and manage a budget will be impossible. Ability to understand and analyze statistics is important, too.

  • Computer literacy

Every generation should be conversant with common workplace programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

  • Commitment to learning

Things are changing faster than ever before. Continuous learning is critical to keep up, let alone get ahead. Even more important is the ability to apply new learning and ideas in the workplace. Employees should be able to recognize different learning styles (especially their own).

  • Problem-solving

Along with eagerness to learn comes critical thinking – the kind that enables employees to identify problems or opportunities and then seek creative responses. Employees should be able to troubleshoot simple problems on their own and know how to research potential solutions, online or otherwise. Ideally, they should have a “big picture” point of view that considers problems not only within their own position but as the issue relates to group projects or overall company goals.

  • Time management

Every job requires people to accomplish multiple tasks. The ability to plan, organize and then implement effectively is crucial at every level, as is considerate use of other people’s time.

  • Customer service

Friendly, helpful interactions are essential to build strong working relationships in every type of position, whether employees have direct contact with customers/vendors or not. In reality, everyone is a “customer.” And today’s businesses live and die by their ability to provide a superior customer experience.

  • Collaboration

Every job requires working with others. This requires ability to communicate clearly, as noted above, but also willingness to empathize with and learn from others. It requires openness to diversity – a critical component of corporate success in today’s global marketplace. Companies have learned that a diverse workforce introduces new approaches — but only if employees have the ability to work smoothly with colleagues, customers and vendors who think or believe differently, or who are from somewhere else.

  • Emotional intelligence

Self-awareness extends beyond understanding your own learning style. Recognizing personality styles and knowing to work with them builds stronger relationships. Employees should recognize their own job-related and personal strengths and weaknesses. They should be able to work in ways that accentuate their strengths, and be willing to work on improving their areas of weakness. Emotionally intelligent employees accept feedback as useful information, rather than criticism.

Employees who possess these basic skills bring value to their position, no matter what that position entails. They create value for their organization by leveraging their technical skills and experience with essential soft skills.

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