5 Critical Employee Skills in the Digital Workplace
What did you look for in a job candidate 10 years ago?
Relevant experience, a good education, solid references.
A resume with these three things — combined with effective employee onboarding — was enough to succeed.
Today, business performance hinges on different criteria.
As technology becomes more embedded in every aspect of work, a new set of employee skills has become critical.
For one, employees need a high digital aptitude. The volume of software they interact with on a daily basis demands it.
Beyond tech-savviness, employees must possess traits that enable them to succeed amid uncertainty. They need drive and creativity to unleash new ways of thinking. They need boldness and flexibility to embrace change.
A shortage of key employee skills is keeping CEOs up at night
When it comes to capitalizing on new opportunities, CEOs say it is most important to boost innovation, improve human capital, and broaden digital capabilities, according to PwC’s latest global CEO survey.
But leaders are worried about not finding the right talent.
According to the survey, 77% of business chiefs cited the unavailability of key employee skills as one of the biggest threats to business.
This talent deficiency, combined with the increasing speed of technological change, is challenging companies to innovate.
HR leaders and hiring managers are tasked with filling the gap.
What does the ideal employee look like?
Technical, role-specific skills will always be important. But today, the ideal employee possesses a range of skills and qualities that transcend job titles or rank.
The following employee skills are critical for creating a high-performing business in the digital age.
Top 5 employee skills to look for
In the digital era, people often equate the adoption of new digital tools with innovation. But it is not simply buying new software that makes a company innovative. It’s the creative application of digital tools to achieve something new.
As new technology, challenges, and opportunities emerge, you need people who can think differently. You need fresh ideas for old problems. Creativity is a prized skill in all aspects of business — from creating business strategy to unleashing new efficiencies.
How to identify creativity
When faced with a question, creative people look for many possible answers, not just one. They see unique opportunities, where others get stuck in functional fixedness.
One way to gauge creativity is to see how a candidate thinks. How many answers can they come up with for these questions: How would the world be different if humans had two thumbs per hand? What’s something (or idea for a thing) that you’ve invented?
The development of new digital capabilities is accelerating the pace of change across all markets. With change comes new opportunities, but also new challenges.
The ability to solve problems effectively and fast is invaluable to companies. For each obstacle that arises — whether in customer service, internal operations, or overall business strategy — you need people with solid problem-solving skills to turn a potential barrier into a bridge.
How to assess problem-solving ability
You can take two approaches to gauging a candidate’s problem-solving skills. First, ask them to describe a time they solved a problem in a past job. Ask them to talk about the outcome, and how successful their solution was.
Another option is to give your candidate a realistic problem scenario at your company, and ask them how they would fix it. Then ask them for a different solution. After, have them explain how both options could help solve the issue.
Good problem solvers are thoughtful enough to come up with various solutions, and have the foresight to predict how outcomes would vary.
Technological advances are forcing companies to evolve virtually all elements of the business strategy. Organizations need individual employees who are agile and adaptable in order to foster a change culture.
People who are agile are good at keeping a broad view of a situation. They keep a pulse on the progress of a given strategy and the forces that influence it. They have the flexibility to embrace change, and the confidence to course correct when necessary.
How to identify adaptability and agility
Give your candidate a relevant business challenge, and ask them to describe the strategy they would create. Are they getting stuck on the minute details, or are they focusing on the bigger picture?
After they’re done, introduce an obstacle — a new regulation, a new competitor, the departure of a senior leader — and ask them how they would change the strategy to achieve the same goal. Do this a few times, and pay attention to how they react to each new challenge. Agile candidates take on new challenges in stride, while those who lack this skill do not.
People who are natural leaders are valuable at all levels of the organization, from entry-level to mid-manager to senior executive. They are proactive, self-driven, and growth-oriented. They are the ones that will push their colleagues to perform at the highest level, even during periods of uncertainty.
As companies embark on technology-driven change, whether it’s total digital transformation, adopting a new enterprise software, or adding new digital capabilities, you need employees who will champion these efforts.
How to identify leadership
Ask your candidate about his or her goals. Ask them to talk about their dream job. Do they have a plan to get there? Do they possess the strengths required to succeed in such a role? If not, what are they doing to acquire them? People with a strong leadership drive have answers to all of these questions.
5. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and to recognize, monitor, and influence the emotions of others.
Despite the growing prevalence of digital tools in the modern workplace, interpersonal skills are more important than ever. Today, many companies are making an effort to tear down silos in favor of greater collaboration and coordination of resources.
Employees with a high level of emotional intelligence are ideal team members. Even as change brings uncertainty and frustration, those with high EQ are able to control their emotions and look at situations from others’ perspectives.
How to identify EQ
There are numerous online EQ assessments you can administer during an interview. But if you’re interested in hearing for yourself, try some of the following questions:
- Do you consider yourself a good listener?
- Can you identify and express emotions?
- Do you get upset easily?
- Do you have strong relationships?
- Are you good at making compromises in conflicts?
- Do you know when to say no?
Can you create the ideal employee through training?
It’s unlikely that any one candidate will possess all of these skills. Depending on what kinds of changes are occurring in your organization, you might prioritize certain ones over others.
While abilities like communication and problem-solving can be developed over time, it’s unclear whether traits like creativity, emotional intelligence, or adaptability can be learned. But in today’s fast-paced digital workplace, they are necessary for organizational success.
Nurture employee “soft skills” by reducing digital friction
There is one thing you can do to help your employees develop these soft skills. It may seem counterintuitive, but the solution is simplifying your enterprise technology.
An easy user experience allows your employees to use any given tool to its highest capability. Instead of being frustrated, employees are empowered to use technology beyond its basic functionality. They can be creative, come up with innovative applications, and use tools you already have to create novel strategy.
A Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) is the ideal digital learning solution. A DAP delivers contextual, personalized support in real time so your employees will never get caught up in a process or task.
In the digital workplace, there’s no time to get stuck on technology. The software you invest in is supposed to help your employees capitalize on their unique human skills, not consume all of their time and energy.