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People Skills Matter Now More Than Ever

Topics: Work Culture

The idea of “people skills” can seem a bit trite. However, when it comes to business, the ability to get along well with others, communicate effectively, and resolve conflicts should not be underestimated. In fact these days, people skills might actually matter more than anything else. Here are a few reasons why:

people skills
Image Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr
  1. They’re how we separate ourselves from the robots.

The way we live and work is changing. As automation expands, more and more jobs are being done by robots instead of people. If we’re going to compete with them, we have to work to cultivate skills that could never be duplicated by machines. People skills, almost by definition, seem to fit that bill.

According to Bloomberg, the occupations slated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow most over the course of the next 10 years all require people skills. These include jobs like retail and service workers, health aides, and registered nurses. Other jobs, in manufacturing, and even in the field of technology, are more vulnerable.

“Anything that has a routine to it can be automated,” Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director of the global talent practice at Willis Towers Watson, an HR consulting firm, told Bloomberg. “Artificial intelligence is doing to white-collar jobs what robotics has long been doing to blue-collar jobs.”

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  1. People skills make us better at our jobs.

Being good with people — listening well, communicating ideas effectively, etc. — makes us more competent workers in so many different ways. Those with high emotional intelligence collaborate effectively, send the right signals at the right times, and roll with the ups and downs of working life a little better than the rest of us. Interpersonal and social abilities impact one’s career in a big way. They help us to inspire trust and forge positive relationships with others, as well as to bounce back from disappointment and find solutions to problems. People skills make us better at our jobs because they impact so many aspects of our working lives. They also have a big impact on the way others see us.

  1. People skills are a prerequisite of strong and effective leadership.

If you’re in a leadership role, or would like to be, it’s important to realize the importance of developing strong people skills. In many ways, they separate the effective leaders from the not-so-effective ones. Of course it’s important to be skilled, experienced, innovative, and well-informed; but, without people skills, those traits can’t carry you far.

“It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant,” wrote Daniel Goleman, a Rutgers psychologist who wrote a landmark article on this topic for Harvard Business Review over a decade ago. “They do matter, but …they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

  1. People skills help us navigate a world that’s changing fast.

There is some debate about how concerned we really ought to be about automation. Over the course of history, the labor market has always needed to adjust to new technologies. But, no matter what the future holds, people skills will help us navigate it competently. Being able to work with others helps us adjust to changes more quickly because we feel we’re not going it alone. A team that’s functioning on a high level can meet extraordinary challenges, whereas one that’s struggling can barely get through a day that’s mostly routine.

If we want to really prepare ourselves for the future, come what may, we should work on our emotional intelligence, and more specifically we should try to improve our people skills. No matter where we end up, they’re sure to come in handy.

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