Thursday, October 23, 2014

10 Basic Skills Every Employee Should Have by Sharlyn Lauby

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There are lots of articles out there about the skills every leader or manager should have. What about employees in general? Regardless of your job title, what are the skills that companies expect everyone to possess?
So, I thought it might be productive to share a list of skills every employee should have. Now, some might say this list is basic – and it is. Others might add that everyone already has these skills so there’s no point in writing about it. Hmmm…not sure I’d agree. I continue to hear frustration from recruiters and hiring managers that candidates don’t have these skills.
  1. Communication (written and verbal) – You don’t have to speak professionally or write a book. Employees do need to know basic grammar and sentence construction. And when it doubt, know how to look up the rules of grammar. The AP Style Guide is your friend.
  2. Computer – No more hunting and pecking on a keyboard. Companies today expect employees to know how to apply for a job online and take computer-based training. They also expect employees to have introductory word, spreadsheet, and presentation processing skills.
  3. Customer Service – The majority of jobs being created today are in the services industries. Understanding the value of customers is essential. This includes the proper way to greet customers, remember their name, and answer customer inquiries.
  4. Empathy – By now, we all understand that empathy is not sympathy. But empathy can be very difficult to learn. It’s a key component to customer service, effective communications and teamwork.
  5. Learning – Being a lifelong learner isn’t a workplace slogan. It’s a reality. Today’s workplaces require us to continuously learn new skills. Employees should be open to new learning experiences, aware of how they prefer to learn, and prepared to articulate their learning style to their manager.
  6. Math – Employees should know basic arithmetic. And let me add basic statistics (not necessarily algebra or trigonometry). Oh! And one more - learning how to count money back only makes good sense. Not only to make sure you’re getting the right change but someday the cash register might be broken.
  7. Organization – I’m going to lump into this category planning and scheduling. Everyone has multiple things going on in their lives. We all have to find a method for keeping a list, putting it on a calendar, or whatever. But forgetting stuff all the time isn’t an option.
  8. Problem Solving – Other people cannot solve all your problems. Employees need to be able to do some critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving on their own.
  9. Research and Information Gathering – This links back to many of the other skills I’ve mentioned. In today’s world, we have to figure some stuff out on our own. Whether it’s searching the computer forums to troubleshoot a problem we’re having or collecting data to soothe an unhappy customer.
  10. Teamwork – No matter who we are and what job we have, it’s impossible to do it alone. Employees must be able to work with others. This means communicate effectively with them. Empathize with their issues. And learn from them. Virtual workers are not exempt from this.
Here’s the thing about this list – these are basic skills that every employee needs. Want to really go far in your career? Gain some kind of expertise in each of them! Here’s how:
A quick career development exercise for anyone: For each of these skills, rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (1=very little knowledge to 10=consider yourself to be an expert). Use an even-point scale so you can’t rate yourself in the middle. Any area you’ve rated yourself less than a 5 might be worth some focus. You can develop skills by doing three things.
Reading – books, blogs, magazines, or online content
Listening – podcasts, webinars, or attending conferences
Doing – volunteering for a task or practicing a skill during training
Sometimes it’s good to focus on the basics. I believe we can get so concerned about other things that we forget the value that knowing the basics can bring. Obviously over time, this list will change because the workplace is changing all the time.

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