The 5 life skills employers are looking for the most

The world's changing, and so too are the skills that employers want to see.

  • LinkedIn scoured their database of employers and employees to develop a list of skills that employers were looking for the most.
  • These skills--creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management--are timeless, but they're also becoming more important as globalization and automation change the business landscape.
  • Here's what these five skills are about and how they can be improved.

As globalization and automation continue to transform the business landscape, more and more employers are looking for employees with fundamental, uniquely human skillsets. After reviewing the extensive database of employers, employees, and jobs available on its website, LinkedIn identified which life skills were the most sought after by employers. Here's the top 5 life skills that employers are looking for, what they consist of, and how to improve them.

1. Creativity

Investor Mark Cuban told Forbes that "I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming." Part of the reason why creative thinkers are going to become so important in the future is that process-based jobs are being increasingly automated. Technical skills are valuable, but the skills that are difficult to reproduce algorithmically will be more valuable in the future.

We all understand intuitively what the concept of creativity is, but precise definitions vary considerably. Some suggest creativity is simply what goes into producing something novel and useful, while others extend it to the ability to find obscure patterns, identify problems, and so on.

According to researcher Mel Rhodes, creativity is based upon four Ps: 1) person, 2) process, 3) place, and 4) product. For someone to be creative, they must be the right kind of person. That doesn't mean intelligent — the correlation between intelligence and creativity isn't entirely clear. Rather, people of "a complex temperament" tend to be creative; that is, those with a sensitivity to problems, the ability to redefine familiar concepts, and a fluency of thoughts and ideas.

Process refers to the creative process, the motivation, perceptions, and methods of thinking, learning, and communicating that cause people to create. The creative process has been summarized in several steps: preparation, that is, learning, observing, and asking questions; incubation, thinking consciously and unconsciously about the parts collected during the preparation stage; inspiration, or the sudden connection of those parts considered during the incubation period; and verification, or the hard work of converting the idea into a more refined form.

Place is fairly self-explanatory — it's the interaction involved between the individual's environment and themselves when being creative. This isn't necessarily to say that an individual needs a big, open, clean, and quiet place in which to be creative. Rather, the settings and backgrounds of our lives inform how we work creatively. Often, quite unpleasant places can serve as fuel for creativity.

Product refers to the outcome of the above elements. It's the idea produced creatively, perhaps building upon other products or enabling further products to be built upon it. By studying creative products, we can, in theory, trace the development of the creative idea back through these various aspects of creative theory.

2. Persuasion

Similar to creativity, the ability to persuade others is a skill that won't go away in the automated future and will likely increase in importance. Also like creativity, it seems like some people just have a gift for persuasion, and others seem to always struggle to convey their ideas in an attractive manner, though anybody can improve their persuasive ability if they work at it. Research suggests that persuasion is based on six principles.

  • Liking: When people like you, they're more willing to listen to what you have to say. And one of the best ways to get people to like you is for you to like them. You can demonstrate this through finding similar interests or hobbies or through praise, though praise has to be moderated to ensure it doesn't come off as insincere flattery.
  • Reciprocity: Being nice to others makes them feel obligated to listen. The Disabled Veterans Organization demonstrated this effect when they started including a small gift in their fund-raising letters: personalized address labels. After including this gift, their response rate jumped from 18% to 35%.
  • Social proof: People tend to do what their peers are doing. When persuading others of a plan, mentioning individuals who already agree with you can add more of a punch. Even better, if peers can do your persuading for you, your message will be all that more impactful. This is why you always see testimonials from other customers when ordering a product or service.
  • Consistency: Once an individual commits to an action, they feel duty-bound to follow through. But the more public and physical this commitment is, the stronger the effect. By having somebody write out their commitment to your plan of action, you're more likely to persuade people who will stick to the plan.
  • Authority: If you believe yourself to be right but lack the standing to carry enough weight to persuade others, rely on experts who can back you up. People trust experts and are more likely to follow through on their advice. For instance, one study showed that stroke victims were 34% more likely to follow through on their physical therapists' exercise programs when their therapists displayed their diplomas and degrees.
  • Scarcity: If your product or proposal can be framed as something that is limited in quantity or only possible in a limited timeframe, your audience is more likely to adopt it. People want scarce things, and research has shown that this applies to information too. If an individual believes they are among a few people to have access to information, they're much more likely to act on it.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

3. Collaboration

This skill has always been highly valued by employers. As our world progress technologically, it's also becoming increasingly connected and smaller as a result. New projects are likely to span between countries, companies, organizations, and teams. In this new environment, the ability to communicate well, plan together, delegate tasks, and work towards a common goal will be essential.

In the workplace, collaboration often takes place without a centralized leader, or with one whose duties are broadly distributed. Dr. Barbara Gray described the collaborative process as one that takes place in three stages.

  • The prerenegotiation or problem-setting phase. In this stage, the parties must identify the problem and also determine who among the group needs to be working upon what aspect of the problem. It's important that at this stage, each party understands and acknowledges the equal role of the other members.
  • The direction-setting phase. During this phase, the group members establish an agenda, organize subgroups, explore alternatives, establish the essential facts of the problem, and set a course of action.
  • The implementation phase. Here, the parties gather support for their identified solution, plan out the implementation, implement their solution, and monitor the implementation.

4. Adaptability

Rather than explode into histrionics when something doesn't go according to plan or insisting on sticking with a strategy that is merely adequate, some individuals are capable of turning on a dime, rethinking their approach to problems, and constantly refining their strategy. These people are adaptable.

The business environment has changed significantly in the last few decades — globalization is an increasingly powerful force that has made the business world more mutable and quicker to change than ever before. Authors Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler argued in The Harvard Business Review that adaptability is the new comparative advantage for companies. While their focus was on companies, individuals will also benefit from increased adaptability in this new environment.

How can one cultivate adaptability? Some student engineers at Johns Hopkins are taking improv classes to improve their ability to think on their feet. Though one doesn't have to take improv classes to become more adaptable, learning to embrace being outside of one's comfort zone is a surefire way to improve your adaptability — not only will it reduce the shock of sudden change, but it will force you to become more agile when confronting those changes.

5. Time management

Time management is and always has been an in-demand skill. No matter what industry, there are guaranteed to be times when a deadline approaches and when irregular duties pile on top of regular ones. Time management won't just make you more attractive to a potential employer, either. It's also been shown to improve performance and reduce stress.

A review of scientific literature on the subject identified three core features of effective time management:

  • Time assessment, or one's awareness of the past, present, and future and an ability to self-assess one's typical time use for various tasks. Being able to assess time means that an individual will be able take on duties and tasks that they know they can handle and turn down those tasks that they know they can't.
  • Planning, or an individual's ability to prioritize and group tasks to make for the most effective use of one's time.
  • Monitoring, or the ability to keep track of one's use of time while performing some task. Even if an individual has mastered the other aspects of time management, it won't do them very good if they fail to notice one duty seems to be taking up more time than they planned for. Observing how one is performing a given task is a crucial element to effective time management.

By cultivating these five skills, any jobseeker can guarantee they remain attractive to employers as the world continues to change. Technical skills are and will be important for a long time, but creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management skills will likely remain relevant forever.