What are the basic, concrete, measurable skills that today’s workforce needs when applying for a job? Are those any skills different if you are when competing for the next level of a career?

Ask a Parent

Ask any parent what skills their child to succeed in today’s workforce, and you will hear a laundry list of key areas based upon individual workplace experience.

Ask a Business Owner

Alternately, ask a department head, or business owner what skills they need in the workplace, and you may hear a different list of skills desired.

Ask a Professor

Present the same question to the Adjunct Professors in higher learning, and the 3rd version of desired skills may emerge.

As a result, several questions emerged.

  • Is a single list enough?
  • Should it vary by industry requirements?
  • What are the top 5 skills across all industries?
  • Who ultimately bears the responsibility to ensure that our current workforce today is prepared for the workplace of tomorrow?  Parents, Business, Educators or the worker?
  • Who will define the skills roadmap, and then communicate it? In what manner? 
  • How flexible will it be to change business needs and environments?
  • Can we begin the journey of skills development while in our existing pathways – whether in school, in an existing job or even “returning to the workforce”?

Number One Skill Needed

A recent article by Sara Goo, entitled “The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life” highlights a recent study by Pew Research, which indicates that communication is the number one skill needed.

Early in my work life, my parent focused on keyboarding skills, and understanding of the basic business as their measurement of my future ability to “get a job’.  Any high school elective class that addressed either of those two issues – they insisted that I sign up and complete with a high-level grade. 

No excuses, No options.  

When I moved on to college with aspirations of becoming a designer, I clearly remember one parent indicating an expectation of several business-related skills to be on my transcript.  Her hard-earned money was not to be spent solely on “fun and games” – her definition of my planned design curriculum.   As a result, business communication, advanced keyboarding, and networking classes were my elective courses.

Necessary Business Skills

Fast forward a few decades and ironically, some workplace skill requirements seem to echo my parent’s laser focus on necessary business skills.   

A recent article entitled “Lack of Computer Skills Foil Many Job Seekers“, written by M. Alex Johnson, suggests that computer literacy is a key required skill for today’s workforce. 



Although many workers have digital devices, the functionality being used on that device may or may not be comprehensive enough to compete in today’s job market. 

For example, using a mobile device daily to post on your favorite social site, does not equal the skill needed to effectively create and present a workplace presentation or update a cost analysis dashboard spreadsheet. 

Nor will it allow a healthcare professional to access needed medical information to assist in healthcare treatment.

Clear, straightforward, well defined and measurable workplace skill requirements must be defined.  Once communicated, a clear pathway can be identified to gain those skills. 

It may require a “grow your own” approach within the organization.  This may mean revisiting or enhancing the existing new hire onboarding process, including the required training currently offered throughout the first 30-60-90-120 days to upskill newly hired workers to effectively perform actionable work responsibilities. Investing in workers could build organizational capital and worker loyalty.

Businesses and organization can no longer assume that workers automatically possess the desired  skills when applying for open position(s).

Organizations may need to rethink whether to hire workers with existing skills more open to the possibilities of hiring workers who have the capability of learning the skills needed.


Read More

Updated 12/23/15, 3/8/2020

Michel Hobson is one of the most sought-after workplace training leaders in the region. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans multiple countries and hundreds of companies. | HobsonTraining.com