Why Managers Need to Start Talking about Skills

March 9, 2023

The development of life skills helps employees find new ways of thinking and problem solving, builds confidence, and boosts job performance. Skill is a term that encompasses the knowledge, competencies, and abilities to perform operational tasks. Skills are developed through life and work experiences, and they can also be learned through study.

What are Skills?

The topic of skills can be divided into three major categories that serve different purposes in your employees’ career advancement. There are functional/transferrable skills, often known as hard skills, personal skills, often known as soft skills, and knowledge-based skills.

Functional/Transferrable skills, or hard skills, are technical knowledge and/or training gained through any life experience, including in one’s career or education. Hard skills are often expressed in verbs and are based on ability and aptitude to perform a task. For example, one likely expresses their hard skills by saying, “I can write and edit copy concisely.”

Personal skills, or soft skills, are traits or personality characteristics that contribute to job performance. These are developed in childhood and throughout life experience. Soft skills are often expressed in adjectives. For example, one likely expresses their soft skills by saying, “I am organized and results-oriented.”

Knowledge-based skills are knowledge of specific subjects, procedures, and information necessary to perform a particular task. They are acquired through education, training, and experience and are usually expressed in nouns. For example, one likely expresses their knowledge-based skills by saying, “I am a plumber,” or, “I am a computer programmer.”

Why are Skills Important?

While educational qualification does play an important role in shaping your employees’ career paths, it is no longer the driving factor in success. To stay relevant in today’s ever-changing modern world, it is crucial to form a deeper understanding of skills. Developing your employees’ skill sets amplifies their career opportunities and personal growth. Improving or gaining a new skill also helps one gain a sense of achievement. The process of learning and personal development boosts confidence and the ability to succeed at work.

How do You Open a Dialogue about Skills?

To start a conversation about skill development, try out a list of skills-based coaching questions to ask in regular one-on-ones and development conversations. Some examples are:

  1. What are some of your favorite and least favorite aspects of your position?
  2. What are your strengths and weaknesses regarding interpersonal skills?
  3. What are two or three new skills you’d like to learn on the job?

These help drive the discussion towards the skills the person needs to excel in their current role, while also highlighting skills they need to develop to be ready for what’s next.

Key Takeaway

Developing stronger decision making skills, improved communication, time management, and negotiation abilities are all talents that may be improved. Working on these skills with employees’ both improves relationships and productivity in the office.


Written by

Amalia Swanson