10 Basic Skills Every Employee Should Have

by Sharlyn Lauby on July 21, 2013

We’ve talked before about the skills every leader should have. I thought it might be productive to share a list of skills every employee should have. Regardless of your job title, this is a list of skills that companies expect everyone to possess.

skills, employee, learning, organization, development, listening, basic skills

Some might say this list is basic – and it is. Some people might add that everyone already has these skills so there’s no point in talking about it. Not sure I’d agree. I’m hearing frustration more frequently from recruiters 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 rules up. 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, remembering their name, and answering 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 is not just 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 management. 
  6. Math – We’re not talking algebra or trigonometry. Employees should know basic arithmetic. And I’d go so far as to say basic statistics. Oh! And 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.

Now, here’s the thing about this list – these are basic skills that every employee needs. Want to really go far in your career? You better gain some kind of expertise in them!

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). 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

Over time, I expect this list will change. Because the workplace is changing all the time. What do you think? Leave a comment with your “essential skill” every employee must have.

Image courtesy of HR Bartender

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Alexandra klaff July 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Intercultural competence needs to be added to the list, which is of utmost importance.

Cynthia Cavoto July 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm

#11. Honesty and Integrity. In all aspects of their job.

Trixie D. July 22, 2013 at 12:18 am

Genuine. Innovative.

Nikki Berry July 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Emotional Intelligence
Change Acceptance
Increase ones own competencies

All equally important~

Cathy Shanes July 24, 2013 at 5:40 am

Since we are talking about soft skills here I’m surprised that flexibility wasn’t mentioned yet. The rhythm of life has changed, and fixed hours with detailed job description are left in the past. Every employer wants to cut expenses and to find a candidate who could combine various skills, multitask and fit into different departments. If you don’t have this skill in your pocket, you’ll have a hard time finding a good job.
Cathy Shanes recently posted..How to Manage Highly Skilled Employees

Patricia C. July 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Thought you might like to know there are two typos under the Communication heading of this article: ‘And when it (in) doubt, know how to look rules up (look up rules).’ I’m not sure if there are more, that’s where I stopped reading. I would add proof reading is an essential skill!

Sharlyn Lauby July 25, 2013 at 9:10 am

Thanks for all the comments! And the mention of my typos. ;-) It’s a great reminder that we all have areas we need to improve upon.

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