The Youth Employment UK Employability Review, published 26th June 2017, revealed that 26 employability skills in total were recommended across all reports and frameworks studied. That’s a plenty for anyone to take on! For me, employability is not just being able to write a CV, fill in an application form and negotiate an interview – vital though those things are. Having talked about Authenticity and Enthusiasm in a previous blog, I wanted to highlight some other behaviours and capabilities that are important “employability” skills in so much that they enable all of us to negotiate an ever-changing landscape. But before I do that, let’s think about some of the factors that are driving that change.
The skills gap is still a hot topic but this continues to be an ongoing concern. There was a lot of talk at the Conservative Party Conference about the ‘skills revolution’; raising the profile of apprenticeships and ‘gold standard’ T-level technical qualifications, etc. The UK has particular skills shortages in sectors that depend on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. An ageing workforce means that hundreds of thousands of skilled technical and professional roles will need replacing over the next ten years. As well as that, STEM occupations suffer from significant under-representation by women and from minority ethnic groups.
Let’s add into that picture the government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper (2017) states that the UK needs to; “…address the productivity gap with other leading countries. While the proportion of people in work is at a record high, we still produce less for every hour we work than our competitors.” The same document also highlights that the UK still has low overall levels of numeracy and literacy.
The concept of so-called lifelong learning is not new either. Technology continues to evolve and grow at an increased rate, shaping and reshaping the employment landscape. In order to keep pace and to maintain our place in an already competitive job market, we all need to take greater responsibility for our own development and keeping skills up-to-date.
Communication – Workers in the digital age must know how to effectively communicate effectively in person as well as via phone, email, and social media. That means being able to understand and adapt your tone, vocabulary and delivery so that it is appropriate and relevant to your audience. Persuasion and negotiating; using words and language economically – being concise. The ability to show empathy (that you understand and respect someone else’s point of view). You also need to be able to listen and listen actively i.e. reading between the lines, listening to the words but understanding and interpreting non-verbal communications; taking into account opinions, motivations, etc.
Team working – Employers need new employees that can settle quickly and get on well with existing staff. A good team worker understands that bringing together a range of people enables a group to achieve more – one person’s strength can compensates for someone else’s area for development and / or compliments their strengths. A good team needs introverts and extroverts to function; it needs people who detail and process focused as well as those who are more active and hands-on.
Thinking Skills – Inevitably, change brings challenges; sometimes things will go smoothly and sometimes, well, less so. Complex problems may arise without warning. Employers need people that can take a step back and look at process or a situation and see where a different course of action or a change in the process can provide a solution. That means evaluating and analysing information; the ability to distinguish between true and false information, the trustworthy and questionable sources. The ability to apply logic and reasoning, to think creatively to find the most cost and time effective solutions.
Self-Management - Being able to take responsibility; being the person who is answerable for something and is the cause for whether that thing is a success or failure. Also, being accountable for your own actions and workload. That goes beyond what you are responsible for; it is the result of choice, it is personal involvement and ownership. You will be able to report or explain what happened, how it happened and why it happened.
Self-belief – Employers are looking for candidates who self-assured and have “presence”; as one employer contact put it, “someone that is fearless or least fears less”. These are the candidates that know their strengths and their areas for development. We are talking about the kind of person that is driven and determined yet remains receptive. Employees also need to be resilient; able to quickly recover from difficulties and come back stronger.