the core skills you need in your talent strategy | Main Region | UB

The core skills you need in your talent strategy (and how to find them)

When it comes to finding the right skills, technical (or ‘hard’) skills have traditionally been the focus, but with 89 per cent of talent professionals realising that ‘bad hires’ typically display poor soft skills1 – social and emotional skills are increasingly being focused on.  
So, which soft – or ‘core’ skills are in demand, and why? And how do you find these skills in candidates – and build them into your existing teams? 

Redefining ‘core’ skills 

Rather than thinking skillsets fall into the two categories of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, we refer to them as core and technical skills, respectively.  
Technical skills encompass the job-specific functions required to perform a task and are typically associated with the use of specific technologies or compliance with industry standards. Consider a programmer, for instance, who possesses technical skills in areas such as JavaScript or C++ coding. Core skills, on the other hand, refer to the characteristics of an individual’s behaviour.

The way you hire is changing 

While technical skills remain important in judging a person’s ability to take on a role, studies have demonstrated that the skills that employers are looking for today are innately human.2 So why has this demand for core skills increased so much? 
The expansion of alternative working arrangements (including platform-based, remote and cross-border workers) has created new demands of employees who, in many instances, require other skills in order to collaborate and communicate to get work done.  
With the automation of an expanding array of tasks, core skills that cannot be easily replicated by machines are growing in importance. Even highly technical roles require the capacity to learn to maintain the relevance of an individual's skillset. Given the rapid pace of technological advancements, skills tied to specific platforms or disciplines have a diminishing shelf life, whereas core skills remain consistently relevant and transferable. 

‘The great skills disruption’ is underway 

As you’d expect, communication and collaboration are listed at the top as essential core skills for teams and businesses. However, take a moment to consider the heightened significance of communication for a neurodiverse data engineer. In their role, number crunching while their team leader manages interactions with the broader business, core skills,like a keen aptitude for learning and meticulous attention to detail, become more useful. 
What this shows is that it’s not necessarily – in fact, it’s rarely – ideal to have a homogenous workforce with the same set of core skills. The key is to consider the mix of skills that are right for each role. With this in mind, we’ve mined our data, accumulated from hundreds of thousands of job listings across the globe, to identify the top core skills that are in high demand.  


Agile workers are nimble, calm under pressure and have the capacity to move quickly and decisively. They can anticipate challenges and take advantage of opportunities. They’re typically good collaborators too, and help to navigate the consequences of change.  Whether it’s adapting to new platforms and processes, taking on extra responsibilities or interpreting new information, an agile approach is always relevant and in-demand. 


Work subjects us to regular disruptions: redundancies and restructuring, budget cuts, digital transformations and economic crisis. Over the past three years these disruptions have been arguably greater than ever. Resilience allows your workforce to deal with turmoil while continuing to remain optimistic about the future as they go about their work.  
Those who step up to support team members when there’s unexpected disruption, make resilient teams– and resilient teams are the foundations of strong organisations.  

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and understand how you're feeling and empathise with the feelings of others. Those who show self-awareness and are able to regulate their behaviour in response to influencing factors, such as the need for professionalism or to comfort an anxious colleague, generally have high levels of emotional intelligence. 
These workers often also have highly attuned social skills, which means they are good to have on side during large programs of change. They take notice of how others are responding to disruption, provide feedback to senior leadership and support less resilient colleagues through the process.  


The pace of change at work continues to accelerate and failing to fortify your workforce against upheaval puts you at the risk of falling behind. Building an adaptable mindset involves engaging in critical thinking about potential challenges, proactively making decisions, solving problems, and taking appropriate actions. Instead of relying solely on past experiences, adaptable individuals assess the current environment, taking into account external factors that could influence the upcoming year, and devising plans for various scenarios. 


Creativity – the ability to see what’s not there and make something happen – is a transformative skill necessary for innovation. Harnessing creativity requires a culture of psychological safety, where employees feel secure and respected enough to voice their ideas. 

How to find the core skills you need 

Adjust your hiring processes 

Many jobseekers do not articulate their core skills in the same manner as their technical skills on their CVs. Often, core skills are not explicitly stated, making them easy to miss during CV screening and traditional interview processes.  
You can train a successful candidate in the technical skills for their role, but core skills are the foundation upon which to build the functional knowledge. Firstly, you need real clarity on the core skill requirements for the role, in the same way you would for technical skills, then you can tease out a candidate’s core skillset at interview. Situation-based assessments allow you to consider everything a candidate will bring to a role. So, next time you’re interviewing, instead of asking the candidate how they solved a problem, give them a problem to solve and see how they do. 
While technical skills are easy to teach, core skills serve as the foundation upon which functional knowledge is built. To start, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the core skills required for the role, just as you would for technical skills. During the interview process, you can then uncover the interviewee’s core skillset. Using situation-based assessments you can better evaluate what a candidate brings to a role. In your next interview, instead of asking how they solved a problem, give them a problem to solve and watch how they approach it.  

Cast your net wider  

Look beyond traditional recruitment pathways to find talent with transferable core skills, but not necessarily formal technical skills. Consider hiring people early in their careers and welcoming candidates that might be returning to work after retirement or military service. All may be too easily overlooked, but their life experiences may just inject the core skills you need. 
Strengthen your commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) 
A diverse workforce has a more diverse skill set, and the more of a mix you have entering the workforce, the broader set of core skills you’ll have in your organisation.  
Be intentional about what you want from your workers – we don’t copy and paste technical skills from one job description to another, so why do it for core skills? Core skills are not a ‘one size fits all’, you need to think deeply about the role you’re trying to fill.   

Develop your existing workforce 

Core skills aren’t intangible or any more difficult to identify. They are actionable skills that people can build and develop, just like technical capabilities. Formalise the development of core skills into development goals and discuss them in your one-to-ones with teams and managers. You want to be measuring, supporting, coaching and training in these skills, just like you do the technical ones.  
And again, consider which core skills are relevant to each role. Your senior leadership team are likely to need a broad mix of well-developed core skills such as resilience, problem solving and communication, whereas junior clerical staff may need to focus on honing the technical skills required to deliver their tasks. Some people have a natural ability with certain core skills, so it’s worth trying to align this with their role.  

Build success on a foundation of good core skills 

Today, it’s rare that a technical role will remain the same for very long, but core skills are becoming more important every day. Organisations need to develop ways of putting these skills to effective use and developing them when they are lacking. Core skills need not be intangible – they are an essential element of your skills mix that can be harnessed and developed for greater organisational success. 
Talk to us today to explore how we can shape a smarter workforce strategy, together.  


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