Here are the 5 soft skills employers demand most

Communication, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving lead to higher earnings, report finds
By: | November 20, 2020
(GettyImages/Malte Mueller)

Click to read the report.

A new report confirms what many K-12 and college educators have been saying in recent years: Soft skills are critically important to employers across the workforce.

The most in-demand skills across the labor market are:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Sales and customer service
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving/complex thinking

These in-demand skills “are associated with higher earnings in jobs in which they are used most intensively,” according to the report, “Workplace Basics: The Competencies Employers Want,” by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The report explores how 120 knowledge areas, skills, and abilities are in demand across the workforce and within specific professions, and also gauges impact on earnings. The two least in-demand skills were strength and coordination, the report found.


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The report also found:

  • Earnings increase by about 20% when workers use communication more intensively on the job.
  • Higher use of problem-solving and complex thinking leads to an earnings premium of 19%.
  • 77% of the workers who use communication most intensively have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 10% of workers who use strength and coordination most intensively.
  • In healthcare professional and technical occupations, high school-educated workers who use communication most have higher median earnings ($52,300 per year) than the overall median for workers with some college or an associate’s degree ($49,200 per year).
  • The most intensive use of problem-solving and complex thinking among blue-collar occupations is associated with an average earnings premium of 89% above the median.

On the other hand, community services and the arts is the only major occupational group in which workers appear to earn less for more greater use of almost all of the most in-demand competencies.


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