Technical know-how is just one piece of the puzzle when evaluating potential candidates. Hiring managers are increasingly on the lookout for power skills, otherwise referred to as soft skills.
These skills go way beyond fancy qualifications and are absolutely vital for effective teamwork, problem-solving, and communication. As an HR pro or hiring manager, it’s crucial to recognize and learn to evaluate these power skills, as they can be the make-or-break factor between an OK hire and a high-performer.
In this article, we’ll dig into the concept of power skills, show you why they matter during the hiring process, and give you eight real-life examples to help you spot these valuable skills in candidates.
TL;DR – Key Takeaways
- Power skills, also known as soft skills, are essential traits that go beyond hard skills and are vital for effective teamwork, problem-solving, and communication.
- These skills are increasingly valuable in the workplace as employers seek candidates who can communicate effectively, collaborate with others, think critically, and solve problems.
- While soft skills and power skills are often used interchangeably, power skills emphasize the importance and value of these abilities in the modern work environment.
- Power skills are essential for success in the workplace, regardless of position or level within an organization. They help individuals build relationships, tackle challenges, and adapt to new situations.
- Examples of power skills include conflict management, active listening, critical thinking, empathy, communication skills, adaptability, creativity, teamwork, and emotional intelligence.
- Use Toggl Hire to evaluate power skills during the hiring process, enabling candidates to demonstrate their skills through assessments or take-home assignments.
What are ‘power skills’ in the workplace?
Power skills, also known as “soft skills,” are those essential competencies that can make a real difference in the workplace. They go beyond technical skills and are all about how we interact with others, solve problems, and incorporate critical thinking.
Although the term “power skills” is relatively new, the concept has long existed. Some say that it originated in the US military in the 1950s. But recently, there has been a growing awareness of their importance across different industries and organizations.
So, why are power skills so crucial? Well, employers are looking for employees who can communicate effectively, collaborate with others, think critically, and solve problems. These skills are becoming increasingly valuable as the nature of work continues to evolve.
Research from the McKinsey Global Institute finds that no matter the sector, occupation, or geographical region, every employee needs a foundational set of power skills that allow them to: 1) Add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines; 2) Operate in a digital environment; 3) Continually adapt to new ways of working and new technologies.Udemy Learning Trends report
Power skills are not just nice-to-have qualities. They are essential human-centered skills for success in the workplace, regardless of your position or level within an organization.
They help you build relationships, tackle challenges, and adapt to new situations. In a nutshell, power skills are your secret weapon for thriving in the modern workplace.
Soft skills vs Power skills – what’s the difference?
So, here’s the thing: soft skills and power skills are often tossed around interchangeably, but they do have a subtle difference.
|Soft skills are interpersonal and broadly applicable skills that are important for success in the workplace.
|Power skills are just the same soft skills but with an emphasis on how crucial and valuable they are to every employee’s performance.
In the past, soft skills may have been seen as less important than hard skills, which are specific, measurable abilities. But things are changing. Employers are starting to realize the real power of soft skills in individual and organizational success.
That’s why we’re now using the term “power skills.” It’s a way to show that these skills are not the B-listers, but legit MVPs in the world of work.
Here are some key differences to keep in mind:
- Soft skills can be a bit more intangible and harder to measure compared to hard skills.
- Soft skills are actually super important for workplace success because they help you build relationships, communicate like a boss, and solve problems.
- Power skills are basically the soft skills that have been identified as being particularly important in today’s work environment, such as leadership and management, office productivity, strategic thinking, listening skills, and time management.
Now that you understand what power skills are, let’s look at how they are used in the modern workplace.
8 examples of power skills in the workplace
In this section, we’ll dive into several examples of power skills that can make a real difference in your professional life. From conflict management to active listening, these power skills are essential for fostering effective communication, collaboration, and problem-solving in the modern work environment.
1. Conflict Management
This is one of the most important leadership skills. It involves effectively addressing and resolving disagreements among team members, promoting constructive communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.
Imagine this scenario: You have a team with differing opinions on a major project. Side A wants to prioritize a set of features requested by a client, while Side B wants to focus on innovation and building something entirely different. This conflict is causing tension and potentially impacting productivity and team dynamics.
A candidate with conflict management skills will:
- Recognize the conflict – Be aware of signs such as disagreements, behaviour changes, or lack of cooperation.
- Understand perspectives – Listen actively and empathetically to each team member involved.
- Facilitate resolution – Encourage open communication and collaboration in a respectful environment.
- Make decisions – Propose a resolution considering the needs and interests of all team members.
- Follow-up – Communicate the resolution clearly, monitor the situation, and provide the necessary support to maintain a positive work environment.
By effectively managing conflicts, leaders can prevent the negative impacts of unresolved conflicts, such as decreased productivity and strained relationships. It allows teams to collaborate more effectively, make informed decisions, and achieve better outcomes (and keep the management and leadership teams happy).
2. Active listening
Active listening is a vital power skill in the workplace that involves fully engaging with others during communication. It demonstrates genuine interest and understanding in what the speaker is saying. Active listening encompasses giving complete attention, maintaining eye contact, refraining from interrupting or making assumptions, and showing empathy.
Let’s consider a scenario in a software development company: A project manager, Alex, is leading a team working on a new application. One of the developers, Maria, has been struggling with a complex piece of code for several days. She approaches Alex to discuss her concerns and potential solutions.
Here are a few ways that active listening can be applied in this context:
- Pay full attention – Stop talking, minimize distractions, and give your undivided attention.
- Show listening – Maintain eye contact, nod, and use non-verbal cues to indicate engagement.
- Provide feedback – Paraphrase to ensure understanding and demonstrate active listening.
- Defer judgment – Allow the speaker to express their thoughts without interruptions or immediate solutions.
- Respond appropriately – Thank the speaker, validate their efforts, and collaboratively discuss potential solutions.
Active listening allows Alex to fully comprehend the problem Maria is facing. It makes Maria feel heard and valued, boosting her morale and motivation with the user of interpersonal skills. Additionally, it promotes open communication and effective problem-solving within the team—a key aspect of successful project management.
As one of the primary power skills, empathy in the workplace involves understanding and sharing the feelings and perspectives of others. It allows individuals to connect on a deeper level, fostering trust, compassion, and collaboration.
Let’s explore an example in a customer service setting: Sarah, a customer service representative, is dealing with an upset customer who has had a negative experience with a product. The customer is frustrated and is expressing their dissatisfaction.
The use of empathy in this scenario:
- Recognize emotions – Understand and acknowledge the customer’s frustration and upset.
- Give undivided attention – Eliminate distractions and display open body language.
- Validate feelings – Use active listening to acknowledge concerns without judgment.
- Express understanding – Show empathy and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
- Offer solutions – Collaborate to identify the best course of action and assure resolution.
By practicing empathy, Sarah effectively connects with customers and makes them feel heard and valued. This approach not only helps in resolving the immediate issue but also contributes to building strong customer relationships and loyalty.
4. Communication skills
They involve the ability to convey information clearly, listen actively, and connect with others in a meaningful way. Strong communication promotes understanding, collaboration, and productivity within teams.
As for this scenario, Emily, a project manager, is leading a cross-functional team on a critical project. The team members come from different departments and have diverse expertise.
Using communication skills:
- Clear communication – Provide concise instructions and avoid jargon or technical language.
- Active listening – Give full attention, seek understanding, and refrain from interrupting.
- Non-verbal cues – Pay attention to body language and maintain eye contact.
- Feedback and clarification – Encourage open feedback and ask clarifying questions.
- Adaptability – Tailor communication style to suit individual preferences.
By honing their communication abilities, professionals like Emily can foster a positive and productive work environment. Clear and effective communication minimizes misunderstandings, promotes collaboration, and enhances team performance.
5. Adaptability skills
These refer to the essential ability of individuals to respond effectively and flexibly to changing circumstances. These skills involve embracing change positively, adjusting strategies or approaches as needed, and remaining open-minded and receptive to different ideas and perspectives.
In a digital marketing agency scenario, a team of marketers led by a team lead named Jake. They have been working on a campaign for a client for several weeks based around a major industry event in which the client is participating. However, it gets canceled just a week before the event due to unforeseen circumstances.
Here’s how adaptability skills will work here:
- Acceptance – Acknowledge and accept the change, refraining from resistance.
- Quick thinking – Convene a team meeting to brainstorm alternative strategies.
- Flexibility – Shift focus to a digital strategy, adapting materials accordingly.
- Resilience – Maintain a positive attitude and encourage growth from challenges.
- Execution – Implement the new strategy, communicate with the client, and remain agile.
His ability to accept the change, think quickly, be flexible, maintain resilience, and execute a new plan helps to keep the campaign on track. This not only ensures the project’s continuity but also builds trust with the client and strengthens the team’s problem-solving and adaptability for future challenges. Adaptability can also be a sign of strong leadership skills.
Creativity involves generating original and innovative ideas, solutions, and approaches to tasks and challenges. It goes beyond conventional norms and embraces curiosity, experimentation, and outside-the-box thinking.
In a scenario at a toy manufacturing company, the design team is tasked with creating a new toy that will appeal to children and stand out in the competitive market. The team lead, Emily, encourages her team to think creatively to come up with a unique concept.
Using creativity skills in this context:
- Brainstorming – Hold an open and non-judgmental brainstorming session to encourage creativity.
- Cross-pollination – Encourage drawing inspiration from various sources beyond the toy industry.
- Experimentation – Create prototypes and experiment with different designs, embracing learning from mistakes.
- Combining ideas – Combine elements from different toys to create a multi-functional product.
- Implementation – Refine the design, overcome challenges creatively, and effectively communicate the concept.
Emily’s leadership, people skills, and encouragement of creative thinking enable her team to explore unconventional ideas, experiment, and ultimately create a toy that stands out in the market.
Teamwork, a vital power skill in the workplace, involves collaborative efforts towards a common goal, where individuals work together, contribute their unique strengths, and communicate effectively to achieve shared objectives. Effective teamwork fosters synergy, enhances productivity, and builds strong relationships within a team.
In a scenario at a marketing agency, a team led by Sarah is tasked with developing a comprehensive marketing strategy for a new client. The team must come together and leverage their teamwork skills to create a cohesive and successful campaign.
Applying teamwork skills:
- Establish roles and responsibilities – Sarah ensures clarity in team members’ roles, promoting efficient collaboration and preventing confusion or duplication of work.
- Foster open communication – Sarah creates an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing ideas, concerns, and suggestions, keeping everyone aligned and informed.
- Encourage collaborative decision-making – Sarah involves the team in decision-making, considering different perspectives and increasing their investment and motivation.
- Support and recognize contributions – Sarah acknowledges and appreciates each team member’s unique contributions, boosting morale and fostering continued engagement and collaboration.
- Manage conflicts – Sarah addresses conflicts promptly, facilitating open and respectful communication, encouraging resolution, and maintaining a positive team dynamic.
In this scenario, effective teamwork plays a crucial role in the success of the marketing campaign. Sarah’s leadership and emphasis on teamwork skills enable the team to collaborate, leverage their strengths, and create a cohesive and impactful marketing strategy for their client.
8. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence involves the ability to understand and manage emotions, both in oneself and others. It includes recognizing and regulating emotions, empathizing with others, and using emotional information to guide behavior and build positive relationships.
In a scenario at a healthcare organization, a nurse named Lisa is leading a team that provides critical care to patients. Lisa understands the importance of emotional intelligence in maintaining a compassionate and supportive environment for both patients and team members.
Emotional intelligence applied to this case:
- Self-Awareness – Recognizes and manages her own emotions in high-stress situations, maintaining composure and setting an example for others.
- Empathy – Seeks to understand the feelings, perspectives, and needs of her team members and patients, providing emotional support and creating a compassionate work environment.
- Effective Communication – Listen actively, validate emotions, and convey messages respectfully and empathetically.
- Relationship Building – Acknowledges and appreciates her team members’ contributions, fosters bonding, and teamwork, and builds trust and collaboration.
- Conflict Resolution – Uses emotional intelligence power skills to address and resolve conflicts, encouraging open dialogue, active listening, and understanding to find mutually beneficial solutions.
Lisa’s emotional intelligence plays a critical role in creating a supportive and compassionate environment within the healthcare organization. She nurtures positive relationships, enhances communication, and resolves conflicts effectively.
Finding talent with advanced power skills
Power skills are difficult to evaluate during the interview process. To help you find the candidate with the right skills, you should give them the opportunity to prove themselves with in-depth skills assignments, homework assignments, or trial work.
Use Toggl Hire to create unique tests for your candidates and take-home tasks to complete in their own time. Good luck with your power skill search!
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.