What are people skills and why are they important?Hays: Working For Your Tomorrowon March 25, 2024 at 5:29 pm Career advice | Career tips


When applying for a new role, it’s important to make sure you have all the relevant qualifications and that your CV fits the bill. But do your people skills meet the same high standard?  

As AI tools and hybrid working continue to change how we work, employers are starting to focus more on the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence.

In a recent interview, LinkedIn VP Aneesh Raman predicted that in 2024, “People skills are going to come more to the centre of individual career growth” and continues, “and people-to-people collaboration is going to come into the centre more for company growth.”  

Leadership roles aren’t exempt from these developments either. Raman explains, “For leaders, you’ve got to start with communicating clearly, compassionately, and empathetically with your teams.” 

Read on to learn more about developing these skills that can help you to thrive in the workplace as well as your personal life.  

What do we mean by people skills? 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘people skills’ as:  

“The ability to work with or talk to other people in an effective and friendly way” 

These skills are vital to keeping an organisation moving forward, regardless of your role or the department you may be working in.  

Some of the soft skills that are most sought after in business include written and verbal communication, empathy and the ability to listen. However, all of these are interconnected. For example, you can’t empathise with someone if you don’t listen to them. Similarly, strong communication skills can help build trust, and are a key aspect of how to work well in a team.  

Examples of valuable people skills include: 

Communication: The ability to effectively communicate means that you get your point across and you’re understood by your colleagues. By being a strong communicator, you’re more likely to be good at networking too. Empathy: Being able to recognise and understand emotions in team members can take practice and experience. Empathy requires that you are ready to listen, understand someone’s point of view and confident to respond in the right way. Empathy is invaluable for building relationships and trust.  Confidence: This may not come easily to everyone, but it’s one skill that’s certainly worth working on. By having confidence in your own abilities, you can positively affect and motivate the people working around you. Confidence is also reflected in your body language, such as maintaining eye contact when speaking with colleagues.  Accountability: Showing accountability means owning your work, recognising that mistakes can happen and taking steps to move forward. This approach will serve you well for your long-term career growth.  Honesty: Being honest and transparent will build trust, whether you’re a member of a team or in a leadership position. Dishonesty in the workplace can quickly create a toxic environment that can be damaging to workers’ mental wellbeing and morale. Patience: Being patient is essential to avoid succumbing to the stresses of work. By improving patience, especially in high performance situations, you will be better placed to identify the causes of these areas of stress. Focus instead on making improvements rather than acting impulsively.  

Why are people skills so important? 

For a team to come together to achieve common goals, it’s important for everyone involved to be able to communicate well and treat each other respectfully.  

There are also many more reasons as to why these skills are so important in the workplace, including: 

Creating Opportunities: Being confident and open to working with the people around you will expose you to new experiences and opportunities.  Keeping Calm: Struggling to communicate your feelings in difficult situations can be stressful and frustrating. Honing the skills to work through these situations will help you build the confidence to cope with whatever your role may throw at you.  Solving Conflicts: Although differences of opinion aren’t always a bad thing, an ongoing conflict in the workplace can damage morale and productivity. Strong people skills will help you to see things from different perspectives, so you can diffuse the situation and make lasting disagreements much less likely.  Avoiding Misunderstandings: Clear communication can simplify instructions and ideas, whilst avoiding misunderstandings. Clear briefs and discussions can improve efficiency towards achieving team goals.  Promoting Tolerance: Understanding the differences between personality types and backgrounds will help you to get on with a wider range of people. Tolerance is valuable throughout your career and in life generally. 

How to develop people skills in work environments 

Take a training course 

If you need guidance on how to begin improving your people skills, sign up to a training course or class as a positive first step. Your workplace may already have development tools in place, or provide a budget for further learning to improve your performance.   

Learn to listen 

Learning to listen involves more than just looking like you are paying attention or maintaining an appropriate facial expression. To listen well, you need to focus on what someone is saying and not think of your reply until they have finished talking.  

Give genuine compliments 

By complimenting someone about a skill or accomplishment, it triggers feelings of recognition and value. When you go out of your way to note the good work of colleagues or team members, it helps strengthen morale and encourages more of the same.  

Maintain a positive mental attitude  

A positive mental attitude doesn’t mean you have to be extroverted or visibly happy all the time. Simply focus on showing passion for what you do. By thinking positively, you can solve problems through decisive and constructive action rather than dwelling on weaknesses or shortcomings.  

Be proactive 

Being proactive demonstrates that you are confident in your decision making. It shows that you can anticipate any future issues and put problem solving measures in place ahead of time. A proactive team member will welcome change and identify opportunities to make improvements within the organisation.  

Techniques to improve your interpersonal skills 

Simply taking a few moments for self reflection can help to improve your people skills. By spending a few minutes thinking about your feelings and how you can handle your emotions, you can begin to understand yourself and your skillset better.  

You can also take a proactive approach to becoming more aware of how you interact with other people. Leading mental health wellbeing app Calm suggests the following techniques: 

Seek feedback from trusted colleagues or friends about your communication style.  Engage in active listening, where you focus entirely on the speaker, understand their message, and respond thoughtfully.  Practice empathy by considering others’ perspectives and feelings.  Participate in group activities or workshops that focus on communication and teamwork. 

If you’re in a leadership role and would like to learn more on how to improve communication skills and developing your emotional intelligence, listen to our insightful podcast on the subject: How Leaders Can Develop Their Emotional Intelligence 

Find more tips for developing people skills with Hays 

Looking to succeed in your dream career? Put your best foot forward with advice from Hays: 

7 ways to communicate confidence 3 powerful reasons why reflection is essential for personal and professional effectiveness Revealed: the soft skills that will help you find a job

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