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How power skills improve your organization

8 min read
Standfirst: In the rapidly changing world of work, employees need essential skills to overcome challenges and perform at their best. Power skills are some of these. So, what are they?

Author: Ruth D’Alessandro

Subject Matter Expert: Jake Outram

Power skills are increasingly in demand in the modern workplace; they complement technical skills, and help people adapt to change. In this article, we’ll look at what power skills are, why they matter and how to develop them.

You’ve no doubt heard the words ’hard skills’ and ‘soft skills’ in a business context. ‘Hard skills’ are those technical industry skills needed to get the job done such as:

  • Computing
  • Project management
  • Sales and marketing
  • Accounting
  • Design
  • Digital communication
  • Financial analysis
  • Data analysis

These technical skills are learned through formal education, training, apprenticeships and work experiences.

‘Soft skills’ are less quantifiable, more human, interpersonal skills that are only developed over time and come with experience. They help with problem solving, making good decisions, leading people well, and creating harmonious workplaces.

These skills are anything but ‘soft’. Arguably, they’re actually harder to learn and develop than hard skills, and need to be constantly exercised and updated. They’re also the cornerstone of employee engagement, performance, productivity, customer experience and hence business success.

As HR thought leader Josh Bersin points out:

Hard Skills are soft (they change all the time, are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and Soft Skills are hard (they are difficult to build, critical, and take extreme effort to obtain).” 

So to recognize their importance, soft skills have been renamed ‘power skills’.

And now, with the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) disrupting the world of work, with machines now being able to do some of the technical jobs that were previously part of employees’ daily tasks, some hard skills will diminish in importance over time, and specific power skills will become more and more desirable.

Free eBook: The 5 trends transforming employee experience

What are power skills?

When a job spec asks for ‘agility, flexibility and able to adapt to change’, it’s asking for power skills. There are no paper qualifications you can get for being agile, flexible in your approach to work, or able to deal with change. Yet you may have thrived in a hybrid work environment, been able to lead a team in a fast-moving crisis situation, and changed jobs several times. You’ve developed important power skills.

Power skills are the more human-to-human skills, and include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Decision making
  • Conflict management

Research by Pearson found that the world is facing a shortage of employees across all sectors who have cultural and social intelligence, collaboration and communication skills. The importance of these power skills such as communication, and the ability to learn, are becoming more important, and organizations need to act now to help their employees upskill.

A strong foundation of power skills is essential, the most important ones that employers are looking for today being:

1. Communication

Being able to express thoughts and ideas clearly, and to listen to, understand, and respond to other people’s ideas.

2. Customer Service

Providing service to customers before, during, and after their purchase.

3. Leadership

How able an individual, group or organization is to lead, influence or guide others.

4. Attention to detail

Precision and accuracy in tasks, noticing the small details and making sure that every aspect of a project is completed.

5. Collaboration

Being able to develop cooperative and constructive working relationships with other workers.

By 2026, the five power skills projected to be most in demand – and therefore worth improving and investing in – are:

2026 top 5 projected power skills

1. Collaboration (still)

A critical power skill.

2. Customer focus

Always on the lookout for ways to serve customers and clients better.

3. Personal learning and mastery

The determination to acquire knowledge and skills through your own studying or experience.

4. Achievement focus

The ability to take on responsibilities and challenges with little or no supervision, develop your own way of working, and being autonomous to get things done.

5. Cultural and social intelligence

Having the awareness and understanding of other people’s backgrounds, norms and values, and the ability to ‘read the room’.

How power skills benefit your organization

Clearly, employees with technical skills design, build, manufacture, market and sell your goods and services. When they also have power skills, there’s a kind of innate maturity at your organization that comes from their wisdom, experience, consideration, and innovation.

Benefits of power skilled employees may include:

A more inclusive company culture

Empathetic employees who have social and cultural intelligence are more likely to foster diverse teams that work in harmony.

Creating a resilient workforce

Employees who can solve problems, think laterally, and communicate how they feel are more able to adapt to change, whether it’s the introduction of a new technology such as AI, or hybrid working, or whatever else this uncertain world decides to throw at them.

Becoming an ‘employer of choice’

When you have a great company culture, good brand reputation and happy employees who are your best advocates, word gets round that you’re a desirable employer. You’ll attract high quality candidates who will probably arrive with their own well-honed power skills.

Improved employee retention

Where employees are well managed, enjoy autonomy, a sense of belonging, and are trained and developed, they’re more likely to remain with your organization.

Recruitment from within

Allowing employees to bring their authentic selves to work and feel sufficiently empowered to tackle new challenges may highlight promising employees who can be trained up and moved to other sections of the business, depending on their strengths.

Better leadership

Empowering managers and leaders to listen to their teams and take action on their observations, ideas and suggestions makes for better management, and greater employee empowerment and engagement.

Better customer experience

When employees understand their customers and how they like to purchase, interacting empathetically and creatively to address any issues or problems, customers feel more satisfaction that they’ve been well treated.

How Qualtrics can help improve power skills

You’ll want to create the best work environment you can to develop every power skill that your employees need to face the future of work.  That includes offering fair and competitive compensation, a safe and inclusive workplace, clear communication channels, access to necessary resources and tools, and opportunities for professional growth and development.

Our People Engage is the market-leading solution for empowering organizations of any size and maturity with a practical, holistic and continuous approach to employee engagement – and developing power skills.

It has everything you need to not only begin, but expand your employee experience program including purpose-built solutions and flexible capabilities.

Backed by Qualtrics EmployeeXM™, People Engage helps your leaders understand how employees are feeling and thinking, which is critical for taking swift, informed actions to boost company culture and help your workforce feel supported and engaged.

experience summary results page

Empower those management and leadership teams with robust, organization-wide feedback and agile in-the-moment insights, that help develop power skills, and increase engagement, productivity and retention.

Free eBook: The 5 trends transforming employee experience