The soft skills that matter to most employers

Employers greatly value the ability to communicate well

A new survey adds to the growing body of evidence showing that employers are seeking graduates with soft skills needed to thrive in the workplace.

Greenfield Community College (GCC) surveyed more than 125 local businesses, municipalities, and nonprofits to determine the skills that employers want workers to possess. GCC based its survey on one released this year by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, which found that three out of five employers believe that workers need technical skills, as well as a broad knowledge base, to succeed. GCC's findings were similar.  

"The ongoing national debate about the purpose of a college education is often presented in terms of conflicting viewpoints, with some believing that college is primarily for the development of a person and others believing that it is primarily to get a job," says Marie Breheny, GCC's director of assessment. "The results from these surveys show no such conflict, as the outcomes from a broad education that contribute to the development of a well-rounded individual are also highly valued by employers.

The skills most often ranked as "very important" include:

  • Oral communication skills (92%);
  • Ethical judgment and decision-making (91%);
  • Working effectively with teams (90%);
  • The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings (88%); and
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills (84%).

Other skills ranked as "very important" by a slightly smaller share of employers included:

  • The ability to locate, organize and evaluate information from multiple sources (73%);
  • Writing skills (71%);
  • The ability to analyze and solve complex problems (64%);
  • Innovation and creativity (64%); and
  • The ability to analyze and solve problems with people from different backgrounds and cultures (64%).

(Kinney, The Republican, 8/14).

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