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Power Skills: An Overview

What Are Power Skills

Any workplace learning program aims to teach its employees new skills, and improve on their existing ones. Traditionally, this just meant the core hard skills that were essential to your job – technical and occupational skills. 

While these haven’t gone away – and in a rapidly changing world, remain vital – another kind of skill has recently become just as important. Some might argue even more important!

These are ‘power skills’. Power skills are sometimes known as ‘soft skills’. They are interpersonal and not specific to your job – communication, presentation, creative thinking are all examples. 

The reason power skills are so important is that they are often the key differential between a good team and a great one. These days there are a lot of good programmers out there, for example. But the really great programmers are the ones that can communicate – both within their software team and with the other functions of the business. 

This is true for all sorts of roles – power skills are rapidly becoming one of the most valuable investments a business can make in its ongoing L&D program.

The term was coined by Josh Bersin, who makes a super interesting point. The reason power skills are so valuable is that – despite being considered ‘soft’, they are liable to change less over time than many so-called ‘hard’ skills:

“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).”

Josh Bersin

The Importance of Power Skills

Power skills are essential, both for individual employees to do their best work, and for teams and workforces to cooperate as effectively as possible.

Here are some reasons why power skills are important: 

1. They help employees to do their best work

Power skills covers ‘behavioural skills’ such as time management and adaptability. These are increasingly vital for individuals to work to their fullest potential, in an era of working from home and rapid technological change.

2. They allow employees to contribute to the success of their organization

Well-trained employees contribute more. This leads people to feel more valued in the organization, and uplift the business as a whole, not just their own development.  Not to mention, power skills often focus on the interpersonal. Teams that communicate effectively internally and with each other lead to a more connected and cooperative organisation. 

3. They help employees develop professionally 

Your people want to develop over time and see clear pathways to success. By helping your employees to develop as individuals, you are killing two birds with one stone – helping them achieve what they want to achieve, while also nurturing your own talent as they progress through the organization.

4. When developed correctly, they can create an adaptable workforce

While hard skills are often technical and job-specific, you can approach them in a way that will lead to generalised skill and adaptability. This is vital in an ever-changing business landscape, where new technologies and strategies are always likely to be just around the corner.

Examples of Power Skills

There are many different power skills that can be important in the workplace, and they are liable to change somewhat depending on different industries and roles. As such there are loads of power skills out there, far too many to list all of them here.

If you do want to see a comprehensive list of different power skills for different roles, we’ve got you covered. Check them out on our FREE Skills Matrix Template. This covers a super broad range of roles and the power skills that are important to them! You can also check out hard skills there.

Some examples of power skills include:

Communication

Many argue that this is the most important skill you can have, period. In the workplace it’s especially important, but you probably already know that. 

Emotional Intelligence 

This means understanding how best to deal with other people in a way that respects their emotions and pays heed to their mental wellbeing. Like all power skills, this is something that everyone already has to some extent – but most of us could still do some work on developing it.

Critical & Analytical Thinking

The ability to approach a problem in a methodical, quantitative way. Problem solving works best when people are able to weigh the evidence available to them in a totally unbiased way – this is what lies at the core of critical thinking.

Teamwork & Collaboration

Taking the time to develop people’s team working skills is an extremely sound investment. Teams that truly get on with each other see far better results.

Power skills vs Hard skills

Power skills are often confused with hard skills, but they are two different things. Power skills are a bit like personality traits – they are things that we all do already anyway. The majority of people has developed their power skills to some degree already in their life. You already have a base-level communication skillset, and you know how to manage your time. The trick with training power skills is to improve these areas.

Hard skills, on the other hand, require specific and/or technical knowledge. Programming in C++ is not something that everyone just knows – obviously, it requires a specific, regimented training course to teach this to someone. Both hard skills and power skills are essential to any workplace L&D program. Some examples of hard skills include: 

  • Programming

  • Marketing Strategy

  • Copywriting

  • Business Development/Sales Prospecting

  • Data Analysis

Power skills are highly important – as we’ve discussed, they’re arguably the most important skills – but they are not specific to any one job or field. In contrast, hard skills are specific skills that are essential for success in a particular job or field.

How to develop power skills in your business

There are a number of ways that you can develop power skills in your business:

1. Train your employees

Obviously! The quickest and most effective way of improving power skills within your business has to be through training. This can come through in-person training, long-form courses, or e-learning. One method for improving people’s power skills is microlearning – which is where 5Mins comes in. Short-form learning can be especially useful for power skills. Taking a ‘little and often’ approach can be a great way to keep developing these skills – which are often less tangible or quantifiable than their more technical counterparts.

2. Hiring employees with power skills

The other highly effective way to make sure you are covering the essential power skills in your business is through hiring. Taking the time to really look understand what skills are needed in the role before you start advertising the job can have incredible ROI down the line. Our skills matrix can be an extremely useful tool for this!

3. Create a power skills development program

As a complement to your employee training, you could consider a skills development program. This means creating incentives and goals for employees to take the lead on their own skills development. It’s different from training because it’s less directed – ultimately your team members are likely to know what is most useful for them. The research shows that when learners have agency in what they learn, they are far more engaged. For this purpose a Learning Experience Platform (LXP), such as 5Mins, can be useful.

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