Do you know the number one skill employers tell me they look for in potential information technology (IT) hires when I visit my students completing IT work internships? You might say “Excellent technical abilities.” While you are partially right, technical abilities are not the most sought-after skill because technical skills are a given and can be learned as the technology field constantly changes, and keeping up with new developments remains critical. So, what is the sought-after gemstone? Interpersonal skills or people skills. These are the skills, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s Employability Skills Profile 2000+, needed to get, keep and advance in a job. Let’s look at what makes these skills particularly important in information technology.
Working in IT involves working in teams. The ability to communicate effectively crosses team leadership and collaborating with co-workers. While information technology is largely virtual based, IT professionals must still be able to relate to others over the technical issues and details. And the degree to which you can work interdependently and effectively impacts your team’s success and the company’s overall profitability.
Information technology often requires troubleshooting and resolving technical issues facing end users—both internal or external clients. The ability to communicate effectively, i.e., apply active listening skills, resolve conflicts and negotiate win-wins, is critical for building trust with clients. Clients come to feel that their issues are being resolved, resulting in less of a need to escalate a problem to the next level. After all, technical issues are a given. How smoothly these are dealt with in a diplomatic and interpersonal way reflects the company’s goodwill and good image.
Mentoring or educating the client requires excellent interpersonal skills that can involve paraphrasing, showing empathy and appropriate questioning to determine the exact nature of the technical issue. Something as simple as a password fix, for example, when the proper active listening skills are applied, provides a coaching opportunity that can reduce valuable time in the future.
Competition is fierce. Your competitor can and will do it better. The only difference between you and your competition is your ability to apply excellent interpersonal skills that foster favorable relations. As in any business, it is never about the one interaction or exchange, but rather, always about the development of a long-term relationship. Using effective interpersonal skills builds these valuable relationships, which ultimately impacts the company’s bottom line.
If you’re connecting with this article and would like to take a closer look at communication skills, let us know. We can coach your groups to hone these important interpersonal skills to help you make the most of your human resources.