What’s the #1 Career Skill Individual Performers Should Master?

July 7, 2014

Training and leadership development programs are no longer just for the so-called “high potentials” anymore. Career-minded employees are demanding training as part of their benefits. What’s the most common career skill companies focus on to turn their individual performers into stars? A recent survey from AMA reveals the answer.

It appears that many companies are stepping up training and development for individuals, employees who aren’t necessarily considered high potentials or the equivalent, but who are essential to meeting business objectives. These are the key people who get things done but may not be part of a team or have any direct management authority. They were sometimes overlooked in recent years, but that may be changing.

Communication skills tops the list of what are provided to individual contributors. Being able to frame ideas and share them with colleagues in both writing and speaking is so fundamental that these are most often a starting point in professional growth and development.

As fundamental as such skills are,  it would be a mistake to see communications as a simple, one-dimensional ability. Communication is actually an umbrella term for such core skills as listening, thinking clearly, interpreting organizational concepts, being alert to non-verbal signals as well as dealing with any stress or emotional issues in working with co-workers or supervisors. Indeed, understood correctly communications helps a person understand a situation, resolve differences and build trust. It’s essential for a productive workplace to encourage creativity and collaboration in order to solve problems or achieve business objectives.

Two-thirds of organizations with programs for individual contributors include communication skills. Next in frequency among 14 kinds of content are skills specific to an individual’s role. The survey findings reveal that a wide range of content is being provided to individual contributors. They span technical competencies, leadership, critical thinking, project management and interpersonal skills.

Meeting the needs of individual contributors is now vital for companies that seek to avoid a perception of elitism and instead aim to build an environment of collaboration and team work.

The survey was conducted from November 16, 2013, to January 22, 2014, and respondents consisted of 721 senior-level business, human resources, and management professionals and employee contacts drawn from AMA’s database of contacts.


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About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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    […] 38.1% to 37.6% over a two-year period, compared to almost 50% being rated as “average.” The importance of communication skills has intensified given the rise of social media and the drastic change in the 21st century for how […]

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