Transferable Truths?

What's in your own personal back-pack?

It is certainly the case that technology has changed the way we all work. It’s been estimated that knowledge is doubling every year and new skills are becoming outdated every 2.5 to 5 years (Deloitte Consulting 2015). So surely, as long as you can stay on top of new technologies and navigate the web effectively, you will be fine, right? Perhaps not. It turns out that developing applied skills may now be more important than ever before. These adaptive interpersonal skills and approaches are not only highly prized across all work environments, but are also completely transferable.

Survey after survey is highlighting the fact that employers are putting transferable abilities ahead of technical abilities and now acknowledging that these are the skills most closely associated with success in role. Furthermore, while technical skills clearly value and remain massively important, it appears that for the most part, they are easier to identify in the marketplace. According to one of the largest surveys of its kind The UKCES Employer Skills Survey, which recently interviewed 91,000 UK organisations, ‘The most common skills deemed to be lacking among existing staff were people and personal skills’. (Jan 2016). UK employers are for example, more than 10 times as likely to appoint a candidate who can prove their communication skills in the workplace over ones with extensive experience.

Indeed the same survey discovered that ‘these skills deficits can cause major problems and disruptions for business and result in increased costs and diminished competitiveness and profitability’. Furthermore it is estimated that by 2020, over half a million UK workers will be significantly held back by their lack of transferable skills.


The transferable skills framework



It seems the favouring of interpersonal abilities over technical abilities stretches across all functions , roles and sectors. Take Google for example. After scouring years of performance reviews, feedback surveys and other people data, their Project Oxygen identified eight characteristics which employees at Google admired the most in their bosses. Interestingly, ‘technical ability’ – often considered to be the defining characteristic of the most successful Googlers, came bottom of the pile. (with interpersonally based skills, first).

So these days, it may not be just about technical capability, qualifications, education or background. All will of course play an important part, but ultimately being able to connect well with others face-to-face, interact and express yourself, tell an engaging story and listen attentively, may well be the qualities that will most help you to navigate your work environment, adapt to changing role priorities and progress in your career.

What are these transferable skills?

They are the skills which we carry for a lifetime and help us develop as people, both in our work and beyond. While most employees recognise the importance of transferable skills, one in five people still wouldn’t feel confident describing them to an employer, and over half forget to highlight them on a CV.  

 Some of the most commonly cited are:


  • Team working
  • Decision-making
  • Communications skills
  • Initiative
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Results focus
  • Resilience
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving


Recent research has revealed a more comprehensive list of 21 (very familiar) core skills, all of which are valued by UK employers:


This short clip features the 21 skills which are most commonly associated with successful outcomes at work. Are there any other non-technical skills that you can think of to add to this list? Let us know which applied skills are in greatest demand across your own organisation, we’d love to hear from you.

Posted On: 23 Apr 2017