Nick Deligiannis Managing Director, Hays Australia & New Zealand

The COVID-19 crisis has brought about overnight change and disruption to the world of work. Of course, some of these changes were bubbling away in the background in the pre-crisis world, but these have now been accelerated – alongside a multitude of completely new changes. Employers, therefore, are increasingly looking for professionals who have the soft skills required to succeed in the face of constant new challenges.

Soft skills are those that are more difficult to define and measure – unlike their opposite, hard skills, which are technical abilities like website design, computing, or writing. The way you behave and react to certain situations will be as a result of the soft skills you possess. For example, are you quick to adapt and able to solve problems? Or do you shy away in the face of change?

The soft skills you will need in order to succeed in the new future of work

One thing that is certain right now is that coronavirus is changing and re-shaping our working world – rapidly. You must therefore position and prepare yourself as best as possible as we begin to enter the next era of work, by building on or developing the below six soft skills that employers will be looking for in their future employees.

1. Adaptability

An ability to accept and adapt to change is vital because, like it or not, change will be a big part of the new era of work. Consumer needs and expectations are changing; thus organisations are needing to shift their entire business models. And as a result, jobs are changing. Whether that’s organisational, technological or skills-based, the jobs we do and the way we do them is changing, and will change, again and again.

With all of these unknowns and all of this change, employers are increasingly looking for people who can move out of their comfort zone and see change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.

Through the pandemic, you’ve likely faced and overcome new adversities and challenges that you didn’t foresee. So, despite the fact this may have felt difficult and uncomfortable at times, you will have been building up your adaptability and ability to deal with change in the process.

If you feel as though you are struggling to adapt though, perhaps you need to review this advice from Alex Fraser, our Group Head of Change, on how to embrace change quickly and effectively. Among many other tips, Alex suggests you need to recognise and rationalise your voice of caution: “During times of change, this area of the brain [the voice of caution] likes to take charge and urges us to resist and be cautious. By recognising that this is what is happening and reminding ourselves that all will be ok, we can stay open minded and prepare to take on the change in careful, measured steps.”

You should also take time to acknowledge how your mindset may have shifted in recent weeks and months. If you’ve noticed that you’ve managed to adapt to the changes quickly, it’s likely that you will have done so using a mindset of growth. As our CEO, Alistair Cox has explained, those with a growth mindset “tend to see life as an endless opportunity to figure out new things and appreciate that failure is part and parcel of learning and progressing.”

2. A willingness to learn

A willingness to learn is high up in the list of soft skills sought in the next era of work. Professionals and organisations alike have been woken up to the fact that everything can change almost overnight – and with this change comes demand for different skills. As a result, upskilling should have moved up your priority list, so that you can ensure the current and future demands of potential employers.

In fact, my colleague Jane McNeill, Hays Australia Director, quite rightly explains in a recent blog , “…once this crisis is over, it’ll be those people who have taken steps to boost their skills who will come out the other side in the best position.” Essentially, you need to use this time of uncertainty to be preparing yourself for the next era of work. By devoting time now to upskilling and learning, you will be demonstrating to future potential employers your willingness to learn, through how you used this time to better yourself and grow your knowledge base.

Regardless of the industry, a willingness to learn and a desire to stay on top of current trends and changes relevant to your profession is valued by employers both large and small – particularly in a world in which the hard, technical skills that are in-demand are changing and shifting constantly. After all, showing that you are willing to learn is key to learning about and understanding any new developments from a technical point of view, ultimately, therefore, helping your organisation to progress. This soft skill goes hand in hand with being self-aware. As changes occur in your industry, gaps in your skills and knowledge emerge. Thus, you must have the self-awareness needed to spot any new gaps, and seek to bridge them.

3. Emotional intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence (often referred to as EQ), is “the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them” – as defined by Howard Gardner, Harvard theorist. In fact, Grant Torrens, Hays Singapore Regional Director, has outlined four questions that you can ask yourself to review your EQ:

  • Can you spot negative emotions in others?
  • Can you tap into positive emotions?
  • Do you listen to people?
  • Do you realise the impact of your own emotion?

When navigating through difficult times and new challenges, a high level of emotional intelligence is imperative. In fact, Dr Travis Bradberry – co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – explored the topic in this World Economic Forum article, and explains how “your emotional intelligence skills help make stress more manageable by enabling you to spot and tackle tough situations before things escalate.” This is clearly a skill we all must possess now and in the next era of work as, unfortunately, we’re bound to be facing more trying situations in the future. And it’s vital that you’re able to deal with these scenarios successfully.

Bradberry also states that recent research conducted within his organisation has found that 90 per cent of top performers have high levels of emotional intelligence. So, developing and increasing your EQ will not only protect you as you approach difficult or potentially stressful times, but it will also set you in good stead to become a top performer in your current and future workplaces.

4. Interpersonal and communication skills

It is all well and good learning something new every day and thinking of smart solutions to challenges, but these soft skills get lost if you’re not able to communicate and demonstrate them successfully to others, such as a potential employer in a job interview. For example, stating that you are adaptable to change isn’t enough; you need to use your strong communication skills to illustrate just how adaptable you are – perhaps by providing examples. After all, employers favour jobseekers who possess exceptional communication skills and are comfortable speaking with people at all levels of an organisation in a professional manner.

It’s worth acknowledging, too, that communication has now changed substantially to those conversations and interactions we had with colleagues and stakeholders in the pre-crisis world, as Jane McNeill explored in her latest blog, with much less face-to-face contact, and a huge increase in remote means of communication. And as we transition to a hybrid working world – with team members split between home-working and office-working – strong interpersonal and communication skills are only going to become more important as we learn and adapt to building and maintaining relationships, collaborating and sustaining productivity ‘virtually’, rather than in person. Video calls, virtual conferences and online presentations also require new levels of self-confidence which you might not currently possess, but will be able to develop in time, as Roddy Adair, Personal & Executive Assistants Director at Hays UK, recently explained.

5. Problem-solving skills

We’ve all experienced first-hand how things don’t always go to plan; in all likelihood, none of us had predicted that 2020 would pan out the way it has so far. And with a rapidly changing world of work comes the demand for people who are quick to adapt and solve problems efficiently and effectively.

Our Chief Technology Officer, Mohit Talwar, has shared advice in the past on how to improve your problem-solving ability – one tip being that you need to try and visualise the problem: “Try and document a picture of the process depending on the problem… Draw a simple diagram without worrying about technical conventions, specific constraints etc. A simple picture diagram can help visualise the most complex of problems in any area.” You can read the rest of his advice here.

In addition, my colleague Rowan O’Grady, Hays Canada President, highlighted recently that leaders need to be involving their team in their problem-solving discussions more as we move through this crisis. So, it’s likely that you won’t only need this skill to help you adapt to your personal career challenges, but you’ll also be brought in by your manager, and future managers, to help come up with solutions to changing organisational demands.

6. Creativity

Also important in the next era of work is creativity. During these turbulent and unpredictable times, budgets are bound to tighten, and cost consciousness will remain a focus. Employers therefore are looking for professionals who can come up with creative ideas and solutions to ensure deadlines are met and results achieved, despite limited or perhaps strained resource.

If you’re struggling to see how you could be more creative at work, then follow this advice from Chartered Occupational Psychologist Dr Maggi Evans, in which she explores the steps you can take to start being more creative and innovative, such as:

  • Give yourself some space; many people come up with their best ideas when they’re doing something unrelated, such as walking their dog
  • Be curious and playful; take fresh perspectives on a problem by asking yourself questions like, ‘What would my superhero do?’, ‘What if I had more time or limitless resources’, or ‘What if I had to find a solution today?’
  • Create a positive environment; if you’re working with a team on a challenging project, spend some time chatting or doing something positive first

And as Karen Young, Hays UK Director, so eloquently said, creativity isn’t just important for ‘creative’ jobs, despite what you may think. In fact, “This invaluable skill will become essential for problem solving, strategising, and generating the ideas that will drive businesses forward” – a skill that cannot be replaced by automation.


Now that you’re aware of the skills that will be most important in the next era of work, how do you go about improving them? We’ve mentioned a couple of these above, but here are six blogs that will go a long way to helping you:

Once you feel more confident in each of these six areas, make sure you update your CV with these new and improved soft skills. Also, be ready to discuss and articulate how you have built these skills, providing examples of when you have demonstrated them and the quantifiable results you saw as a result.

Being ahead of the curve by developing these in-demand soft skills will help you stand out to employers, both now and in the future. After all, organisations are made up of people, and business is facilitated by interactions between people – meaning soft skills are only going to become even more important in the future of work.

We’ve only mentioned a handful of the top most important soft skills for the next era of work, but it’s also important you review your strengths and weaknesses to see which other areas you could develop in, such as teamwork, organisation, critical thinking, leadership and time management. Remember that when combined with digital literacy and relevant technical skills, a solid soft skills base will future-proof your career for years to come.



Nick Deligiannis
Managing Director, Hays Australia & New Zealand
Nick Deligiannis began working at Hays in 1993 and since then has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business, including the role of Director responsible for the operation of Hays in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In 2004  Nick was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors, and was made Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand in 2012.
Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.