Transferable skills are not a new concept, but the ones employers consider valuable evolve over time. Understanding this is essential for people entering the workforce or those wanting to progress their current careers.
A report from UK agency Nesta and the City of London Corporation found that almost three-quarters (74%) of employers considered transferable skills “equal to or above technical skills” when hiring new people. The report also highlighted the top 12 transferable skills, as rated by companies:
- Oral communication/presentation skills
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Problem solving
- Organizational skills
- Independent working/autonomy
- Written communication
- Critical thinking
- Analysis and evaluation skills.
The combination of these skills with technical capabilities gives people what the report calls “fusion skills” which are “a merging and blending of skills and industries – including arts, design, technology and business” – that constitute “key components of the current and changing labour market”.
Skills in programmes and projects
What is striking about the skills highlighted in the report is how relevant they are to programmes and projects.
For example, communication remains one of the chief reasons for project failure – it’s impossible to communicate too much in a change environment; collaboration is vital to break down siloed working; seeing problems, finding solutions and surprising your manager is all part of initiative – and fits with agile approaches of responding to customer demand; change initiatives value individuals who are problem solvers and critical thinkers; continual change as we enter a post-Covid world requires adaptability and flexibility, especially at programme level and, at a time of doing more with less in programmes and projects, resilience is essential.
Recognizing and developing your transferable skills
How does an individual self-diagnose their own selection of skills that could be transferable while building new ones?
As your career changes and evolves, you need to cultivate new skills and that could mean finding opportunities to help plug gaps in your knowledge and expertise today.
And, if you work specifically in programmes and projects, developing these skills is vital to help deal with the pressures and demands of change initiatives.
Organizations should know what they require from people to get things done and, if there is an absence of the necessary skills in-house, they need to invest in appropriate training and development.
Harnessing best practice methods for skills development
Training people in PRINCE2®, for example, gives them a method and step-by-step journey through managing a project.
When applying the techniques to a live project, the knowledge gained from the best practice guidance becomes skills that are transferable to other projects and other roles.
As part of developing these skills, younger and newly-certified people coming back from training courses should be mentored as junior project managers to see how the method is used in their organization and to learn practical application of the approaches from their mentor.
Leadership, communication and team management are three important capabilities you’ve got to get right when leading projects and programmes. And while not every element of these skills is contained within PRINCE2, it signposts you to other knowledge that will expand your overall armoury of skills.
However, if I’m interviewing people with both best practice certifications under their belt and experience, I anticipate the candidate will have developed knowledge of communication, leadership skills and the ability to manage people.
This gives me confidence that they have a foundation of transferable skills applicable to most projects or programmes – which is valuable and reassuring for both employer and employee alike.