Last updated: 08.09.20

Five skills your employees want to develop

Five skills your employees want to develop

We recently spoke about the importance of soft skills and how these were often overlooked by employees, but we thought we’d delve deeper and conduct a survey to see exactly what skills employees actually want to develop. 

Our data, which was sent to a sample size of 49,000 contacts, revealed a number of key skills people currently had and also wish to develop both in their professional and personal lives. 

The top five skills people wanted to develop for their careers were:

  • Digital literacy 
  • Influencing, negotiating and networking
  • Neuroscience and learning
  • Confidence 
  • Growth mindset

We’ll explore these skills in detail below and see how as an organisation you can support your employees to develop themselves in each area. 

Digital literacy 

In today’s fast paced society with digital technologies accelerating at an exponential rate, non- surprisingly the top in demand skill was digital literacy, but what is digital literacy? Digital literacy refers to the skills you acquire that enable you to access, use and understand digital technologies like the internet, social media and mobile devices. 

Digital skills are deemed vital as they are not only used for work but in personal lives to connect and communicate with friends and family and in areas such as banking and applying for official documents. 

For organisations, as well as specifying future candidates have a certain level of IT proficiency, it would be ideal to carry out a skills gap analysis and ask current employees to undertake training if they are not confident in their digital skills. You could ask existing candidates to carry out training to help them build their skills. 

Influencing, negotiating and networking 

A key aspect of professional life is about the relationships we create, whether it be with our colleagues, peers, clients or customers. A huge part of this involves our ability to influence decisions, negotiate deals and network. 

Each of these skills is critical in business, so it’s unsurprising that our research revealed it to be the second most in demand skill. Throughout life we are taught hard skills and technical knowledge; however, negotiation and influence are ‘soft skills’ that we must develop ourselves through experience, life skills or specific training. 

If your organisation requires its employees to have skills in negotiation and influencing or networking, provide ongoing training and development workshops so that these key skills can be continuously developed. 

Neuroscience and Learning

The third most in demand skill for professional development was neuroscience and learning. There has been a huge focus lately in the Learning and Development world on neuroscience and how we can maximise learning opportunities through understanding how we learn as individuals. 

Interestingly, it seems that people also want to understand more about how they actually learn. Those of us who want to develop certain skills understand the need to look at the science behind it and learn techniques which help us to retain information so learning is more effective. 

As an organisation, those who invest in and focus on training and development would benefit from also providing resources and training to help employees understand how to learn better. Until an organisation and its employees collectively understand the neuroscience behind learning, those opportunities won’t be maximised. 


Confidence is something we all struggle with at some point in our lives. A lack of confidence can have a massive impact on how we carry ourselves daily at work, the opportunities we seek and even the jobs we apply for. 

As fourth in the list of skills people want to develop for their careers, organisations would highly benefit from offering confidence building training. Having confidence allows employees to communicate more effectively, be assertive and work more productively.

Providing training to employees who lack confidence can massively improve how they work and how they feel at work, this in turn helps them contribute to the organisation in a positive way. In addition to this boosting the confidence of your employees will also improve how they communicate and build relationships with external clients. 

Growth Mindset 

The last in our list of in demand skills for professionals is growth mindset. At Virtual College we've spoken quite a lot about growth mindset and the benefits it can bring to organisations. We also rehauled our own learning and development internally to focus an entire project on growth mindset and what it means for us. 

A growth mindset believes that abilities can improve through practise. In an organisational capacity the benefits of this would be employees that embrace challenge, persist in the face of setbacks, apply feedback and find lessons and inspiration from the success of others.

Helping your employees develop a growth mindset will ultimately mean a more confident, positive and productive workforce for you. Implement a mix of training and free resources to your learning and development programme to help employees develop a growth mindset. 

Helping employees to develop their skills should be a priority for all organisations. Implementing a clear and effective learning and development programme will help your organisation thrive. 

As our data revealed the top five skills are ones that as an organisation can easily be offered through a mix of online training, resources and workshops. 

We should actively listen to what our employees want, especially in terms of skill development as they are at the frontline of their roles. L&D departments should often send out surveys and carry out skill gap analysis to gauge what skills the workforce has and what skills are needed. Offering skills development will help staff both professionally and personally and it is a great way to motivate them to learn new skills, apply the learning and also seek out new challenges.

If you would like to invest in personal and professional development training for your organisation, our newly released suite covers a wide range of fifteen vital skills all in one package. If you would like to discuss your organisation's learning and development needs please contact our consultants to see how we can help you.