Most Important Business Skills for Workplace Success
The most popular undergraduate major in the United States in the past few years has been business. Marketing, selling, understanding strategy, and understanding details while also keeping the big picture in view are all important parts of working within or running a business. It doesn’t stop there, however.
Employers seek business candidates who have high levels of emotional intelligence, people who are great communicators, and people who can manage their time and organize their workflow. Passion and determination can go a long way, and those skills are proven over time. Organizations also look for candidates with hybrid (technical and non-technical) skills who can add value to their workplace in multi-faceted ways.
An entrepreneurial spirit, a community-oriented mindset, and a tendency toward innovation can also benefit those seeking jobs in business.
The Importance of Business Skills
Going into business is popular and can be highly lucrative. The earning potential in business is likely what attracts most candidates. It takes more than technical and learned skills to be successful in the field, though.
Top Business Skills
Have a look at these lists of business skills and qualities that should be incorporated into resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.
To communicate effectively, you must be as good a listener as you are a talker. Being in business means working with other people, both as a leader and as a subordinate. Both roles require humility, a civil attitude even under duress, and respect.
To communicate well, you’ll need to have a grasp on written, verbal, and non-verbal communication.
You should be able to articulate your thoughts clearly, both in writing and in meetings. You should be comfortable speaking one on one, and it will help if you can get comfortable with public speaking, in smaller groups like business meetings as well as in larger groups.
- Active Listening: Active listening is the ability to listen closely, without interruption, to the opinions of colleagues, team members, or clients, observing their body language and then repeating what has been learned in order to verify information and build rapport.
- Advertising: Advertising professionals draw upon communications skills including collaboration, business storytelling, copywriting, networking, presentation, and public speaking.
- Communication: The three primary communications skills, as previously mentioned, are written communications, verbal communications, and nonverbal communications (body language and tone of voice). Since you will encounter clients and / or colleagues who have different preferences as to how they like to communicate, it pays to be well-versed in all three styles.
- Content Management: In order to create and manage a website or blog successfully, you’ll need strong writing, editing, and content selection talents.
- Content Strategy: Content strategists such as brand managers and engagement coordinators leverage persuasive writing skills to create and disseminate unique brand messages for businesses across multiple social media platforms. At higher levels on the career track, such as in Director of Social Media positions, they may also need to communicate verbally with team members and company executives.
- Customer Service: Customer service professionals must be able to provide top-tier support to clients both in writing (through emails) and verbally (in person or via telephone communications).
- Digital Media: Opportunities for talented writers and graphic designers have multiplied many times over with the development of digital media. Job advertisements within this field typically request communications skills such as collaboration, copywriting, editing, story development, storytelling, proofreading, proposal development, and writing.
- Information Technology (IT) : Because many IT projects are complex, requiring the contributions of many team members, IT professionals must communicate well both in speech and in writing to supervisors, colleagues, and other project stakeholders.
- Information and Communications Technology (ICT): Having current ICT skills is important for all levels of business professionals. Being familiar with the latest technology and tools is key for workplace succent.
- Journalism: As a professional writer within a highly competitive field, you will be expected to demonstrate superb writing, spelling, grammatical, punctuation, proofreading, and editing skills.
- LinkedIn Skills: Creating a professional LinkedIn profile is a wise means of expanding your visibility and enhancing your career search. Be sure to list communications skills such as writing, editing, presentation, and nonverbal communication in your “Featured Skills & Endorsements” section.
- Marketing: All of the sub-disciplines of the marketing profession – advertising, public relations, public speaking, market research, media buying – require persuasive written and verbal communications competencies. Professionals must also be adept in crafting dynamic presentations for small and large groups.
- Microsoft Office: Almost all business professionals are expected to know and use the five basic programs of Microsoft Office software (Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, and PowerPoint).
- Nonverbal Communication: Business relationships can be made or broken depending upon how individuals present themselves when meeting others face-to-face. Self-possessed professionals understand the dynamics of nonverbal communication – how to shake hands, make eye contact, and utilize their body language to make a good impression.
- Presentation: Throughout your business career, you will be occasionally called upon to present information to others. Be prepared to “present” to job interviewers examples that illustrate that you know how to research and craft traditional and PowerPoint-assisted presentations.
- Public Speaking: Polished public speakers all have a well-developed understanding of how to enunciate clearly, utilize body language and hand gestures, address their audience, and utilize a tone appropriate to the occasion.
- Social Media: Social media specialists are required to write compelling copy, create a unique “voice” or brand for a company, and engage in online communications with customers on social media platforms. Verbal communication skills may also be required if live video is used on streaming social media platforms.
- Technical Support: Nothing is more frustrating to consumers than when an expensive piece of equipment like a computer breaks or doesn’t work as it should. Long wait times on automated help desk systems can add to their frustration. It’s thus vital that technical support specialists be able to communicate clearly, ask appropriate questions to diagnose issues, and defuse escalated trouble tickets.
- Verbal Communication: Verbal communication skills sought after by employers include the ability to enunciate clearly, anticipate the needs of others in constructive dialogues, ask open-ended questions, paraphrase to demonstrate understanding, and engage in active listening.
Managing financial decisions is a key part of the role of most business employees. This means that candidates should understand a company’s financial needs, as well as the intricacies of what the market is currently demanding. Employers will seek candidates who can analyze a financial situation, draw logical conclusions, and then implement action. A good candidate will be able to articulate the financial reasons behind their decisions. They should also be able to produce detailed and accurate financial reports.
- Accounting: Key finance skills for accountants and bookkeepers include financial analytics, mathematical / numerical competence, attention to detail, financial reporting, compliance tracking, and lateral thinking.
- Banking: Are you interested in becoming a bank teller? Be prepared to discuss your accounting knowledge, your knowledge of financial and banking software, your cash and credit handling skills, your experience in financial record keeping, and how you would respond to transaction inquiries.
- Bookkeeping: Bookkeepers need to demonstrate on their resumes and in interviews that they understand accounting principles (GAAP), can review and balance general ledgers, perform accounts payable, accounts receivable, accrual accounting, and conduct inventory and deferral transactions.
- Business Analyst: Business Analysts must have a head for figures and percentages as well as solid financial forecasting skills.
- Business Development: In order to position a business for sustainable upward growth, business developers need proven strengths in financial planning, financial analysis, budgeting, statistical calculation, and financial reporting.
- Business Intelligence: Data analysis and modeling, financial and business analysis, problem-solving, C/C++, SQL programming, online analytical processing (OLAP), and financial simulations are all skills used daily by business intelligence analysts.
- Cashier: Candidates for cashier jobs require good mathematical and cash and credit-handling skills.
- Finance: Commonly sought-after finance skills include accounting, financial engineering, financial management, financial modeling, financial planning, financial reporting, financial systems, and forecasting.
- Financial Advisor / Consulting: Financial consultants are well-versed in accounting, auditing, budgeting, cost reduction, estate planning, financial advising, financial projections, and investment planning.
- Insurance: In addition to possessing charismatic sales and consultative advising talents, insurance salespeople have to be able to explain the financial details of insurance policies to customers.
- Market Research Analyst: When hiring market research analysts, employers seek financial and analytical (especially qualitative and quantitative modeling) skills and expertise in SPSS, WinCross, SAS, and / or Market Sight statistical software platforms.
- Policy Analyst: Part of what goes into analyzing public and political policies is the ability to forecast financial implications of policies, evaluate costs, and control financial risks.
- Underwriter: Insurance underwriters determine the risk potential of prospective customers by utilizing sophisticated financial and statistical modeling software.
Managing people, or even working alongside peers, doesn’t mean taking on all of the work yourself. In business, a spirit of collaboration benefits everyone, and part of collaboration is delegation. This means offering other people opportunities to do work, even if you think it will benefit your own clout or resume to do it yourself. Delegation is also an important part of time management. If you take everything on yourself, chances are your work in key areas will suffer. Someone who excels in business will be able to manage their own workload by appropriately delegating tasks and projects to colleagues and subordinates.
- Business Manager: Top delegation skills for business managers include choosing and evaluating project team leaders, time management, training personnel to assume roles of increased authority, and designating the resources required for any given project.
- Decision Making: Management-level decision making involves defining a problem or opportunity, brainstorming potential solutions, conducting cost-benefit analyses, assessing potential consequences, and implementing final solutions.
- Delegation: Professionals who are good at delegating know how to communicate clearly, provide feedback, and assess and train subordinates for specific tasks.
- Executive: The best executives don’t micro-manage. Instead, they delegate responsibilities to others, communicating expectations, coaching and providing constructive feedback, and building positive team relationships.
- Human Resources: Human resource generalists and specialists optimize HR processes by prioritizing tasks, training and advancing personnel to assume ownership of new responsibilities, and delegating project phases to team members as part of HR planning operations.
- Leadership (List): Successful delegation by organizational leaders and managers requires solid communication, nonverbal communication, coaching, direction, and relationship building talents.
- Leadership (Top 10): The top 10 leadership skills (all qualities found in good delegators) are: communication, motivation, delegation, positivity, trustworthiness, feedback, responsibility, commitment, and flexibility.
- Management: Delegation at the management level requires planning, organizing, coordinating, directing, and overseeing team execution of deadline-critical tasks.
- Office Manager: Core delegation skills used in office environments are task assignment and oversight, time management, and project scheduling.
- Organizational: Organizational talent may be innate, or it may be learned. It’s one of the leading transferable job skills desired by employers, who seek candidates capable of assuming team leadership roles, organizing task phases, and delegating tasks to others.
- Product Manager: Product managers leverage top-notch interpersonal, strategic thinking, and analytical skills to delegate authority throughout the production and final launch of new products.
- Project Manager: Delegation is an absolute “must” when it comes to planning, sourcing resources and materials, streamlining, and executing projects.
- Public / NonProfit-Administrator: Non-profit jobs that all require strong delegation competencies include outreach coordinator, project coordinator, compliance coordinator, hospice supervisor, housing coordinator, and managed care coordinator positions.
- Team Building / Teamwork: In order to delegate tasks to the most capable team members, project leads call upon practiced communication, problem-solving, leadership, and motivational strengths.
- Time Management: There’s an art to be able to analyze the amount of time one has to complete a project and to delegate tasks or project phases accordingly. Effective time managers are skilled in prioritizing, scheduling, keeping to-do lists, resting, and delegation.
- Training Coordinator: Training coordinators delegate classes to workforce instructors, organize and schedule training sessions, and assess personnel readiness for on-the-job training.
It’s tempting to focus on technical and analytical skills when discussing business qualities, but soft skills are every bit as important as the things you learn about in business school. Some of the top soft skills essential to be successful in business are things like being a team player, which means being unselfish and cooperative, considering what’s best for the group and not just for you.
Having a flexible attitude means going along with a plan even if it’s not one you favor or agree with. Problem-solving is another major soft skill to cultivate. When unexpected wrenches are thrown into the gears, a good problem solver will stay calm and think critically to get things moving again. Problem solvers are high-value to employers. Similarly, confidence is a soft skill that’s of high value, but not false confidence or a haughty attitude that’s undeserved. Confidence must be backed up with real knowledge, skill, and ability.
- Analytical: The five types of analytical skills are communication, creativity, critical thinking, data analysis, and research.
- Conflict Management / Conflict Resolution: To prevent escalation of workplace conflicts, savvy supervisors employ communication skills (written, verbal, and nonverbal), emotional intelligence, empathy, and creative problem-solving.
- Critical Thinking: The top five critical thinking skills are analysis, communication, creativity, problem-solving, and open-mindedness.
- Entrepreneurial: Successful entrepreneurs capitalize upon their creative thinking, leadership, and calculated risk-taking talents and a strong work ethic.
- Flexibility: Job candidates who can prove their flexibility in cheerfully and seamlessly adapting to changing circumstances are always in high demand among employers.
- General Skills: General soft skills valued by companies include communication, computer literacy, quick learning, problem-solving, and teamwork.
- Inductive Reasoning: A form of logical thinking, inductive reasoning enables people to formulate generalizations based on situations they’ve personally experienced, proven facts, and current and past observations.
- Interpersonal: Important interpersonal skills include leadership, motivation, caring, responsibility, active listening, and teamwork.
- Logical Thinking: Logical thinkers are the best decision makers because they are able to analyze factual data and reason deductively to formulate strategies and solutions.
- Multitasking: Multitasking is the ability to prioritize and juggle different work tasks so that all are completed correctly and within established deadlines.
- Motivational: Motivational skills are practiced in the workplace in order to maximize team ownership and execution of projects, gain buy-in from stakeholders, and close sales.
- Negotiation: Negotiation is a high-value skillset privileged by employers seeking talented sales, management, marketing, customer service, real estate, and legal professionals.
- Persuasive Skills: The ability to convince others to purchase a product or service, follow a course of action, or agree to a commitment is the hallmark talent of sales, public relations, marketing, and legal professionals.
- Problem Solving: Good problem solvers are able to analyze root causes, brainstorm interventions, evaluate possible solutions, and implement action plans.
- Research: Job candidates with research expertise can build lucrative careers with think tanks, market research firms, colleges, medical research centers, polling organizations, and consulting firms.
- Social: The five most important social skills in the workplace are empathy, cooperation, verbal communication, active listening, and nonverbal communication.
- Soft Skills (List): Some of the most frequently requested soft skills in job candidates include communication, critical thinking, leadership, positivity, teamwork, and a strong work ethic.
- Soft Skills (Top 7): The top seven soft skills to showcase on your resume are acting as a team player, flexibility, effective communication, problem-solving and resourcefulness, accepting feedback, confidence, and creative thinking.
- Soft Skills for Managers: The ten most important soft skills for managers are dependability, candor, work ethic, communication, teamwork, time management, goal setting, mental agility, flexibility, and the ability to take direction well when warranted.
How to Use Skills Lists
Use the skills mentioned here as you create your resume or cover letter, or as you search for a job. Pepper your resume and cover letter with these keywords, and prep for your interview by coming up with ways that you’ve demonstrated these skills in your prior work. Each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully, focusing on the skills listed by the employer.