True North Networks Blog
10 Soft Skills Every IT Team Needs
Skills like communication, collaboration, adaptability, and problem-solving – commonly called “soft” skills – are now so essential to success in IT that some CIOs have started to call them core skills. And despite the demand for IT talent with AI, Kubernetes, RPA, and other “hard” tech skills, people who lack core skills will struggle to land their dream job.
A study from business and technology consulting firm West Monroe found that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of HR leaders say they’ve become more focused on finding technology employees with strong soft skills. Sixty-seven percent say they have withheld a job offer due to a candidate’s lack of soft skills.
“[Businesses] should actively look for technologists with the interpersonal, writing, and teamwork abilities to thrive in an integrated business setting and develop into leaders,” notes Greg Layok, managing director with West Monroe and leader of the firm’s technology practice, in the report.
IT leaders say that a gap in soft skills on a team can lead to trouble, ranging from daily team friction to missed deadlines to poor results.
Read on for the key skills that leaders should ensure are present on any IT team. If you are job hunting in IT, prepare to demonstrate these skills in your interview.
The big two: Communication and collaboration
When we asked IT leaders to share the skill they can’t do without on their team, communication and collaboration both stood out as must-haves.
“The ability to think creatively and solve problems by working with others is really important," says Kassie Rangel, senior director of IT at HealthMarkets. "You have to be able to think outside the box and not be limited to just the syntax of a language, code, or program.”
Let’s take a closer look at each of these skills.
Communication has many layers: It’s not as simple as it might seem, notes Matthew Carswell, CEO and founder of JumpModel.
“Comprehension is extremely important. Ability to relay and understand complex ideas is a must-have for all IT hires. The ability to influence is needed for senior roles, such as architects, PM, BA, senior developers.”
Both verbal and nonverbal communication skills matter, says Ryan Bacon, IT support engineer at JumpCloud.
“There are two parts of verbal communication – listening and speaking,” says Bacon. “An IT pro needs to be able to actively listen to the needs of others in order to formulate the proper solution to a problem. They also need to be able to convey details of a problem and/or solution to both technical and non-technical audiences. Doing so will make them more approachable and help them build rapport with others.”
Strong written communication skills are equally important, Bacon continues. “Entries in ticketing systems, emails, and documentation are all part of the everyday life of an IT pro. Being able to accurately convey thoughts and ideas in writing will make life easier for everyone involved.”
A gap in communication skills on your team is a big deal. It’s not simply a “nice-to-have,” notes Jason David, CEO of Software Portal.
“I know it sounds cliché, but a team that fails to communicate will ultimately fail,” says David. “I’ve seen too many teams waste time because of a failure to communicate. Either the project requirements weren’t properly disseminated to the team and the goal was missed, or individual tasks weren’t properly communicated so work was duplicated or completely missed. Or those with good ideas are ignored because they don’t communicate well or others won’t listen. Either way, a team that doesn’t communicate is not working as well as they could.”
Poor communication can also prevent innovative ideas from ever seeing the light of day, says Briana Brownell, founder and CEO of Pure Strategy. “If a team can’t get executives to buy into their work, it’s often more to do with trouble communicating the business case than a real lack of value. If your team has trouble finding a senior leader to champion your work, you might have a communication problem.”