Are (a Lack of) Interpersonal Skills Hurting Your Team?

An interpersonal skills "meter" ranging from "poor" skills to "excellent" skills.

The demand for technology professionals with strong interpersonal skills continues to increase.

In fact, many IT jobs remain unfilled for weeks, or even months, and one reason may be the lack of qualified candidates who bring a balance of technical and soft skills. IT is integrated with just about every business function today, so it’s no surprise that interpersonal skills are becoming as important — if not more — than technical acumen.

Robert Half Technology surveyed 2,500 CIOs and found that there’s a non-technical skills gap in the industry for hiring managers looking to build well-rounded teams. Forty-nine percent of CIOs surveyed said written and interpersonal communications skills, as well as problem-solving abilities, are where today’s technology professionals could improve most. They also said those are the skills that will most impact career success.

View an infographic of survey findings.

What are interpersonal skills?

These are some of the attributes hiring managers seek in tech pros:

  • Communication: Communicating effectively both verbally and in writing.
  • Problem Solving: Looking at complicated business issues and bringing creative solutions to the table.
  • Customer Service: Exhibiting empathy with customers and genuinely wanting to help resolve their concerns.
  • Collaboration: The ability to break out of traditional silos and cross-organizational boundaries to collaborate on complex business issues.

It’s harder to teach interpersonal skills

Soft skills are the clear differentiator among tech pros. Having the right technical skills is obviously important to do the job, but a common refrain I hear from hiring managers I meet is, "I can teach tech skills, but soft skills are more challenging."

But before you focus on improving your team’s interpersonal skills, assess your own. Ask colleagues and your team for some honest feedback to identify areas of improvement. You can use your own evaluation and feedback process as a starting point for conversations with your team about how they can improve their interpersonal skills.

Here are three tips to help develop interpersonal skills:

  1. Take a course. Determine what soft skill you need to work on and sign up for a class. There are now a multitude of courses offered that hone in on written and verbal communication, collaboration, cross-functional thinking and innovation.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Whether it’s refining written, oral or nonverbal communication skills, or finding new ways to convey information to colleagues, always practice your delivery and reflect on ways you can improve. Demonstrate active listening and engage with coworkers to develop relationships throughout the organization. Networking events are also a great way to help develop these skills. 
  3. Seek mentors. Approach someone in the industry who you admire for the way they interact with others or come up with solutions for the business. Perhaps you can have your own mentor share ideas of how to develop and use interpersonal skills in a successful career with the team.

While it will not be as easy as gaining a new technical skill, it’s well worth your time and effort to focus on improving your — and your team’s — interpersonal skills. Doing so will enable you to deliver a higher impact to the business challenges at hand and help all of you advance your careers.

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