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Collaboration skills:


Interpersonal skills are highly sought after in many industries. Those able to collaborate and share information are best able to adapt to changing markets and technologies, interact in diverse workplaces, and effectively respond to customer needs.

As organisations become increasingly dynamic and horizontally structured, this need for collaboration impacts all types of roles. And these skills can help businesses to improve efficiency and to achieve organisational goals.

As communication and collaboration tools evolve, Australian workers will need to be skilled in new media literacies, for example communication through social media.

51% of IRC Skills Forecasts identified this skill as a priority.

Skills that enhance collaboration include communication and teamwork, relationship management, and social and cultural awareness.

There is a project underway looking at developing Team Work and Communication training to improve collaboration skills. This project is one of nine cross-sector projects being undertaken by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee to address common skills needs, minimise duplication and consolidate existing training units. 

Industry skills needs

Skills for collaborating are ranked as the 5th highest-priority by industry, with 51% of individual IRC Skills Forecasts, and over half of all industry clusters listing them as a priority for their workforce.

When considering the IRC’s ranking of generic skills, Communication/Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence (which align with skills required for collaboration) were ranked 3rd highest (out of 12).

40% of priority skills in the Skills Forecasts, for the following industries, were skills for collaborating.

Collaboration skills identified by these industries in their skills forecasts included:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker

  • Communication skills
  • Culturally appropriate service delivery
  • Teamwork skills

Children's Education and Care

  • Communcation skills 
  • Teamwork

Community Sector and Development

  • Communications skills


  • Conflict/incident management
  • Interpersonal skills
33% prioritised by the Business Services Industry were skills for collaborating.

Of those collaboration skills prioritised by the Business Services industry, some were more generic in nature:

  • Communication
  • Emotional intelligence and intuition
  • Understanding behaviours and relationships.

While another was a more specific skill:

  • Asian business ‘literacy’ - understanding of the Asian region, its economies, cultures and consumers.

Case studies

Heath Services and Community Services clusters

Health Services

This industry cluster consists of seven IRC industry sectors, all of which identified specific skills for collaboration, as priorities for their workforce.

Communication was the most common collaboration skill identified – with the following five industry sectors prioritising this skill:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker
  • Complementary Health
  • Enrolled Nursing
  • First Aid
  • Technicians Support Services.


Other, more specific collaboration skills identified within the Health Services industry included:


Skills identified by the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Health Worker sector were:

  • Multi-disciplinary teamwork skills
  • Culturally appropriate service delivery

The skill identified by the Dental sector was:

  • Customer service and communication in a dental setting

Community Services

This industry cluster consists of four IRC industry sectors, all of which identified specific collaboration skills as priorities for their workforce.

  • Community Sector and Development
  • Client Services
  • Direct Client Care and Support
  • Children’s Education and Care.
Again, Communication was the most common collaboration skill identified – with all four industries prioritising this skill. However another important skill for the Community Services industry cluster was Customer Service, identified as a priority by:
  • Client Services
  • Direct Client Care and Support.

These quotes, sourced from specific industry skill forecasts which fit within the Health Services and Community Services industry clusters, highlight why collaboration skills are a priority in these industries:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, generally perceive mainstream health services to be culturally unsafe environments and consequently do not seek medical attention at the initial onset of the condition... As the life expectancy of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders increases, it will be critical that there is a skilled workforce able to provide skilled and culturally responsive care to meet their needs. (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker IRC Skills Forecast).

Clients now demand a higher quality service and experience from their health care providers, forcing dental providers to develop means to better work with, engage and communicate with their clients. The multicultural and multi-faith composition of the Australian population similarly calls for dental employers to consider how they serve and interact with a diverse client base. (Dental IRC Skills Forecast).

Consumer-directed funding will have a vast impact across the health and community services sectors, influencing the way in which services are delivered, which, in turn, has an effect on workforce requirements... Frontline workers in particular will need to provide support via a person-centred approach. (Enrolled Nursing IRC Skills Forecast).

Heightened customer expectations and demands are forcing health care providers to innovate and consider how they can best serve their customer base. Clients now demand more from their health care experience, compelling organisations to develop means to better work with, engage and communicate with their clients. (Technicians Support Services IRC Skills Forecast).

Demand for personal, interpersonal, critical thinking, creativity and organisational skills (collectively referred to as ‘soft skills’) has risen... as these soft skills are essential for client centric workers. (Community Sector and Development IRC Skills Forecast).

Active listening, emotional intelligence and social perceptiveness skills, that is, having an awareness of the reactions of others and the reasons for those responses, are identified as being of most significance for client-centric workers. (Client Services IRC Skills Forecast).

A culture of customer service will become essential across the health and community services sectors, as clients become individual customers with greater choice and autonomy over that choice, and organisations will need to have the best interests of those customers as their clear focus. This will require an industry-wide development of workforce capacity and skills at both an individual worker and organisational level. (Direct Client Care and Support IRC Skills Forecast).

Most commonly-required skills include those such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, creativity and digital literacy... Educators require strong communication skills as they constantly interact not just with children but with the parents, as well as others in the service. (Children’s Education and Care IRC Skills Forecast).

Public Safety and Corrections industries

Both the Public Safety industry and Corrections industry identified Interpersonal skills as a priority for their respective workforces. Interestingly, given the nature of the professions these industries encompass, they also prioritised Conflict/Emergency incident management

The collaboration skills prioritised by the Public Safety industry were:    The collaboration skills prioritised by the Corrections industry were:

Emergency/incident management, Interpersonal skills and Community/volunteer engagement


Conflict/incident management and Interpersonal skills

Quotes sourced from IRC Skill Forecasts within the Public Safety and Corrections industry clusters demonstrate the importance of collaboration skills for these industries:

Industry stakeholders have stressed the need to focus on leadership, planning and incident management skills... and the need to build stronger national resilience through community engagement and education programs.  (Public Safety IRC Skills Forecast).

There is ongoing concern regarding the recruitment and retention of volunteers. Industry stakeholders continually cite a number of factors as key reasons for these difficulties, including:
• personal and individual costs, both time and monetary to train, or to become trainers
• shortage of trainers and the unmet demand for training
• lack of online training and other interactive methodologies.
(Public Safety IRC Skills Forecast).

Corrections officers require a broad range of skills to work with people from various backgrounds or to manage inmates with complex issues, such as mental illness... Industry have demonstrated that the development of conflict and incident management skills, as well as interpersonal skills is their highest priority over the next three to five years. (Corrections IRC Skills Forecast).


Updated: 29 May 2018
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