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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, collaboration skills are needed across all types of roles, to help businesses improve efficiency and achieve organisational goals.

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

Skills that enhance collaboration include communication and teamwork skills, active listening, social perceptiveness, relationship management, and social and cultural awareness.

COVID-19 impact

Border closures, social distancing directives, remote working and business continuity plans limiting face-to-face contact has compelled a shift in the way workers and students are able to collaborate during the pandemic. ACS Australia's digital pulse 2020 reported nearly half (46%) of Australia’s workforce were working from home in April 2020, and there was a 1,125% increase in the number of people using Zoom, a 560% increase in Cisco’s Webex and 108% increase in Microsoft Teams over Optus networks. ACS Australia's digital pulse 2021 reported people with a job were 1.7 times more likely to work from home at least once a week in February 2021, compared to March 2020, with 41% of Australian workers still working from home in some capacity in early 2021.

In their article Gartner Identifies Nine Trends for the Future of Work in a Post-COVID-19 World, Gartner states:

  • 48% of employees will likely continue to work remotely at least part of the time, compared to 30% pre-pandemic.
  • 74% of CFOs intend to increase remote work at their organisation.
  • Hiring managers should prioritise digital dexterity and digital collaboration skills to succeed in a predominantly remote working environment.

However, a survey conducted by Adecco Group found that while in Australia 83% of workers said they had benefitted from flexible work, the majority indicated the preference to spend only half the working week working remotely, so teams can collaborate face-to-face.

Collaboration tools found renewed importance during COVID-19 for their role in ensuring the productivity of suddenly remote teams. In their article Gartner Survey Reveals a 44% Rise in Workers’ Use of Collaboration Tools Since 2019, Gartner reveals nearly 80% of workers are using collaboration tools for work in 2021, up from just over half of workers in 2019. As many organisations shift to a long-term hybrid workforce model, cloud-based, personal and team productivity technologies, along with collaboration tools, will form the core of a series of new work hubs that meet the requirements of various remote and hybrid workers.

Industry skills needs

ACS Australia's digital pulse 2021 reports employers are looking for technology workers who can bridge the gap between user needs and digital solutions and bring communication and collaboration skills as well as technical expertise to a role. The report shows more than half of the top 10 skills most demanded by technology employers were soft skills such as communication (requested in 42% of job postings), teamwork (23%) and problem solving (18%).

The report Australian Graduates’ Work Readiness: Deficiencies, Causes and Potential Solutions found that stakeholders reported that the Australian vocational education and higher education sectors do not sufficiently prepare graduates in terms of their work readiness skills. Self-management skills, communication (written and expression), team-work skills, cognitive skills, system thinking and innovation and creativity were the main work readiness competency deficits reported by the stakeholders interviewed.

The Centre for the New Workforce report Peak Human Workplace: Innovation in the Unprecedented Era reveals 53% of Australian workers report working collaboratively with others in their daily jobs, up from 46% reported in a comparable survey by Deloitte in 2014. The report also finds that due to its increased prevalence, online collaboration has a growing role to play in driving innovation across an organisation’s ecosystem. However according to research done for Atlassian, online daily collaborative work is minimising the casual interactions that build trust and cooperation, strengthen community, and feed positively into organisation culture. Although 77% of Australians interviewed said they missed the energy of their workplace, they believed home could play host to both independent and collaborative working.

The National Skills Commission’s report State of Australia’s Skills 2021: Now and Into the Future revealed that when looking at the economy-wide skills portfolio, 74% of people required skills from the Communications and Collaboration skills cluster - which includes skills clusters such as collaborating with stakeholders and dispute resolution - for their occupation. This reflects the prevalence of these skills across a wide range of occupations.

According to DeakinCo, research shows that 70% of all future job profiles in the non-technical area, will be made up of human-centred capabilities, with Collaboration noted as one of the core capabilities. As organisations move to a more floating workforce with an increase of freelancers and contractors, the ability to collaborate with new people from across a variety of areas will be of paramount importance.

Some specific examples of Collaboration skills that industries have identified as important include:

  • Teamwork and communication, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Financial Services
    • Government (Interpreting and Translating)
    • Information and Communications Technology
    • Property Services
    • Sport, Fitness and Communication
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
  • Customer service, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design
    • Banking and General Financial Services
    • Community Services
    • Corrections and Public Safety
    • Health
    • Insurance and Superannuation
    • Property Services
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality

Internet job postings

Internet job vacancy postings that contained requests for communications skills were examined for occupational trends. This includes experience in building relationships, different types of communication and listening, team building and negotiation. The chart below compares the percentage of internet job postings in each occupation (ANZSCO Major Group) that requested collaboration skills, including communication.

Internet job postings that requested collaboration skills, by occupation (2018-21) 

Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool.

Collaboration skills were most often explicitly requested for clerical and administative or managers, and least often for machinery operation or labouring positions. This suggests the employers consider these skills more important in roles where teamwork and collaboration are central to daily duties.

The following graphic shows examples of occupations where collaboration skills are highly requested, and some examples of the types of requests employers are making for those in these occupations.

Employees are looking for individuals who can communicate both internally and externally in a range of formats. These skills are often mentioned for positions such as project manager or business manager, where there will be a need to manage teams, engage with internal stakeholders while also communicating with external clients.

Case studies

Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design

The Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design industry includes a broad range of individuals and organisations, producing artistic and creative works for both commercial and social outcomes.

The quotes below demonstrate the importance of collaboration for this workforce, including the ability to communicate and work as a team:

Artists and art organisations have developed new skills and greater capacity to adapt to rapid change, draw in broader audiences, engage with them digitally, and work collaboratively with their peers to achieve outcomes despite adversity. (FutureNow Creative and Leisure Industries Training Council: Performing Arts, 2022)

There are countless studies that demonstrate that training in the arts helps students develop crucial skills, including creativity, innovation, agility, intellectual curiosity, resourcefulness, exploratory thinking, communication, teamwork, problem solving, emotional judgement, professional ethics, global citizenship, entrepreneurship and the courage to take risks. These qualities are essential for the 21st century working environment. (National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) Pre-budget Submission Process for 2021-22)

Employers were asked what the most important recruitment factors are when employing school leavers and graduates. Fifty-three per cent state that a positive attitude and soft skills (communication, problem solving, teamwork etc.) are the most important factors.  (Australian Industry Group's Skills Urgency: Transforming Australia's Workplaces)

Corrections and Public Safety

The Corrections and Public Safety industry comprises of workers in the four main industry sectors of Correctional Services, Defence, Fire and Other Public Safety, and Police.

The quotes below demonstrate the importance of collaboration for this workforce, including the ability to communicate and work as a team:

All states and territories have implemented several significant changes since the release of the 2020 Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations. Interoperability of personnel and resources has improved through with the use of a common incident management system, supporting protocols and procedures, role based competencies and national industry doctrine. All state and territory fire agencies continue to work collaboratively to further develop workforce capabilities to ensure that interoperability is successfully implemented.  (Public Safety IRC’s Industry Outlook 2021)

The Corrections work environment is transitioning towards a more rehabilitative model rather than an institutional model, with greater emphasis placed on offenders’ mental and physical health. Correctional staff require higher-order skills in communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and relationship management to effectively engage with offenders. (Corrections IRC’s Industry Outlook 2021)

Updated: 29 Mar 2022
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