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Collaboration skills:

Overview

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 reports 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.

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.

Industry skills needs

Generic skills

In their comprehensive 2019 Skills Forecasts, IRCs ranked a series of 12 generic skill categories, in priority order.

Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social received an average ranking of 2nd (out of 12) across all skills forecasts.

Priority skills

Collaboration skills were also identified to a high degree by industries that reported on priority skills in their 2019 Skills Forecasts

 

The collaboration skills identified most frequently were:
  • Teamwork and communication, identified by the following industry sectors:
    • Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design
    • Dance
    • Automotive
    • Business Services
    • Children’s Education and Care
    • Client Services
    • Community Sector & Development
    • Direct Client Care and Support
    • Financial Services
    • Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing
    • Government
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
    • Ambulance and Paramedic
    • Complementary Health
    • Dental
    • Enrolled Nursing
    • First Aid
    • Technicians Support Services
    • Information and Communications Technology
    • Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure
    • Personal Services
    • Graphic Arts
    • Sport, Fitness and Recreation
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
  • Social perceptiveness, identified by the following industry sectors:

    • Business Services
    • Cultural Competence
    • Retail and Wholesale
  • Customer service, identified by the following industry sectors:
    • Arts, Culture, Entertainment and Design
    • Dance
    • Furnishing
    • Printing and Graphic Arts

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 (2016-20) 

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

Collaboration skills were most often explicitly requested for clerical and administative or sales workers, 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, where there will be a need to manage teams, engage with internal stakeholders while also communicating with external clients.

Case studies

Community Services

The Community Services industry includes workers involved in the sectors of Children’s Education and Care, Client Services, Community Sector and Development, and Direct Client Care and Support. These sectors encompass workers who provide a variety of care and support services for a range of community members, including the more vulnerable and less able.

These subsectors are not mutually exclusive in the services they provide, and increasingly the collaboration of people across subsectors is a critical element in individual care and support plans.

Collaboration includes skills relating to teamwork and communication, and the ability to connect with others.

The following quotes from the different Community Services 2019 Skills Forecasts highlight the importance of collaboration skills, including teamwork and communication, for the workforce:

In addition to increased skills demand relating to chronic health conditions such as mental health and alcohol and other drugs, there are also deficiencies in skills related to dementia care, palliative care, technological and interpersonal skills (such as communication), most noticeably in the aged and disability care sectors. (Direct Client Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast)

Perhaps more significant to job roles in the Children’s Education and Care sectors is that they have always required strong communication and emotional intelligence skills. The ability to engage with children is a fundamental practical skill with unique factors in the work context. Consultation in relation to the update of existing Training Package Products is highlighting the significance of skills relating to reflection and the role these play in translating theory into practice and the ongoing professional development of educators. Skills such as these can be enhanced over time with practical application and communication with peers and leaders within the workplace. (Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast)

Job seekers may experience disadvantage in the labour market due to various factors, including disability, mental health issues, age, ethnicity and language. Addressing these barriers can include discussing homelessness, family violence, literacy, motivation and confidence, and numerous other non-vocational support issues. As a result, frontline employment consultants require excellent communication skills, as well as time management skills and an awareness of the policy landscape, to effectively provide opportunities for clients on a case-by-case basis. (Client Services IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast)

Tourism, Travel and Hospitality

The Tourism, Travel and Hospitality industry comprises of the ‘people-facing’ industry sectors involving tourism, travel, events and exhibitions, accommodation (including hotels, holiday parks and resorts) and hospitality.

These sectors are intrinsically linked and when combined, form one of the largest economic industries in Australia. The strong association and interconnectedness between the five sectors mean that trends and changes in one, will consequently impact the others. As a result, collaboration between sectors is imperative to the success of the industry as a whole.

The quotes below sourced from the Tourism, Travel and Hospitality IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, demonstrate the importance of collaboration for this workforce, including the ability to communicate and work as a team:

Key skills and knowledge gaps voiced by industry as a priority for development in the future workforce are: communication, teamwork, self-management, resilience and business/commercial skills as well as product and service knowledge. For example, demand for cultural tourism, particularly that related to learning about Aboriginal beliefs and connections to the land (‘country’) is growing and workforce skills development is essential to ensure Australia can provide an authentic experience to visitors.

To achieve growth and success, access to a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce is fundamental. The sectors however are experiencing significant challenges in accessing and retaining skilled workers. Enrolments in relevant VET qualifications have fallen over the last two reported years (2016 and 2017), and employers are indicating graduates are not equipped with key skills. Some of the common skills and knowledge areas industry has reported shortages in include communication, teamwork and problem-solving.

Updated: 23 Mar 2021
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