Why interpersonal skills are essential for the future of work

Employees want to work in more flexible ways and employers need to be more flexible when it comes to work.

If anything, the pandemic has forced people to consider how and where they work. For some workers, the pandemic has changed their priorities to being a stay-at-home parent or they’ve decided to pursue their dream jobs. For others, working at home has become the norm and they’re not prepared to go back to their daily commute. Whatever the reason, the future of (flexible) work means more people will live and work in flexible ways. Companies or agencies need to be more flexible because of the growing need for diversity in skills, experience, and especially agility.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What does it mean on the hiring side?

Companies need to build teams with a diversity of skills and expertise, each member with a focus on a special task. It also means that companies become even more dependent on freelancers. These freelancers must have a cultural fit with the company and their ways of working to be successful in these teams.

What does it mean for us freelancers?

On the freelancer side, it means we need to work together in a team and be aware of our own interpersonal skills and our role in a team as an extra dimension concerning flexible work. Working remote as a freelancer in a team can make this even more challenging. As freelancers, we may sometimes think; “freelancing means freedom to me, I don’t want any strings attached, or be dependent on others”. And maybe you became a freelancer because you like to work alone. Working in these flexible teams grows our network, and it brings us a lot of good references (which we heavily depend on as freelancers). Although most of us freelancers seek freedom, we don’t want to spend too much time seeking our next job. Right? Do you need to be prepared as a freelancer?

Yes? If you want to be successful, you have to be prepared for the future of work and this development in freelancing. A complete insight into your skills will definitely help you.

An overview of ”hard” skills as we call them is simple enough. Certificates, diplomas, courses, education, and experience are all quite measurable or can be checked very easily. “Soft” skills or better said; interpersonal skills or personal attributes are more difficult to map. Of course, an objective assessment is the best, but most of the time you only have personal feedback. If you don’t get the insights into your soft skills spontaneously, I would definitely ask for it.

Soft skills, also known as “employability skills” are defined by Business Dictionary as “a group of essential abilities that involve the development of a knowledge base, expertise level, and mindset that is increasingly necessary for success in the modern workplace.

In general, the interpersonal skills, or soft skills a freelancer needs for being a freelancer are already pretty clear: communication, collaboration, time management, adaptability, personal leadership. Because of the future developments I mentioned before, some will be magnified:

  • Collaboration/teamwork; as being part of a team, team effort becomes more and more important than personal collaboration and working one-on-one with a colleague or a hiring client.
  • Personal leadership; besides leading yourself, leadership towards others and within a flex team is an extra dimension.

Having interpersonal skills does not necessarily mean you have to be an extrovert. Everybody has interpersonal skills. It means that as a freelancer you have to increasingly be aware and have knowledge of your interpersonal skills. And, so does your future employer or client. The insight you have in your soft skills determines how you function in a team and what role you have. But it also determines if there is a cultural fit with the company or the client and the team.

There are a lot of ways to gain insights into your interpersonal skills, and there are a lot of good test like DISC, etc, which are proven and are used by companies to create good working teams. There are also feedback methods such as the 360 review to get outside information about how people work. But they are all time-consuming and therefore not an option when your next freelance (team) job starts tomorrow.

So yes, we as freelancers have to be prepared.

I strongly believe that we need to create an environment that facilitates the understanding and constructive use of interpersonal skills to promote working in freelance teams, and also matches the culture of a company and establish a long-term relationship with other freelancers and clients.

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