In the world of corporate training, you commonly find “Interpersonal Skills” or “Negotiation” courses that hit the same rudimentary points about the same basic worker skills. That’s predictable and understandable. Playing well with others and negotiating for the best deals are timeless skills that people should leverage to drive business success.

However, the workplace is changing daily, and today’s employee needs are evolving just as quickly. We work with a broad range of industries, and one common training thread we see is a rise in popularity for online educational courses that tackle more unexpected topics such as how to tell if someone is lying or how to be a better listener.

As when we examine these newly popular skills, we can also understand what the demand for them says about today’s workforce.

Skill #1: Learning to Spot a Lie

Here’s a truth: We’re all liars. And psychological experts believe that we start doing it around age three, when we realize that people can’t actually hear the thoughts in our head. That’s a lifetime of untruths, and researchers tell us that telling little white lies actually desensitizes our brain from feeling guilty or negative emotions when we serve up whoppers. We know how to lie, and yet spotting when others do it remains a challenge in the workplace and across industries. Why?

For starters, our business communications are mostly digital writing—texting, emailing and messaging. We’ve not only decreased our ability to understand the tone in the notes we send and receive, we also can’t tell when someone is trying to pull a fast one.

But even when we are face to face, we have to train ourselves to register the micro-expressions, the subtle ticks and signs such as blushing or eyes darting up or down, to truly discern a lie. That’s why it’s important for everyone from team managers to interns to better understand body language and read emotions to catch lies before they do real business damage.

Skill #2: Mastering the Art of Listening

Listening is key to our ability to communicate and succeed. From how we sell and persuade to how we maintain and foster relationships, listening determines how successfully we navigate our business and personal lives. We all understand the idea of becoming better listeners, but how many of us really practice it? Unfortunately, no one is born a great listener. Especially in workplace environments, many are too busy thinking about how to respond or contribute that they forego truly hearing, absorbing and digesting what is being said. This leads to increased miscommunication and workflow hiccups. How can you negotiate when the terms aren’t even being well understood?

Better listening requires work, there’s no denying that. Still, workers recognize the value of this basic tenet of communication because they know the payoff it can deliver.

Skill #3: Spurring Greater Productivity

Hyperconnectivity—and the tools and devices that accompany it—have afforded business a higher level of productivity than ever before. But how much benefit are we actually enjoying? Too many processes can actually hamper productivity.

It’s true that remote workers, global teams and free mobility increase the need to communicate. But that also leads to oversaturated email inboxes or endless feeds churning on social channels or collaboration tools. Businesses must be careful not to equate more communication with more productivity. The reality is that the communication complexities remove the worker from the important tasks because they’re wasting valuable time sifting through their messaging applications and email.

That’s why workers are looking for—and should receive—tips and tricks to circumvent the time sink caused by bad communication management.

As employers evaluate their training programs, they might not immediately think about these kinds of skills. They’re often focused on repeating the cycles of what’s worked in the past. But as we know, when these cycles remain static, so does the business. I believe that employers themselves should “listen” to the skills trends—regardless of how unexpected they might appear—and provide their employees with what they need right now.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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