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9 January 2024 News Release

Key points: 

  • Australian employers’ demand for interpersonal skills, such as communication and networking, has continued to climb since the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • A study by CSIRO published in Nature Human Behaviour today reports demand for these interpersonal skills is highest for remote jobs.    
  • The results can guide individuals’ skills development and inform education and training providers.  

Aussie employers’ demand for workers with strong interpersonal skills has surged following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.  

Researchers analysed more than 12 million online job ads captured by Adzuna Australia between 2015 and 2022, reporting the pandemic further accelerated demand for employees who can work well with others – especially when working from home.  

Lead author and CSIRO scientist David Evans said the results were unexpected given the unemployment rate hit a historic low at 3.5 per cent between 2021 and 2022.  

“Periods of low unemployment are usually associated with a dampening of employer’s skills expectations,” Mr Evans said.  

“Despite this job seekers’ market following the pandemic, we were surprised to observe a further acceleration of interpersonal skills demand across many occupations. 

“You’d also be forgiven for thinking the rise of remote working arrangements might suit introverts or more independent workers. But the data shows working from home is not working alone. We observed job postings offering remote work were 1.2 times more likely to mention interpersonal skills than face-to-face roles.”  

The accelerated demand for interpersonal skills was primarily driven by an increase in job postings seeking skills in communication and collaboration.  

Interpersonal skills were defined using the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO) skills hierarchy, which groups over 13,000 detailed skills into four broad classes: Interpersonal, Digital, Manual and Analytical.  

Mr Evans said the findings can help job seekers tailor their applications and interviews, as well as inform the education and training sector.  

“This finding can help individuals’ prioritise what skills to invest in developing. We also know that when employees’ skills are aligned with employers’ expectations, you have happier employees, lower turnover, and higher productivity,” he said. 

“Our results also support the ongoing relevance of calls for Australia’s education and training providers to focus on developing the interpersonal skills of students. The data suggests these ‘soft skills’ are increasingly front of employers’ minds and critical not to overlook,” he said.  

The study also reported an increase in the demand for digital skills post pandemic, such as accessing and analysing digital data. On the other hand, demand for manual skills decreased post pandemic and demand for analytical skills increased steadily in-line with pre-pandemic predictions.   

The study, ‘Accelerated demand for interpersonal skills in the Australian post-pandemic labour market’, was published in Nature Human Behaviour.  

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