How to Build the No. 1 Skillset All Remote Workers Need


🤖 Ever ask yourself if you might lose your job to a robot soon? For some jobs there may be an adequate machine or AI replacement; for other more nuanced roles, however, machines may not be able to replace us. As London Business School professor Lynda Gratton puts it in this article about the challenge of scaling soft skills: “… right now and in the foreseeable future, machines are generally poor at understanding a person’s mood, at sensing the situation around them, and at developing trusting relationships.” So really what it boils down to is that robots have poor soft skills. Lucky for us, this is where we as humans can shine and make ourselves irreplaceable!


As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner points out, it’s not coding where we currently have the biggest skills gap, it’s soft skills. He calls it the NO.1 job skill that American employees are missing.


Isn’t it time that we but more effort into developing these sought after skills with our employees?


During our April Networkplaceless event, we identified the following transferable skills as crucial to a remote team’s success:

  • Building relationships and trust
  • Exhibiting good interpersonal communication
  • Adjusting to different communication styles
  • Being your own professional advocate


While developing hard skills, such a learning a new coding language, involves a standard outline of courses and tests, people typically acquire transferable skills and develop emotional intelligence over many years. There are so many factors in our lives influencing how we communicate, build trust with others and advocate for ourselves, that coming up with a blueprint on how to develop these traits requires intention and multiple touchpoints.


Why are transferable skills so hard to develop?

Look at it this way: If teaching emotional intelligence and empathy involved a straightforward approach, wouldn’t we be able to program robots to exhibit these qualities?


Soft skills are harder to teach, because they’re exceedingly challenging to measure and it’s difficult to automate their evaluation. A remote setting proves even more challenging, as the opportunities for organic interpersonal connections are limited. Your remote work environment may be largely results driven, where the demonstration of hard skills yields higher rewards. Yet it is the soft skills, the people-oriented expertise, that facilitates effective teamwork and boosts lasting productivity.


It is time to prioritize soft skills development just as you would hard skills. Make it part of your organizational culture and allocate time to train your employees on these valuable transferable skills.


How can you develop people skills when you’re working in independent locations?

The need for soft skills is incredibly important–especially in a remote work environment. If you’ve googled ‘effective remote teams’ lately, you will find that the results are centered around transferable skills, like strong communication and organizational skills. (Also reflected in the real-life experiences shared during our April Networkplacless event.) But how can you provide opportunities to develop these skills when your team is potentially scattered all over the world? (Perhaps their only live coworking companion is a four-legged furry friend…🐈🐕🐇) You can give your team members access to learning experiences that train them to hone and apply their soft skills.


Four steps to build your remote team’s necessary transferable skills:


1. Identify Needs and Invest in a Learning Plan 

Work with leaders and peers to highlight both personal and team soft skill needs. Autonomous self-paced learning opportunities ensure you have the right building blocks and tools with which to grow and practice. Workplaceless courses particularly focus on the skills needed for success within remote roles. Consider a team approach to training to ensure everyone is all working with the same set of “rules”. 

Quick resources for you:


2. Provide Opportunities to Practice Soft Skills

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will skill expertise. It’s an evolving process. There must be opportunities in reality to practice and grow. Many transferable skills depend on a human interaction and we all know those are varied.

  • Communication exercises: synchronous and asynchronous communication with facilitated discussions and assignments. Workplaceless programs can help guide you through examples here.  
  • Developing social capital: Make time to grow your team’s virtual network through opportunities like Networkplaceless, and other live facilitated experiences.
  • Continuous feedback: Your team needs to know what’s improving and what still needs improvement. Your constructive feedback will help guide them down this path.


3. Set Clear Expectations

No matter what type of training you’re pursuing, it is essential to establish clear expectations. Use rubrics and checklists to help define your expectations. (Need a refresher on rubics? Be the first to access our Trainplaceless, where we’ll show you how to go about it!)


4. Be a Role Model

You know the old adage that kids learn by watching how their parents act. The same logic holds true for leaders. If you’re in charge, commit to modeling and coaching others in the skills you want your team to develop.

We understand that serving as a remote leader comes with its own unique set of challenges, so if you feel like you need to amplify your remote leading skills, take a look at Leadplaceless. We designed this program to cover critical areas that remote leaders face, including culture, conflict management, vision, communication and change management, among others. It’s recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).


Outputs from April Networkplaceless on Interests, Knowledge and Skills – Part 1: Challenges 

 Simone Beltz contributed to this post.

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Workplaceless Team

Workplaceless Team

Workplaceless envisions a workforce that thrives in a flexible and digital-first future—where performance and growth are not constrained by location. Our team goal is to share insights and practices that will help professionals and companies achieve this aspiration.
Workplaceless envisions a workforce that thrives in a flexible and digital-first future—where performance and growth are not constrained by location. Our team goal is to share insights and practices that will help professionals and companies achieve this aspiration.
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