In an age where technology plays a growing role in the workplace, many underestimate the crucial importance of soft skills such as communication, listening and collaboration.
For an increasing number of employers, the value of interpersonal or ‘soft skills’ amongst employees is on the rise. This includes the ability to actively listen, collaborate with others, present ideas and communicate with team members. In-touch employers understand that these are fundamental factors to developing a productive and healthy work environment, and actively seek employees that deliver these skills.
The good news is many people are already developing and learning these soft skills, either through their current role, further study, training or volunteer work. As we continue to prepare for the future of work, technological innovations mean that most of us will soon share our workspace with artificial intelligence and bots. The ability to analyse data and make, and importantly, explain decision still requires humans.
So how can today’s employees get ahead?
They can start by adopting a commitment to acquiring the technical skills needed for ongoing success, and also build the skills that differentiate humans from AI. Specifically, this includes creativity, emotional intelligence, decision making, interpersonal communication and more.
Maria Navarro, Director of Vendor Partnership and Performance in the Department of Human Services, has spent the past decade continuing her learning journey with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). After commencing the Executive Master of Business Administration (Executive MBA) program in 2009 Maria resumed her studies with QUT’s Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) in 2018.
Prior to commencing her studies, Maria held positions with the Defence Material Organisation (DMO), now known as the Capability and Sustainment Group. In 2010 she completed the Executive MBA, which enabled her to take her project management and leadership capabilities to a new role, responsible for performing Gate Reviews of large and complex Defence projects.
Aside from the technical and leadership skills, Maria says “The area where I gained the most from the Executive MBA related to the development of soft and leadership skills. The studies provided me with greater confidence for engaging and connecting with diverse Gate Review stakeholders, at all levels, and gain their trust.”
Maria says she was able to deploy strategic and systems thinking methodology, which allowed her to more effectively identify and communicate key project risk and issues to senior executives. In turn, the likelihood that project outcomes were delivered on time, within budget and to the required standards, significantly improved.
Recently, Maria joined the Department of Human Services (DHS), which is tasked with improving government service delivery to Australians. Continuing her journey with QUT, last year Maria enrolled in the Public Sector Management Program – a program designed in collaboration with the governments of Australia to meet the needs of the contemporary public sector.
“I was motivated to apply for the PSMP, as it would allow me the opportunity to reflect on and learn how I can best contribute to the DHS transformation journey and network with other members of the department.”
Maria is only two units into the program, and she says, “To date, I have learned about best practice frameworks for developing evidence-based Government policies and the complexities associated with the effective implementation of Government policies and services across various levels of Government. In addition, I am gaining good insights into progress being made by the APS for the development of a leadership culture that fosters collaboration and high performance.”
QUT’s Executive MBA and the PSMP provide a great opportunity to public servants to accelerate the development of leadership capabilities, and those all-important soft skills like negotiation, communication, confidence and collaboration.
“My advice to anyone looking to do what I’ve done is to undergo a deep reflection of how the concepts and tools presented can be applied in a work context. From there, I’d suggest developing an action plan, rather than stressing out seeking to attain the highest level of academic achievement.”
Learning is a unique journey and there isn’t a one size fits all approach, on which Maria added “If you can do both at the same time (academic achievement and deep reflection), then congratulations and enjoy the journey!”
The PSMP has a successful 28-year track record of empowering aspiring public sector leaders with the knowledge and skills to manage the business of government. It has also proven to be an excellent pathway to QUT’s Executive MBA. The program is delivered Australia-wide and applications for the final 2019 intakes for Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra are still open.
For more information visit www.qut.edu.au/qutex or call 07 3138 7733.