What do Companies Want in an Employee? Technical Skills or Personal Attributes.

by Richard on July 19, 2012

Ford, Qantas, St George, Telstra, Toyota, Commonwealth Bank, Accor, McDonalds, Coles, Dairy Farmers, Bunnings, Skilled Engineering, Woolworths, National Australia Bank, Prouds, Tandy Electronics.

This list reads like a who’s who of Australian Business.

Collectively they employ a significant proportion of the people that work in what is now the 13th largest economy in the world.

But what do these enterprises collectively believe are the most important attributes of a 21st century worker?  Well the list may surprise some of you because it revolves around personal attributes and key skills not technical skills or qualifications:

Personal Attributes

  • Loyalty
  • Commitment
  • Honestyand Integrity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Reliability
  • PersonalPresentation
  • Commonsense
  • PositiveSelf Esteem
  • Senseof Humour
  • Balanced Work and Home Life
  • Ability to Deal with Pressure
  • Motivation
  • Adaptability


  • Communication
  • Team Work
  • Problem-solving
  • Initiative and Enterprise
  • Planning and Organising
  • Self Management
  • Learning
  • Technology skills

Why do Australian enterprises value these skills and attributes above all others?  It’s a reflection of the following factors:

  • Ongoing economic globalisation causing constant and rapidly increasing change.
  • The importance of knowledge work and knowledge workers to Australia’s economic success.
  • The need for the Australian community to understand the broad issues underpinning globalisation and the knowledge economy and the need to create a community equipped to understand and participate in ongoing change.
  • That education and training providers will have a key role in equipping the community for this challenge.
  • Enterprises are increasingly seeking a more highly skilled workforce where these generic and transferable
    skills are broadly distributed throughout the organisation.
  • That all young people need a set of personal attributes and skills that will prepare them for both employment and
    further learning.
  • That ongoing employability ofindividuals depends on them having a set of relevant skills as well as a capacity to learn how to learn.

So now that we know what a worker needs to be more employable, how does an individual go about “filling gaps” in their own personal portfolio?

I’d suggest a great first step is to perform a self-audit.  The services of a Career Development Practitioner may be really helpful here.  If you’re contemplating professional help you may want to visit the industry body website for The Career Industry Council of Australia

Clearly there’s also a need for education and training bodies to better imbed these personal attributes and skills into course curriculums within the school and higher education systems.  Watch their spaces for movement on this.

Should you be interested in further information about Employability Skills I’ve listed some resources here with a brief overview of why I think they may help:

Employability Skills from Framework to Practice

Although this is a resource for trainers there are some very useful and practical activities in here if you want to self-audit your existing skill levels.

Employability Skills for the Future

This government websiteincludes the full Employability Skills report and some interesting case studies.

Employability Skills Brochure

This brochure gives a great overview of the key points including a table formatted summary of the personal attributes and skills.



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