The Ultimate Guide to Power Skills


here’s an often repeated statistic around skills in business.

Sure, the numbers change a little each time, but the point remains.

“Today’s skills will be obsolete in X number of years…”

Often it’s just 3, 5 or 10 years down the track.

Take Gartner’s 2022 HR Report for example: “Nearly one in three skills needed for a job in 2018 will not be needed by 2022.” (p.6).

It can be easy to roll your eyes and assume these claims are exaggerated, but it’s worth stopping to think about.

Are you using the same software programs you were four years ago? Or have you adopted emerging technologies to innovate and keep up?

Has new research emerged to offer new ways of doing things in your field? What about new trends, or new networks?

Almost certainly (and if not - maybe you need to shake things up!). Incorporating these new things requires new skills developed through experience, observation and trial-and-error. And they took the place of an old way of work that no longer fits in today’s world. 

This rapid pace of change is a huge challenge for businesses seeking to work on the cutting edge of their industries. The same report by Gartner shares that “40% of HR leaders say they can’t build skill development solutions fast enough to meet evolving skill needs.”

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is power skills.

What are power skills? How can you build power skills?

What are power skills?

Power skills are the ‘unseen’ skills that boost a person’s ability to work productively and harmoniously with others. Power skills are the intangible ways that we think, informing the ways that we act. Power skills impact how we approach and overcome challenges, from social situations, to day-to-day management and personal wellbeing.

Power skills are focused around the key areas of:

  • Communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Interpersonal values
  • Collaboration

Power skills are the opposite of technical skills. Technical skills refer to the ability to use equipment or conduct specific tasks and processes competently.

Reports that discuss obsolete skills are almost always referring to technical skills, such as coding in certain languages, technology competency, or role/industry-specific skills.

Explore now: 5 quick courses to boost your team’s power skills

What is the difference between power skills and soft skills?

If you have heard the term “soft skills” before, you may be wondering what the difference is between soft skills and power skills.

Soft skills is a term that has been used for a long time to refer to the same kind of skills, while technical skills have also been known as hard skills.

However in 2019, HR industry thought leader Josh Bersin argued that the terms “soft skills” and “hard skills” were misleading, “Because most people think “hard skills” are hard, and “soft skills” are soft.”

Instead, he argued, hard skills should be thought of as soft because they are relatively easy to learn but are constantly going out of date and getting replaced, while soft skills are hard to learn but last a lifetime.

As such, he threw his weight behind the idea that soft skills should be renamed “power skills” to reflect the way that these interpersonal skills give individuals true, ongoing power at work.

Power skills vs. soft skills. What's the difference?

Why are power skills important?

Technical, or "hard" skill requirements are constantly changing thanks to new technologies, new networks, new trends and new research.

Meanwhile, power skills never go out of date. The basic ways in which we can respect, communicate and relate to one another rarely changes. Cultural expectations around work-specific skills such as timeliness, organization and leadership remain incredibly stable. And personal skills of lifelong learning, resilience, wellbeing and empathy will always serve individuals well.

By investing in boosting power skills, you can help your team to consistently grow and adapt to new paradigms without missing a beat.

Building your team’s power skills will lead to happier, more productive employees, with greater capacity for innovation and reduced turnover.

How are power skills measured?

Assessing power skills is far harder than measuring technical skills. 

Often, we tend to rely on our gut feeling when hiring a new employee. But with only a limited time in interviews to observe a candidate (who is no doubt putting their best foot forward), gut feelings can easily go astray. 

In the past couple of decades, some companies have turned to personality quizzes and EQ assessments in an attempt to scratch the surface. However, studies have shown that these can be easily gamed by prepared candidates, can lack scientific validity and even discriminate against candidates.

Sometimes, companies give up altogether and simply assume that greater experience leads to better power skills. And while we are likely to build these skills slowly over time, age is no guarantee.

The underlying assumption when trying to test for power skills is often that they cannot be taught - only absorbed, somehow, we hope. But is that really true?

Measuring power skills is challenging. Corporate personality quizzes are rarely the answer.

How to build power skills in your team

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to teach power skills to your team. And it doesn’t have to happen through osmosis.

Instead, power skills can be taught through a mix of guided instruction, practice and reflection.

Guided Instruction

In the last years of his life, psychologist Lev Vygotsky introduced a powerful new concept to the world of pedagogy: the Zone of Proximal Development.

This highly influential concept boils down to this: while a person may be able to teach themselves something new on their own, they can learn more, faster, if they are guided by another, more knowledgeable person.

This theory has obvious applications for the development of power skills. While many individuals will learn over time that their colleagues respond better to empathy, punctuality and clear communication, this can be a slow and error-riddled process.

But with guidance, that person could be taught how to recognise the emotions of others, thereby boosting their ability to empathize. Or they could be taught techniques for mindful listening, allowing them to respond more thoughtfully and appropriately.

To help businesses boost their team’s power skills with guided instruction, HowToo has developed a suite of quick, online courses to boost 5 crucial power skills in less than an hour.

Explore the courses ➡


Learning how to improve your power skills is all well and good - but then it needs to be put into practice!

After providing guided instruction, the next step is for your team to implement these skills. You may like to outline specific expectations or situations for demonstrating these skills, such as timeliness and communication in team meetings, or goal-setting and problem solving in planning sessions.

Without practice and repetition, new information quickly fades from our memory. If you’ve used online courses like the HowToo Empower Suite to introduce new power skills, you may even ask your team to repeat their courses after a month or so to refresh and solidify their learning.

Guided instruction with online courses can quickly build power skills on your team.


Reflection is a powerful practice in the learning process. 

Beginning a learning session by asking learners to reflect on what they already know can help learners to connect their existing knowledge to new knowledge.

Reflecting after a period of learning and practice can help learners to learn from their mistakes or recognize areas for improvement.

Reflection itself is a power skill that is tied to lifelong learning. By fostering reflection as a habit, learners can increase their capacity to learn from experiences, reducing their reliance on guided instruction.

Start building power skills today

Power skills are critical for future-proofing your organization. While many technical skills become obsolete within just a few years, power skills are incredibly enduring. Not only that, but the right power skills will help your team to learn and adapt to new technical skills quickly and easily.

Ready to dip your toes into boosting your team’s power skills? The easy way to start is with a HowToo Growth plan. Get a complete training platform for your team with dozens of templates for designing power skills courses, and the entire Empower Skills suite included for free. Best of all, it’s incredibly affordable, starting from just $50/month.

Power Skills Courses are available now. Explore them today for free.

Mar 10, 2022
Learning Culture

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