Employers are increasingly on the hunt for workers with good people skills, especially when they will be working remotely, according to a new report by the national science agency.

The study by CSIRO, published in Nature Human Behaviour, analysed more than 12 million online job ads captured by jobs platform Adzuna between 2015 and 2022.

It found the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the demand for workers who are good with other people.

People skills such as communication and networking continued to be in demand despite the unemployment rate hitting a historic low of 3.5 per cent from 2021 to 2022, CSIRO scientist and the lead author of the report David Evans said.

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

The demand from employers for people who can work well with others is especially high when working from home, the research found.

Job postings for remote work were 1.2 times more likely to mention interpersonal skills than in-office roles, according to the report.

“You’d be forgiven for thinking the rise of remote working arrangements might suit introverts or more independent workers,” Evans said.

“But the data shows working from home is not working alone.”

Crunching the numbers

The researchers used the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations skills hierarchy to define interpersonal skills.

This groups over 13,000 detailed skills into four groups: interpersonal, digital, manual, and analytical.

The report found that an increased reliance on digital channels for working and the skyrocketing popularity of remote work has “only served to reinforce the importance of interpersonal skills”.

“These skills are perhaps required to overcome some of the negative effects of remote work, such as the thinning out and ossification of collaboration networks in firms,” according to the report.

The research found that demand for interpersonal skills accelerated in 13 occupations, continued steadily in 26 occupations, and decreased in just four occupations.

The demand for these skills was seen primarily in managerial, professional and clerical, and administrative jobs, and was highest for health professionals.

The primary interpersonal skills that the job postings listed were communication and collaboration, including skills such as presenting information, advising and consulting.

Boom in digital skills

There has also been an increase in the demand for digital skills following the pandemic. These skills include accessing and analysing digital data.

This continues a trend where all jobs are becoming seen as tech jobs.

A Seek study last year found that the number of job advertisements that mention “technology” increased from 10 per cent in 2016 to more than 13 per cent in 2022.

Out of the nearly 12.5 million job postings analysed by the researchers, just under 3.5 million mentioned interpersonal skills, 2.4 million mentioned analytical skills, nearly 300,000 mentioned digital skills while just under 1 million mentioned manual skills.

The CSIRO study also found a steady increase in the demand for analytical skills which was in line with pre-pandemic rates, while the listing of manual skills in job postings decreased following the onset of COVID-19.

The results of the research can be used by job seekers to help to tailor their applications and interviews, and to inform the education and training sector, Evans said.

“This finding can help individuals’ prioritise what skills to invest in developing,” he said.

“We also know that when employees’ skills are aligned with employers’ expectations, you have happier employees, lower turnover and higher productivity.

“Our results also support the ongoing relevance of calls for Australia’s higher 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.”