Transversal Skills: what they are and 5 tips to develop them

Transversal skills are the set of skills, abilities, and behaviors that people implement to manage the various aspects of life most effectively and flexibly, such as school, work, family, personal relationships, and free time. Some are possessed by nature; others are acquired through experience.

Either way, do you know what are among the most in-demand skills in the workplace? Let’s see together what they are, why they are important, and how to develop them to differentiate yourself.

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What are transversal skills?

The expression transversal skills refers to the system of skills, generically understood, that an individual acquires during his life experience and that he applies in different situations and contexts.

Transversal skills are fundamental in people’s training, so much so that they play a central role in school training, starting from primary school. In fact, they support and integrate the educational training courses by enriching the students’ curriculum and outlining what will be their future personal and professional profiles.

As far as transversal skills in the world of work are concerned, they can be defined as a relatively recent topic. In fact, until some time ago, there was the belief that the more a professional was prepared and technically competent in the sector, the more he was a valuable resource.

However, with the advent of Industry 4.0, companies and their needs have begun to change.

The importance of technical skills specific to each role has declined while the demand for useful personal skills has increased more and more to better respond to the multiple and sudden changes in the labor market.

The professional who possesses these transversal aptitudes, defined as such because they are independent of the sector and of the professional role, is capable of relating to the best in his or her work environment. And this often favors the creation of a healthy and organized environment.

In these years characterized by digital transformation, other skills have also begun to assume a fundamental and transversal role in the workplace. These are digital skills or technical skills useful for analyzing data, making predictions, and creating content through information technology and the Internet.

They range from basic knowledge, such as the use of computers, to more specific and advanced ones, such as creating code or developing software systems for Artificial Intelligence.

They are constantly evolving skills driven by the inexorable transformation of modern technology. These also include digital marketing skills, which are necessary for implementing marketing and communication strategies well structured and effective.

The report “The Future of Jobs” of October 2020 explains very well the evolution of top soft skills within the global labor market. Between things that companies look for more, it is clear from the interviewed recruiters that analytical thinking and analysis are the key points that every candidate must absolutely master in order to have a chance of being hired.

transversal skills wef

Source: The Future of Jobs Survey 2020, World Economic Forum

Next, are problem-solving and self-management skills, understood as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility.

The report also highlights the specialized skills required for the different emerging professions. Among these transversally useful skills required are specific skills in the field of Product Marketing, Digital Marketing, and Human-Computer Interaction.

cross cutting future skills

Data source: The Future of Jobs Survey 2020, World Economic Forum

What are soft skills?

Why are soft skills important? Everyone has these skills, including you. Some are innate, others the result of a series of experiences and behaviors learned at school, at work, and in everyday life.

They are part of your way of being, of facing and managing the situations you experience every day in different contexts. If used correctly, they can allow you, for example, to build collaborative relationships with colleagues by improving teamwork, managing challenging or stressful work situations, and finding new and creative solutions to problems.

They are those aptitudes that, if nurtured and developed, can improve your work environment by paving the way for professional success.

The most important soft skills described in the literature are more than 100. For simplicity, we can divide them into 3 macro areas:

  • Personal skills: all of those skills that distinguish you as an individual. This group includes a sense of responsibility, dedication, self-control, motivation, curiosity, self-confidence, stress tolerance, adaptability, managing unexpected events or changes, determination, and resilience.
  • Social skills: those skills you use in a group setting to relate to others. This area includes the ability to involve others, to communicate effectively, and to work in a team. And what makes the difference is empathy, the ability to integrate, adaptation to the environment, sensitivity in the redistribution of tasks and workloads, a critical spirit, self-criticism, and an orientation towards personal improvement.
  • Methodological skills: somewhat more technical skills because they fall within the sphere of “know-how”. Here is the aptitude for analysis, observation, and evaluation, the ability to organize and plan, and the propensity to act according to efficient plans and models.

Although with your transversal skills, you can juggle many situations, you cannot consider yourself a complete resource if you do not also have some technical skills, the so-called hard skills.

Hard skills are the body of specialized knowledge that is learned on the benches of school or at the university. You can also acquire them at work, following training courses or assisting a colleague who is an expert in specific tasks, or you can learn them independently, personally supervising your training.

They are the set of technical skills without which you could not do your job, the tools that cannot be missing from your toolbox.

Hard skills are easily quantifiable and are generally included in the curriculum vitae after training experiences. They can be summarized thus:

  • knowledge of foreign languages;
  • use of computer programs and packages;
  • certificates relating to the training courses attended;
  • use of specific machinery and tools.

So the result relates to your ability to perform a task specifically, while the soft skills are related to how you do it: How you adapt, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions. Inherent in behavior, thinking, personal traits, and cognitive abilities, they are necessary for personal and professional success.

These are typically more difficult to measure personal attributes but can help you in a variety of roles and industries.

Most of the time, soft skills are explored in person during the job interview. However, it’s important to make them shine through on your resume as well. How to insert soft skills in the CV? Don’t just write a sterile list of the soft skills you think you possess.

Try to contextualize them as much as possible, talking about the experiences that have allowed you to develop them. In particular, focus on those that enhance your role or may be useful for the position you wish to fill.

The importance of personal attitudes is confirmed in the “Global Talent Trends 2019” report of LinkedIn, where 92% of recruiters say soft skills are equally important, if not more important, than hard skills. Furthermore, 89% of these believe that when a new resource is not performing, this is due to the lack of fundamental soft skills.

soft skills significance

Source: LinkedIn Talent Blog

skills that bad hires lack

Source: LinkedIn Talent Blog

To be an interesting professional in the job market, making the most of what you can offer is important. Both in terms of knowledge and skills and intellectual and character characteristics.

If you are applying for a specific job position, looking to relocate professionally, or want to grow within your company, you must demonstrate what you know and how you do it.

In other words, it is important that you write what your skills are on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile. But it is equally important to be able to demonstrate in practice how you behave in relation to a certain professional goal.

Effective transversal skills at work

Understanding what soft skills are most appreciated and sought after by companies can help you differentiate yourself at work.

As reported in the report “The Future of Jobs,” before the Covid-19 pandemic, the most in-demand soft skills globally tended to change gradually. The particular historical moment has instead allowed the emergence of a new list of skills that have therefore joined the pre-existing ones.

top ten in focus skills

Source: The Future of Jobs Survey 2020, World Economic Forum

It’s about self-management skills (such as meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, and kindness) and the sphere of personal development. And interestingly, the need for targeted training in these areas is felt almost more by employees than by the companies themselves.

Let’s see what transversal skills companies are looking for up to 2025:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation;
  • Active learning and learning strategies;
  • Ability to solve complex problems;
  • Critical thinking and analytical skills;
  • Creativity, originality, and spirit of initiative;
  • Leadership and Social Influence;
  • Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility;
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, and ability to propose ideas;
  • Emotional intelligence;
  • Systemic analysis and evaluation;
  • Persuasion and negotiation.

These skills are among the most sought-after top skills in the world. As you can see, the personal skills required today are many and varied. Analytical thinking, for example, is the ability to think in detailed, deep, and systematic ways to solve problems.

Active learning, on the other hand, is the aptitude for learning in an immersive learning environment, where the learner is directly involved in the teaching process (what happens, for example, when working in a group). Again, problem-solving is the ability to tackle and solve problems effectively.

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is the ability to identify, understand and manage one’s own emotions and those of others.

Few people, those we call leaders, have all (or almost all) of these skills. In most cases, however, especially at the beginning of his working career, a professional owns only a part of it. Over time, however, he will have the opportunity to acquire new ones and refine those already in his possession.

How to develop transversal skills

While you may already have many of the soft skills that enable or will enable you to succeed at work, chances are you will need to improve or develop more over time. In the years, they could, in fact, change those soft skills now considered important for your profession or the one you would like to do.

On the other hand, it is not even certain that you will play a certain professional role for your entire life. You may decide to change it or find yourself in the situation of having to do it, and each new assignment may require new ways of being and acting.

The greater or lesser relevance of a transversal skill is linked to multiple factors: the labor market situation, external events (such as the pandemic), the company’s business objectives, and the professional role, just to name a few.

Only by being aware of this will you be able to implement that process of personal evolution which will allow you to grow as a person and as a professional.

5 secrets to develop transversal skills

Below is a list of 5 tips for spotting and developing your soft skills.

Prepare for change

In a world that is constantly changing, it’s important that you have a positive attitude toward change. Only in this way will you be able to acquire and improve your skills.

Identify useful soft skills

Although soft skills are useful regardless of the type of company and job role, understanding which ones are necessary for your job is very important.

If you are an employee, you can talk to your manager. He will be able to indicate which soft skills are important for the company and for your job.

If you are new to a corporate setting or are aiming to work as a freelancer, try to figure out what skills are important for the role you would like to play. You can rely on a counselor or another professional capable of guiding you in your personal development.

For example, it could be useful for you to develop creativity to deal with critical situations going out of the box. Or the organization skills to be able to organize and manage your time.

This skill is very useful, especially if you work from home, more exposed to distractions. Again, you could develop your analytical skills. This allows you to study a problem by breaking it down into its various factors and components to be analyzed one by one to find the best solution.

Analyze the soft skills you possess

Objectively analyze your behaviors to figure out which areas need attention and which ones are already good strengths. It could be useful for you to design activities to verify your transversal skills.

If you work in the company, share them with your manager to get a more objective view. If, on the other hand, you are getting help from an external expert, talk to him.

You can also seek the opinion of those around you to understand their perception of you and see if it coincides with what emerged from the self-analysis.

Build your skills with practice

Take training courses, read books, magazines, and articles, and listen to industry experts. Acquire the important notions, enhance and develop your transversal skills and put them into practice.

Practice first with trusted friends or colleagues and later measure yourself in more challenging situations. Only in this way will you be able to increase and make your own new strength.

To obtain a satisfactory result, you must arm yourself with willpower and constantly apply the skills you want to improve. If necessary, help yourself with reminders or contact your reference figure.

Haveby your side an expert who can check your progress, help you identify the skills to improve, and give you advice and useful tools to develop them, can make your change faster and more effective.

Give yourself time

The development of transversal competence is a process that takes a long time, on average from 30 to 60 days. This is, in fact, the time it takes for our mind to fix the information.

Some behaviors will probably become yours simply by repeating them; in other cases, you will have to associate the practice with an adequate inner journey. Whatever your path, one thing is certain: the acquisition of soft skills is exponential.

The more you develop knowledge of yourself, your fears, needs, and behaviors, the more you will be able to improve transversal skills and apply them successfully. Furthermore, through practice, the skill in changing your habits will increase, even the most deeply rooted ones.

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What are digital skills?

In the era of Digital Transformation, society evolves at an incredible speed, and companies have to keep up with the changes. To be agile and competitive, many companies have changed their entire corporate culture.

They have changed their activities, their organizational processes, acquired new knowledge and developed a different business model.

In all sectors of industry and services, the introduction of new technologies, automation, and digitization has become a priority in order to respond promptly to market needs. Equally, priority has also become the need for human resources capable of facing the continuous challenges of the digital revolution.

Therefore, if, on the one hand, there is an attempt to address the existing workforce skills gap through upskilling and reskilling actions, on the other hand, it has become almost inevitable to adopt new professional figures, i.e.professionals with a high level of digital skills.

Today it is essential that a company has personnel with an adequate digital culture. This means that all internal resources should have at least basic digital skills. It should also have a certain number of digital professionals with more specific technical skills.

Digital skills are their ability to use information technologies with confidence and a critical spirit for work, leisure, and communication (definition of the European Parliament, 2006).

They can be divided into 3 categories, as reported in the report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) of the United Nations:

examples of digital skills

Source: ITU

1. Basic digital skills: they are functional skills, now considered a prerequisite for entering the world of work. They are the ones that all of us should have, regardless of the role and the working sector.

These include using the keyboard, creating text, managing files on laptops, searching online, and managing e-mail. They are mostly acquired at school and university.

2. Intermediate skills: are those that allow us to use digital technologies in a more meaningful and advantageous way. For example, they allow us to evaluate technology and create content critically. These skills can also be considered transversal in the sense that their mastery prepares individuals for a wide range of activities and professions.

Specifically, they include skills necessary to perform normal job functions, such as content publishing, digital graphics, and digital marketing. They have acquired through master’s and advanced courses but also in the workplace. However, these skills are not immutable. Indeed, over time some become obsolete or are expanded to follow technological changes.

3. Advanced skills: are those Requests to ICT specialists (Information and Communication Technologies). These are specialized skills acquired through advanced training courses.

Globally, they will be the most in-demand skills in the workplace for the next few years. In particular, those related to the world of big data, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, and cloud computing.

Digital Marketing: a discipline that cuts across multiple roles and sectors

Increasingly, corporate marketing and communication strategies are based on digital marketing activities carried out by dedicated figures. However, other professionals can too benefit from a knowledge of this area.

To better understand the importance and, above all, the transversality of digital marketing skills, I’ll give you an example. One of the skills you can acquire by following a Digital Marketing course is the ability to analyze data analytics.

Who can benefit from this expertise? Lots of professions! From the accounting administrator to the hotel receptionist, from the SEO Specialist to Social Media Manager. If they are able to read and analyze the data, in fact, they can have a lot of useful information for their companies.

They can understand if the company website is achieving its marketing objectives and how it is achieving them. Furthermore, by analyzing the data, new business development ideas can emerge, generating a competitive advantage in the market.

The technical skills of digital marketing, therefore, can find application in multiple professional roles – inside and outside the digital environment– and in every business sector.

Whether or not you aspire to work as a digital professional, attending a Digital Marketing Program will be sure to equip you with all the necessary skills to make you interested in the job market. Because all companies, to achieve their business goals, need a functional and easily navigable site, to conduct SEO, advertising, branding, and marketing across multiple channels.

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Transversal skills: the added value in the world of work

Why are many capable and motivated professionals unable to give their best and make a career? To achieve your goals, both business and personal, technical skills and motivation are essential.

But a third ingredient is also necessary: possessing transversal skills, i.e., the set of personal skills that manage to elevate knowledge into effective work performance.

Increasing these skills is as fundamental as technical skills, with the difference that while most of the hard skills can be applied in business sectors and for defined roles, transversal skills are necessary regardless of the working context.

An exception among technical skills is digital skills. Possessing transversal digital knowledge, which is usable in a wide range of activities and professions, has become a priority in a world increasingly projected towards technological progress.

It’s not just about basic skills, now a fundamental prerequisite for being able to work, but also about skills that allow you to evaluate the technology and create content critically. Among these, digital marketing skills play an increasingly important role, essential for increasing a company’s loyalty, brand awareness, and sales.

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Conclusions and Free Orientation

I hope I have clarified the importance of transversal skills and digital skills in today’s world of work.

If you want to know more about the digital world and understand what professional opportunities it can offer you, request a free orientation talk with Digital Coach. With the help of our experts, you can focus on your skills and acquire new ones to embark on a digital career.

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