Why Personal and Workplace Success Skills Matter

Personal and workplace success skills are in increasingly high demand by employers across all industry sectors. They offer some promise of employment security and protection from the impact of technology, because they are essentially human skills that can’t be easily replaced by automation.

We’ve chosen the term personal and workplace success to describe these skills because they are cross-cutting skills that are as essential to personal growth, civic and community engagement, educational development, and lifelong learning as they are to workplace success and career mobility.

Leadership & InitiativeLeadership
& Initiative
Self ManagementSelf-
Navigating & Using InformationNavigating &
Using Information
Critical Creative ThinkingCritical &
Creative Thinking
Digital LiteracyDigital
Teamwork & CollaborationTeamwork
& Collaboration
Respecting DifferencesRespecting
Adaptability & FlexibilityAdaptability
& Flexibility
Emotional IntelligenceEmotional


Many will recognize these skills, though you may be familiar with other terms — human skills, employability, 21st century, workforce preparation, essential skills — to describe and classify them. Though commonly used, we avoid the term soft skills because it trivializes and oversimplifies the rigor, depth, and centrality of these skills, which should not be reduced solely to workplace punctuality and etiquette. Regardless of the terms you use, we are confident that you’ll find practical resources that will enhance your ability to help program participants learn, practice, and demonstrate their personal and workplace success skills in substantive ways.

Equity and Personal and Workplace Success Skills

The Personal and Workplace Success Skills Library is geared towards adult education, higher education, workforce development, and career and technical education programs. By no means, however, do we wish to suggest that participants in these programs are particularly lacking in these skills.

These skills are in high demand at all levels of the workforce and in all industry sectors, evidenced by the abundance of executive education courses emphasizing adaptive and collaborative leadership, teamwork, empathy, etc., promoted by elite business schools and journals.

While this library affirms the importance of personal and workplace success skills, we are aware that the perceived lack of “soft skills” is too often used against people of color to rationalize discrimination and bias in hiring practices. Further, workers who speak out against unacceptable and exploitative working conditions may be told they simply lack teamwork, communication, and flexibility skills, because they won’t go along with the status quo.

We aim to elevate and democratize the attainment of personal and workplace success skills to ensure that adults and older youth who face systemic barriers to education and employment have opportunities to develop these skills in ways that are beneficial and meaningful to them. We invite you to join us in thinking critically about how teaching and strengthening our personal and workplace success skills — such as critical and creative thinking, respecting differences, and emotional intelligence — might be used to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, rather than reinforce bias and exclusion.

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