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What are the various types of skills?

Assessing your employees’ qualities properly is essential to optimise your organisation’s management and smooth operation. Their skills can be divided into various categories, depending on the abilities harnessed. What are the different types of skills – and how many are there? 



Categorising skills


In their professional lives, employees make use of a multitude of different skills to perform their duties. Among them, we distinguish between several categories.


Soft skills and hard skills


Non-technical skills (also known as “soft skills”) and technical skills (a.k.a. “hard skills”) are the two main groups in the classification of skills.


→ Soft skills


This type of skill is mainly based on human and interpersonal qualities. Non-technical skills do not involve knowledge related to a particular profession but are acquired through experience. They include:


  • Personal soft skills, such as creativity and complex problem solving


  • Interpersonal soft skills, such as emotional intelligence and negotiation


These non-technical skills, which can generally be applied in a wide variety of occupations, are becoming increasingly important to organisations. According to a survey of 1,000 Boostrs-using professionals, autonomy is one of the best-mastered soft skills (85%), followed by adaptability (82%). At the opposite end of the scale, training others is the least common soft skill, with creativity a close second.



→ Hard skills


Technical skills involve practical know-how. They relate to a particular job or a specific professional field. This type of skill is more easily identifiable, thanks in particular to diplomas and professional experience. These are operational skills, learned and passed on.


Essential professional skills


Overlapping the soft and hard skills categories defined above, there’s a third, hybrid group of essential cross-disciplinary professional skills. Useful in day-to-day life, they represent the minimum skills required to qualify for a job in any line of business. Common examples include punctuality, writing emails, teamwork, etc.


Besides these categories, there are other specific methods for classifying skills, for example based on industry type, frequency of use or future prospects (i.e., skills in demand vs. in decline).


Related: What’s a skill?

« (…) it is considered that there are today about 13,500 skills. »

Estimates of the number of skills


Based on simple assumptions, it is possible to estimate the total number of skills currently in existence. In most cases, the skills required to perform the various tasks associated with a job are called upon over the course of a working week. In a 40-hour week, assuming that one hour corresponds to one task, we can consider that employees perform 40 tasks. Assuming that each task involves one skill, the week’s 40 tasks require 40 skills.


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) divides all occupations into 430 different groups. Multiplying these 430 groups by the 40 skills required for each job produces a total of 17,200 skills required for all occupations defined by the ILO.


In practice, when we merge similar skills, it is considered that there are today about 13,500 skills.


Related: How can we assess skills?

Find out more about jobs and skills data:

Discover Boostrs’ Jobs and Skills Library APIs

Illustration credits: https://www.istockphoto.com/fr/portfolio/normaals