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What’s a skill?

The notion of professional skill is often discussed strictly in terms of the ability to perform a given task. Skill is, however, a much richer concept – one that’s essential for both employees and organisations to master. Let’s take a closer look at this fundamental notion.



Professional skill: a definition


The notion of professional skill covers a variety of dimensions: knowledge, know-how, attitudes and physical abilities.


In the professional context, two types of skills are distinguished:

  • Technical skills, also known as “hard” skills
  • Non-technical skills, also known as “soft” skills


Related: Occupation, job, position: what’s the difference?



→ What’s a hard skill?


Technical skills are often job-specific and/or applicable to a specific work context. They are also referred to as know-how. Although they are still necessary and sought after in the professional world, these technical skills can no longer guarantee professional success on their own. Soft skills are increasingly scrutinised and are a major differentiating factor for employees.


→ What’s a soft skill?


Non-technical skills refer to interpersonal qualities, social skills and personal attributes. Unlike technical skills, they tend to be broad-based in nature and are not necessarily job-specific. Furthermore, they are not usually transmitted through formal education – although the foundations of some of them are acquired during childhood and in early school years.


Related: What are the various types of skills?



Why identify skills?


For recruiters and managers, knowing how to identify skills helps to ensure successful recruitment, but also to optimise workforce management and to maximise projects’ success.


→ Recruiting the right profiles


In HR management, knowing the details of the technical and non-technical skills linked to a given position enables recruiters to maximise the chances of selecting the most qualified candidates and thereby ensuring successful recruitment.


Technical skills serve as pre-selection criteria before interviewing a candidate. However, they are not necessarily enough to secure a job offer. Increasingly, it’s the soft skills that enable candidates to stand out and then – on the job – to integrate easily with the existing teams.


Related: Hard skills or soft skills: which take precedence during recruitment?



→ Harnessing all employees’ potential and identifying talents


For managers, knowing each employee’s professional skills maximises the chances of harnessing their full potential. In other words, it helps ensure that the right profile is on the right job, with the right level of skill. In particular, managers can identify the skills that employees should develop and the training required to achieve progress.


What’s more, knowing employees’ skills enables managers to identify talents within the organisation and to take the necessary steps to retain them. They can be given missions suited to their abilities and aspirations and be compensated in line with their level of skills.


→ Maximising project success


Knowing employees’ professional skills also enables managers to optimise skill management within teams and projects. They can ensure that the profiles complement each other and are suitable to carry out the mission successfully. In the event of a promotion or departure, for example, this is a key asset to facilitate a handover and to ensure the project’s continuity.


Read also: Training: the key role of the jobs & skills repository

Find out more about jobs and skills data:

Discover Boostrs’ Jobs and Skills Library APIs

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