5 soft skills every tech must master

IT has never been strictly about technology. At least half the job is communicating effectively with users, higher-ups and others. But as most IT pros know, this is generally one of the areas that techs struggle with the most. 

So what are some of the skills workers need to master?

Here are five you’ll want to look for in new hires – and look to help your team improve on.

1. Writing skills

Most workplace communication is written, but communicating clearly and effectively is still a challenge for many workers – especially millennials. Even though this generation grew up with email, texting and communicating on the internet, that style of writing doesn’t always translate seamlessly into proper workplace communication.

Make sure to stress to workers that good written communication should:

  • Address the most important information first – if it takes more than a few sentences to get to the point, the recipient will stop reading
  • Be as concise as possible, and
  • Be run through spell-check before being sent.

2. Knowing when to go offline

Going back and forth over email is frustrating. If a solution can’t be reached in three or four messages, it’s time to pick up the phone or walk over to meet the user in person.

Even if your techs are able to express themselves well in writing, there’s no guarantee the users they’re working with are. It can be difficult for someone to explain a technical issue in writing.

Techs can save themselves and users a lot of frustration by initiating an in-person conversation.

3. Patience

Sometimes it seems like you know what a user’s issue is and what the solution would be almost immediately. But it’s still best to let them have their say before jumping right into the solution.

Right or wrong, IT often gets the reputation of being know-it-alls or not paying attention. Giving the courtesy of listening to a user explain their problem in their own words gives them the right impression: that you’re trying to help, not trying to close a ticket.

4. Saying ‘No’

Telling someone they can’t get what they want is a difficult conversation to have. Telling it to someone who has been with the company longer, is in a managerial position or is insistent is even more difficult.

Make sure your techs know your department’s policies backwards and forwards. The way to end most of these debates is to show users the exact reason you can’t handle their request right now. If that doesn’t work, they should be prepared to take the conversation to a manager or higher up.

The most important thing: not making an exception “Just this once.” That’s a recipe for being taken advantage of in the future.

5. Teamwork

This one is more important than ever. IT’s responsibilities are only growing by the day. If you want to knock items off the to-do list, you need to make sure your team is on the same page.

Some key ways to do this:

  • Brief, effective meetings. Getting the whole team in a room to talk about what they’re working on is a must. If you want to keep it short and on-track, have it in a room with no chairs. That’s guaranteed to keep it to about five minutes.
  • Knowledge databases. If you can solve a problem once and file the solution away for someone else to look up, you’ll be an IT hero.
  • Effective ticketing. Make sure you can tell at a glance who is working on what. This will help prevent having two or more workers doing redundant work or having tickets slip by the wayside.

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