No matter what field you work in, you need the right mix of abilities and expertise to succeed.
But some competencies are valuable across roles and industries. These are business skills, and developing them helps you become a more effective employee. Whether you’re a CEO, an intern, or anyone in between, your skill set contributes to a company’s success — and your own professional development — in strategic and impactful ways.
Business knowledge comes in many forms, and knowing which professional skills to develop lets you advance along your career path while learning new things. The first step is to decide which skills spark your interest.
What are business skills?
Business skills are any skills that let you do your job and contribute to a business, allowing you to collaborate and function successfully within an organizational framework. They help you meet your company’s needs and form the foundation of success as a business owner, team leader, or employee.
Also referred to as soft skills, these abilities are in demand — 92% of employers seek expertise in these areas more than technical skills. Most are transferable between roles, while others vary from industry to industry. That’s why it’s important to decide which you want to learn and what’s most valuable to your career goals.
Why are business skills important?
In a benchmark study, Google found that the essential qualities to success weren’t hard skills. It was a combination of soft business skills that encouraged communication, teamwork, and innovation, resulting in the company’s greatest accomplishments.
Business skills give you the know-how to meet the needs of your employer, colleagues, and clients, as well as an organization overall. This is particularly important in service-related industries where gaps in your business acumen could prevent you from meeting customers’ expectations.
And as a job seeker, having the right skills is just as important as the experience under your belt. Working on your business skills helps you fill that gap and show employers you’re an asset. According to a survey from ManpowerGroup, 75% of employers find locating candidates with the right mix of technical and soft skills challenging. You can future-proof your career with the right transferable skills.
Top 10 business skills to develop
Any of these business skills examples can help you deliver impactful contributions to an organization, whether you’re operating a small business or working for an established multinational enterprise.
1. Communication skills
Communication has risen to become one of the most in-demand skills out there. In a modern workplace, not only do you need to express yourself clearly across multiple channels — phone, email, video conference — you need to purposefully engage with information through active listening. Communication allows that engagement.
Effective communication touches every corner of an organization. Without it, you can’t pitch ideas, delegate tasks effectively, or impress investors with your vision. It’s a transferable skill that applies to pretty much every type of job, which is why it’s so vital to professional development.
Examples of communication skills include:
2. Leadership skills
Being an effective leader means motivating a team to work together to achieve a common goal — and you don’t need to become a manager to do so. As an active team member with leadership skills, you can organize, inspire, and encourage your coworkers every day. And often, leadership depends on the strength of the relationships you build, so interpersonal skills are an important part of this area.
Some examples of leadership skills are:
3. Teamwork skills
Not every task is best done alone. In fact, research shows that teams complete difficult tasks better than individuals can. Knowing when and how to work together and solve problems as a team is an important business skill because it lets you complete tasks faster and build relationships. Team-building also helps you partner with people outside your organization, such as associates, advisors, and investors.
Here are a few examples of teamwork skills:
4. Management skills
Like leadership, business management skills organize teams and help them grow. But management focuses on strategy and organization rather than teamwork and interpersonal support. These skills help you deploy and direct human, financial, and technological resources to accomplish common business goals.
Some examples of management skills include:
5. Delegation skills
Learning to delegate effectively frees up your energy to complete the business-critical tasks only you can perform. You’ll pass responsibilities on to people with the office skills and resources necessary to support the organization and the team. As a leader, this requires striking the proper balance between telling people what to do and offering them the freedom to do their jobs as they see fit.
Examples of delegation skills are:
6. Negotiation skills
You may not be aware of it, but you negotiate every day, whether you’re asking for time off or discussing what to make for dinner. Negotiation skills give you the chance to make your needs known, compromise with the people around you, and reach outcomes that benefit everyone. And in business, communicating those needs with both respect and assertiveness is an asset.
A few examples of negotiation skills are:
7. Strategic planning skills
Success doesn’t happen by accident. It results from long-term thinking and strategizing, also known as strategic planning skills. These let you gather the proper resources for your goals, engage the right colleagues and team members, and recognize when you’re on the right path. You can focus on future, long-term goals while ensuring the immediate health of your organization.
Here are some examples of strategic planning skills:
8. Analytical skills
Developing your analytical thinking skills gives you the tools to objectively evaluate how your team’s doing and what path you’re on to meet your goals. Analysis isn’t just about numbers. It also concerns your communication and decision-making skills, which let you work with team members and reach new heights together.
Examples of analytical skills include:
9. Financial management skills
Learning how to build a budget, evaluate the risks of various investments, and report on income and expenditures are vital to the healthy functioning of any company. Even if you don’t operate a business, understanding how finances work can help you better advocate for and allocate resources. You’ll ensure your team has everything they need to succeed.
A few examples of financial management skills are:
10. Time management skills
Time management skills fall under lots of different categories, and that’s because they’re transferable and can help you accomplish pretty much anything. Any task requires time, and organizing your schedule lets you accomplish more in a given day and empowers you to focus on high-value activities.
Some examples of time management skills include:
How to improve your business skills
With the availability of online courses, books, and podcasts, you can access business skills training from anywhere, anytime. Tune into a podcast during your lunch break. Take an online class over the weekend. Meet with a career coach once a month. You can find a way to develop your skills that fits your schedule and lifestyle.
Before you start, pick a skill. You can’t develop every single one at once, so start with something realistic. Evaluate your current skill set against in-demand skills or ones that match your career goals, and choose from there. You could also evaluate job postings for positions you’re interested in to identify what employers are looking for.
Start developing your business skills by:
1. Finding a mentor
A mentor is someone who can guide your professional development through advice, feedback, and support. They’ll usually work in a similar position to one you aspire to fill later in your career, which means they can drive your progress along your career path.
But before starting your search for a mentor, decide what your goals are for this relationship. Do you want to learn a specific skill? Do you need someone to talk to about a difficult coworker? Are you looking for someone to help you choose what path to take? This will help you narrow down potential candidates to give you the guidance and expertise you need.
2. Taking an online course
There are hundreds of online resources out there that teach a wide variety of business subjects, either for free or with monthly fees. And with most digital courses, you can progress at your own pace and study when you want to. You can become a better business leader without committing to a formal course or college degree. Try looking at Coursera or Udemy to find options that work for you.
3. Reading a business book
Portable and affordable, business books are a great way to learn essential skills from experts without the expense of attending a workshop. If you’re not sure where to start, review the syllabus for a business course that’s teaching the skills you want and take note of the reading materials. You can also ask your network for recommendations, or even visit your local bookstore’s business section.
4. Listening to a podcast
While this isn’t a traditional learning model, educational podcasts can teach you about important business skills from anywhere, and there are thousands of episodes to choose from. No matter what you want to learn — from entrepreneurship to social skills — you can find a podcast that dives into the topic. Browse Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or even YouTube and search for the skills that interest you.
5. Joining a training or certification course
If you prefer in-person learning or want to earn a formal certification, try finding industry-specific courses that let you graduate with something to show on your resume. Consider courses from professional associations or community and vocational colleges. Not only will you learn something new, but you’ll walk away with a certification that supports your skill set for potential employers.
Stand out and get ahead
Whether you’re an established employee, launching your first new business venture as an entrepreneur, or a C-suite executive, there’s always a new business skill to learn. By thinking outside the box and leaving your comfort zone, you can bring something new to the table that will help you stand out and develop professionally.
Learning new skills, whether based on business needs or personal interests, boosts your employability and expands your point of view. And it can also be the start of a new adventure.