Upskilling – it’s frequently talked about in terms of professional development and training. It’s necessary for closing skills gaps and for encouraging employees to remain with you for the long term. However, that term doesn’t need to focus solely on developing professional skills that help an employee learn how to do a task. In addition to that important consideration, upskilling can also apply to relational skills. In fact, focusing on developing these overlooked skills can help you create a thriving organization.

Relational Skills: An Overlooked Upskilling Opportunity

What Are Relational Skills?

Unsure what relational skills are or what they bring to the table? They’re critical for resolving non-business-task-related issues in the workplace. These are skills that we regularly use when we interact with other people. They’re the skills that make relationships work, hence the name.

What Roles Do Relational Skills Play in the Workplace?

Relational skills are necessary any time you interact with another person, whether that’s a family member or a team member. As such, they’re pretty important in the workplace. They have a direct impact on a broad array of activities, ranging from being able to collaborate with a team member to actively listening to the concerns of someone you manage.

Without strong relational skills, the workplace simply ceases to function properly. The good news is that strong skills can be developed through active practice. A learning management system (LMS) can also be instrumental in designing content that helps employees build the necessary skills required for success.

The Impact of Ignoring These Skills

Why bother worrying about how your employees can relate to one another? Why should you care about their ability to communicate with or empathize with someone else? Simply put, the future of your organization depends on it.

Poor relational skills lead directly to the creation of toxic workplace culture. And, make no mistake, the importance of these skills needs to be demonstrated from the very top. If upper management and leaders are not able to relate well to others, then your workforce will take the same cue.

In addition to creating a toxic work culture, you’ll find that ignoring these skills also creates friction. When people are unable to interact well together, it causes problems and prevents forward momentum. Friction within teams and your organization as a whole will prevent you from moving forward.

What Are the Most Important Relational Skills?

First, understand that every skill that helps build strong interpersonal relationships is important. However, some outweigh others when it comes to quashing workplace drama, ensuring accurate communication with others, and being able to relate to others with whom you must work.


Empathy is a powerful skill. It’s nothing more nor less than being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and see a situation from their perspective. It’s also one of the skills that are so often lacking in the workplace.

Leadership, in particular, should be required to cultivate empathy. However, it doesn’t stop there. Focusing on empathy within your entire organization can help create an amazing place to work. It’s not about being “nice” or ensuring that your workplace is a “safe space” for people’s feelings. It’s about creating a world-class business that attracts top talent.

After all, do you think that those with the most to offer are going to spend their time working in an environment where leadership is locked into their worldview and unable to see from the perspective of others? A workplace filled with empathy is one poised for success, growth, and the retention of key talent for the long term.

Active Listening

How well do you listen? Chances are good those skills could be better. Do you zone out when someone’s speaking? Is your attention tugged at by other responsibilities and duties? Do you find your mind wandering?

Your inattention will show, and you can bet the speaker will pick up on your lack of attention. One of the most critical relational skills to develop (for everyone in the organization, at all levels) is active listening. What does that mean, though?

Active listening is the ability to focus exclusively on what the other person is trying to communicate. You don’t let your mind wander. You don’t half-listen while thinking about other responsibilities. You’re there. You’re present.

However, it goes deeper than this. Too many of us listen to respond. We only want the information necessary for us to present our side or our thoughts. Or, worse, we’re just waiting for a pause in the flow of speech so that we can interject.

Active listening means paying attention to what the other person is saying, not so that we can reply or rebut their point, but so that we can understand. At the heart of every great team is a commitment to understanding one another. Without active listening, that’s impossible.


This skill goes hand in hand with active listening. Too many of us give only the barest nod to real communication. Oh, sure, we can engage in small talk. We can probably also hold our own in an argument. However, what about when it comes to truly getting the point across in a reasoned, logical way?

Often, we think of communication as our ability to drive home a point and make (read: force) the other person to understand what we’re saying. That’s not the case. True communication is the ability to use a wide range of tools, including logic and reason, to communicate complex ideas. It’s about presenting our point of view to another person in such a way that they willingly relinquish reservations or holdups.

Building Relational Skills

Given how critical relational skills are to organizational success, you must be able to build them within your team. Having the right LMS can provide the framework necessary to create and deliver content that helps learners master these skills in a range of media, from text-based courses to videos, audio material, interactive elements, games, and more. With a proactive stance and a solid understanding of why these skills are necessary at all levels within your organization, you can reduce workplace and team friction and enjoy growth and success.