As technology continues to develop, employers will continue to hire employees with technical skills such as engineering and machine learning. However, while those technical skills are important, research shows that soft skills tend to consistently rank among the top traits that companies need most. Soft skills have prevailed to be essential for businesses, and although they may be called soft, they are actually quite hard to develop. Research has even found that 75% of long-term job success comes down to soft skills, like people skills, rather than technical knowledge.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
What’s the difference between soft skills and hard skills? Hard skills usually refer to measurable and technical knowledge such as programming languages or data analytics, for instance. Whereas soft skills, often called people skills or emotional intelligence, refer to the ability to interact amicably with others. They are the traits that allow employees to be effective both as individuals, colleagues, and leaders. Soft skills include social-emotional capabilities and traits like adaptability and resilience. While they are often seen as innate personality traits that are harder to learn, most people can still build up their soft skills, just like they would build a set of hard skills.
Which Soft Skills are Essential at Work?
Soft skills are essential to the success of a business but can be more challenging to develop than hard skills. That’s why it’s important to have a solid understanding of what they are and which ones matter the most in order for you and your team to identify and develop them. According to a survey, the following soft skills have the highest demand among professionals looking to upskill their teams or organizations: management and leadership, critical thinking, design thinking and creativity, problem-solving, innovation, storytelling, and communication.
Why Are Soft Skills Important?
Soft skills are what set the best-performing employees and organizations apart from the rest. In fact, they’re so important that research has found that 89% of the time when new employees don’t last at a company, it’s because they lack soft skills. While most people are hired for their technical abilities, their soft skills give them “career durability,” which is the ability to acquire the skills, knowledge, and mindset needed to be an engaged and productive member of the team. Companies nowadays can’t afford to overlook these traits any longer. In today’s workplaces, even the most technically gifted employees will need to demonstrate soft skills such as good communication and creative thinking to flourish.
How to Develop Soft Skills in the Workplace
Teaching someone how to be more patient, a better team player, or more innovative may not follow the same formula as teaching someone a technical skill, but it still can be done. While it’s true that some people have innate personality traits that allow them to demonstrate soft skills more naturally, these skills are also practiced and perfected over time.
Developing soft skills won’t be successful by using a one-and-done approach. Instead, the soft-skills training methods that tend to work best are flexible, shorter, and more frequent. Like technical skills, soft skills can get weaker if they go unused; that’s why it’s important to practice them constantly. Here are some ways you can build soft skills at work.
1.Identify Areas for Improvement
Identifying soft skills can seem hard to pinpoint, but data can often provide a solid starting point for companies looking to improve in this area. For instance, customer satisfaction feedback and data are crucial for identifying gaps in employees’ communications and customer relations skills. Unhelpful or unempathetic service customer reports indicate that a customer service team could use training to develop their soft skills such as communication and handling difficult conversations.
Employee reviews, such as performance reviews, are great sources of data on areas of strength and weakness. Managers can review reports and feedback provided on an employee, allowing them to identify patterns and develop specific plans focusing on how to improve soft skills. Managers can also assess employees’ soft skills on a day-to-day basis while working together and give in-the-moment feedback. It’s essential that managers pay attention to their teams’ soft skills and advise them on how to handle certain aspects or share the positives and negatives of their approach.
3.Lead by Example
Employees will naturally tend to take their managers’ behavior and actions into account; with that said, it’s vital for managers to make the most of the opportunity and teach by example. By using soft skills continuously as a manager, from being empathetic with employees to communicating clearly and effectively, your team will begin to adopt or further develop their own soft skills simply from seeing you put them into practice.
These are just a few of the top strategies companies should use when upskilling employees and building soft skills in the workplace. Improvements and development in these areas can also be made by providing employees with mentorship programs, external courses, or programs to help further develop essential soft skills.
Amanee Hasan is a content writer for ZenHR, an award-winning and top-rated HR solution that offers world-class HR software services in the MENA region. She focuses on creating content highlighting the latest HR trends and gives organizations and individuals the tools, knowledge, and research they need to create successful work environments where people thrive.