9 Soft Skills That Employees Must Master in 2019

  Jan 7, 2019 11:39:25 AM

Have you ever met someone who always seems to attract an audience? Maybe someone at work whom everyone seems to like and love taking advice from? Or a friend, someone who is a crowd puller?

You may think that ‘she is gifted’ or ‘he is just different’! Well, these could be true. Or there is a high possibility that they have honed their soft skills to the point where it just seems effortless for them to talk to people or easy for others to approach them.

So, what exactly are soft skills and why are they so important?

If we go by the dictionary meaning of soft skills then, “they are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”

As opposed to hard skills, which are comparatively easier to get better at, such as learning coding, writing, designing etc; soft skills such as empathy, small talk, emotional intelligence etc don't always come naturally. However, that doesn’t mean soft skills aren’t worth taking a look into. In fact, soft skills are what a lot of companies are investing more in when developing employees.

If you are onboard with this, then we have developed a list of 9 top soft skills that are most critical to having a successful career:

Are you Intelligent? Emotionally too?

“It is predicted that by 2020, more than half a million workers in the UK will be held back by a lack of soft skills, which may be caused by the changing work landscape.” - Forbes

Now, that’s a lot of numbers, right? When we talk about emotional intelligence, we take into account attributes such as empathy, self-motivation, self-awareness plus social skills that contribute to having high EQ. Ask yourself these questions:

Am I able to build good rapport with other people at work, in my friendship circle, and with my family?
Am I good at receiving compliments, receiving feedback and also providing the same?
Do I cope well with challenges at work?

If the answer is yes, then you already have mastered this particular soft skill; if not, it’s still not too late. You can take this quiz if you want to go deeper into this skill and check where you can improve.

One Mouth and Two Ears For a Reason

LinkedIn published their 2018 research on skills gaps across the US. On the basis of which, CEO Jeff Weiner announced at CNBC, “Somewhat surprisingly, interpersonal skills are where we are seeing the biggest imbalance. And that communication is the No.1 skills’ gap.”

With today’s technology and flexible working options, we talk less and pay less attention to others. It’s quite easy to spot if someone is really listening to you or merely hearing your words. When you are an active listener, you get things first time, enabling you to ask relevant questions and offer suggestions as well. At the same time, your verbal communication, an equally important soft skill, gets better and better when you get good at listening to others.

Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings

“In the UK, 87% of full-time employees work flexibly or would prefer to do so”, according to The Global Recruiter.
More and more meetings are happening remotely with dial-ins, video calls, etc on meeting platforms like Zoom, WebEx, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Managing and participating in these environments is totally different from jumping into the conference room a few seconds before the meeting is about to start.

Colleagues need the skills to keep everyone interacting, using the functionality, running the tech, achieving objectives and capturing the content. As platforms evolve, employees’ soft skills need to evolve too.

Ethics, Morals, and What are Your Standards?

Scraping your knees and using your elbows can help you succeed at a task. Those who are willing to do this can go on to achieve great successes. Work ethics don’t always come naturally and they are often considered as a ‘rare skill’, especially today.

Having the integrity to ‘do the right thing’ and being willing to challenge others who may not be, takes grit and confidence and can feel quite lonely at times.

This is a skill that can score you some major brownie points if you have proven yourself even once.

Innovation, Building, and Doing it Together

Virtual collaborations are different from co-located collaboration and platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack really help support colleagues in the same team working in different locations. These platforms can enhance teamwork but only if partnered with the right soft skills. How they collaborate, work with others, share and manage conflict are key areas of soft skills focus. This becomes even more crucial when you are in a virtual learning session than in the conference room at the office.

Thinking creatively is critical for colleagues in any growing business. Dyer, Gregersen & Christensen in The Innovator’s DNA say, “only a third of our ability to think creatively is genetic. The rest is learned. We can coach the ability to innovate.”

Quite true, right? Innovation is at the heart of any business and if every colleague could get innovative every once in a while, the future of any business can shine brightly.


This or That or All?

Nobel prize winner, Kahneman dedicated years to understanding the traps we fall into when making decisions and he developed helpful advice on how to avoid them and make better judgement; some of which you can find here.

Decision-making skills require both logic and emotion that encourage more autonomy and accountability. Providing these skills to colleagues helps them make decisions contributing to success at every stage of their work life.

So, the next time you are confused or don’t know how to proceed, then this is a good time to start practising some decision-making skills - even if it’s something as mundane as to which ice-cream you want to eat or which movie you should watch this coming weekend.

You failed! Or Did You?

Being open to receiving feedback from colleagues, customers or senior management is not a skill that’s common today. When you are given constructive feedback, it is so you can grow further. But if you end up taking it personally or become defensive instantly, then you will never be able to make that feedback a part of your growth.

If you have never received feedback before, maybe you can best start by asking your friends and family. See what they have to say about you, your work, and your behaviour in general. Do remember, this is something you can hardly avoid in the big world and you’ll have to learn to accept feedback, one way or another. So, why not have it your way?

Embracing Your World!

Today, as we work globally, organisations are building diverse and inclusive workforces. This means that people from all walks of life have the opportunity to work together harmoniously. And believe it or not, being a good culture fit is the soft skill required more today than any other.

According to research by law academics Yoshino and Smith, “61% of us feel pressure that prevents us from being ourselves at work.” This is because we fear being different from the rest. We need to build skills to recognise biases and create an inclusive culture within teams, which encourages colleagues to bring their expanded selves to work and can turn the work culture around for good.

The Insightful Future

The big picture, vision and plan are vital to every organisation. Having the knowledge and understanding of them can help one align decisions to the strategic intent more successfully. This means that employees can be more self-reliant in making decisions and be more autonomous and accountable in their actions if they can think with some sort of a strategy in mind.

Fuller, Professor at Harvard says, “49% of all [employment] terminations are attributed to deficient soft skills, which by a factor of 2x, is the number one reason workers are fired”.

Can’t blame the numbers, can we?

Key Takeaways

You must have heard it all and must have heard it so many times - these challenges are the ones that will pave the path to success in the future! And that’s true. Whether it’s the adaptability, culture fit, listening, communication or work ethic and innovation; each one of these soft skills are crucial to your growth, not just at your work but also in day-to-day life. One way to do this is by learning from hard experiences and another way is to be proactive and invest in developing these skills beforehand. Which way is it going to be?

Posted by:
Catherine Nicholson

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