Though hard skills are what show off the depths of understanding and experience of a specific measurable ability, soft skills are what indicate an employees’ ability to work with others and grow within a business. It isn’t a case of hard skills vs soft skills, both are required for a balanced workplace.
They help employees to build relationships and solve problems, to use hard skills to their fullest extent.
There is often a checklist of skills that businesses look for in their employees; ranging from educational qualifications to previous experience in a similar job, among other more formal credentials.
But other, less obvious, skill sets that businesses look for in their employees include dealing with stressful situations, practicing resilience, handling conflict or possessing emotional intelligence.
These are soft skills and can often be undervalued in the workplace.
What are soft skills?
A soft skill is a learned, non-technical skill that relates to how a person works. It is a combination of people skills, communication skills, social skills, character traits, attitudes, social and emotional intelligence among others that enables people to successfully navigate their environments, perform well, work productively with others and achieve their goals.
Soft skills examples
Here are some examples of soft skills in the workplace:-
One of the most important skills; skilled communicators are able to adjust their tone and style according to their receiving audience, understand and react efficiently to instructions and are able to explain complex issues to other colleagues.
Working with a team towards a common goal usually requires interpersonal skills and intuition. Good team players are perceptive and receptive to the needs of others.
When employees take responsibility for their work, this is often linked to those who are more successful.
Employees who manage their time well can more effectively prioritise tasks and organise their diaries, while having the capacity to take on new tasks.
Decisiveness is the ability to make quick and measured decisions. A decisive employee will take effective and considered action swiftly, especially when under pressure.
Employees that are flexible are willing to help where they are needed; by taking on extra responsibilities or adapting quickly when things change.
Being good at problem solving is more than just having analytical, creative and critical thinking skills. Problem solving can be developed as a mindset. When we can develop it as such, it allows us to stay level headed when faced with making critical decisions.
Being great at negotiation is more than just knowing how to be persuasive and influential. It is having the skills to understand context, what the desired outcome is, and knowing your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement).
Having a can-do positive attitude and the initiative to work well without constant supervision is a vital soft skill for most employees. It can help to foster ownership of goals, the chance for those goals to be achieved are improved, creating energy and supporting a positive culture.
Why do soft skills get overlooked?
When compared to hard skills (the technical credentials that employees have that can make them suitable for a specific job) soft skills are often considered less important.
Organizations can quantify hard skills as employees either have them or don’t. Soft skills, on the other hand, are much harder to measure.
Why are soft skills important in the workplace?
Soft skills are what make employees adaptable, flexible, and determine how well they can deal with different situations and people. These are all important qualities that can help employees to succeed in their jobs.
Soft skills also benefit the organization greatly, as they are often a key factor in how relationships are made, conflict is handled and how work is carried out with confidence. They can contribute towards elevated performance levels and keep employees motivated by boosting morale, which can result in creating better team players.
For example, soft skills such as emotional intelligence can contribute towards how employees deal with critical situations, how they react and how they communicate both internally and externally.
How to improve soft skills in the workplace
While some employees welcome the opportunity to develop themselves professionally, others can be reluctant, despite the value and importance of the experiences.
There are some key tactics for encouraging professional development within your business.
- Create individual development plans
- Give opportunities outside of day jobs
- Give useable feedback
- Remove and prevent barriers
- Provide performance metrics
- Introduce a professional network
- Plan resources
- Be yourself a great practitioner of great soft skills
These tactics can be implemented by any organization, regardless of size, to help effectively shape their employees’ future. Whether you use a few or all of them, find the rhythm that works for your organization and implement them consistently and communicate them.
While we still need hard and soft skills in the workplace, soft skills are increasingly becoming the backbone of today’s workforce. It is no longer enough to be highly trained in a hard, technical skill. The softer, relationship-building, and personal skills that help employees communicate and collaborate also need to be tuned and honed to the same level for workplace success.