Employers are looking for employees with top skills who can enhance productivity and communication to build teamwork and leadership to serve the increasing demands of the workforce.
Their search for talent hones in on employees with an array of soft skills that can thrive in the workplace. It has become even more urgent with the dramatic transformation to increased hybrid work arrangements brought on by the need to satisfy employees during the pandemic.
Soft skills are non-technical skills that include behavioral traits that can enhance your relationships with customers, co-workers, suppliers, and management. Employers have been urging colleges and universities to equip students with soft skills for years. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2021-2022 State of the Workplace report, 77% of human resources professionals said that improving soft skills, including empathy, communication, and compassion, was the key to organizations’ long-term plans.
Although higher education institutions emphasize hard skills, they increasingly recognize that soft skills may matter more to achieve success. Soft skills can help people work more effectively and efficiently.
Ultimately, employees need a blend of both skills, a requirement to succeed in high-income jobs.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills (sometimes called power skills or people skills) are personality attributes that help someone work interactively with others in a workplace or remotely.
These skills are not new. Based on a 1918 published study, Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center found that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft skills. Only 15% comes from hard skills, notably technical skills and knowledge.
Decades later, the US Army introduced soft skills to build on hard skills and to help soldiers better understand human behavior, communicate across cultures, build rapport, influence, and negotiate.
How Do Soft Skills Differ From Hard Skills?
Soft skills are personality traits that allow you to thrive in the workplace. They are hard to assess, quantify or learn academically. You can develop these behavioral traits through self-awareness.
These skills are uniquely human and not easily duplicated or replaceable by robotics or artificial intelligence like bookkeeping or automatable functions.
Soft skills are transferable skills you can leverage in your profession and become part of your character. Many skills are universal and desirable for most jobs. Other skills focus on specific fields like sales, where you should rely on communication, active listening, and empathy skills.
LinkedIn’s Most In-Demand Soft Skills in 2022:
- Critical Thinking
- Social Influence
In contrast, hard or teachable skills are quantifiable job-specific skills you learn from academic education, trade schools, or courses in desirable career areas where demand is strong and rising. Examples of technical skills are computer programming, medical expertise, building construction, or accounting are relevant to your field and job experience.
LinkedIn’s Most In-demand Hard Skills in 2022:
- Data Analysis
- Technical Literacy
- Human Resources
- Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality
10 Invaluable Soft Skills You Should Have To Succeed
Our list of essential soft skills clusters multiple traits that can strengthen and complement your ability to work more effectively and efficiently. These include:
1. Communication Skills
Your success will rely on your ability to communicate well in all forms, including public speaking. Communication refers to verbal, non-verbal, visual, informative, precise, or persuasive writing. It encapsulated silent gestures and body language, too, including knowing to avoid eye-rolling, sighing, and other negative physical signals.
Communication skills dovetail with interpersonal skills, such as active listening, empathy, and patience. These can be vital in the workplace, especially when working under pressure. A potential manager will be curious to see how you communicate in various situations, like working with challenging customers or reluctant co-workers.
2. Adaptability and Flexibility
Adaptability skills require people to have a positive mindset, embrace change, and be open to various environments. The earliest days of the pandemic certainly tested flexibility in the workplace, and those companies that quickly adapted and found alternative ways to run their businesses remotely were better off.
3. Time Management Skills
Most employees face time constraints that can add stress to accomplishing projects, making time management skills very valuable. They include assessment, organization, evaluation, and priority setting.
Knowing how to manage a tight deadline that is typically unnegotiable is critical. Managers should excel at delegating tasks and communicating deadlines to employees and teams.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Humans can be just as emotional at work as in other areas of life. Emotional intelligence reflects social skills in managing your emotions and the emotions of others. A good dose of self-awareness will help you come across better when working together. Using your feelings to show empathy, active listening, and accepting openness to criticism can be beneficial.
5. Teamwork and Collaboration
Many workplaces desire strong teamwork and collaboration on projects, requiring employees to work effectively with colleagues. To work in teams, you’ll need to have different skills than working individually. You’ll need to communicate, plan, problem-solve, persuade, and have a respectful rapport with others.
Becoming an excellent team player doesn’t mean you’ll always get along with others (some conflict is inevitable within groups). Yet learning how to give and take constructive feedback is essential to resolving these issues.
6. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is a precursor to problem-solving, driven by finding solutions. When engaged in critical thinking, you identify, investigate, and evaluate factors to consider in your thought process. You may be reconciling conflicts, seeking alternative solutions, and deciding on preferred actions.
7. Problem-solving Skills
Many professions value people who have problem-solving skills and can strategically move toward optimal solutions using methods identified through critical thinking. Problem-solving is analyzing the research and being creative when brainstorming. The more complex the problem, the more thinking out of the box, whether the problem is dealing with supply constraints or economic uncertainties.
8. Creative Thinking
Creative thinkers are novel thinkers who often have a unique perspective and come up with innovative solutions to vexing problems. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, reaching the highest level – self-actualization – is rare and has the significant motivation to fulfill their potential in the workplace and life. Creative thinking and soft skills usually indicate a greater likelihood of success.
9. Decision Making
Employees in various roles must make multiple job-related decisions on regular tasks or when unusual situations occur. As you get more experienced, you’ll likely encounter more complex challenges requiring you to evaluate data and weigh solutions under pressure.
Use skills like critical thinking or problem-solving for your team to overcome obstacles to complete the project. Knowing how to make challenging or unpopular decisions when needed is crucial. You’ll need an abundance of confidence, determination, passion, and perseverance, all soft skills, to deal with adversity resulting from such decision-making.
Those with leadership positions typically have many other soft skills we discussed. Leaders should communicate well, manage, motivate and delegate to others. They can see the larger picture and are decisive and powerful. They should foster a productive work environment, set a good example for their employees, handle sensitive information carefully, and follow company policies.
How To Obtain Soft Skills
Although soft skills are not taught traditionally as a specific course outside presentations or writing classes, various skills are part of every learning experience. You’ll recognize these soft skills in class requirements when making presentations, researching and writing papers, doing lab work, and evaluating solutions.
You probably already have some soft skills, but be open to learning more. Look for ways to improve in other areas early in your job experience.
You can build soft skills via:
- Personal development resources like books, YouTube videos, Facebook Groups, and podcasts
- Online courses on Skillshare, Udemy, and Coursera
- College courses
- On-the-job training programs
- A mentor or a coach who can show you the ropes
- Volunteer jobs
Showcasing Your Skills for Potential Employers
When applying for a job, your resume typically highlights your educational background and job experience. Additionally, you should display relevant soft skills on your resume that directly relate to what you’re seeking.
However, if you have specific soft skills, highlight them on your resume. Be ready to answer the interviewer’s questions by providing examples of where you excelled or wish you had handled it better.
Depending on the role you seek, the interviewer will want to know about your ability to communicate in various situations, resolve conflicts, work collaboratively, think critically, and adapt to change.
They will want to know more about your failures, which can inform them more about your character than your successes will. You may have filed those negative experiences away, but they are essential in highlighting how you dealt with adversity, especially early in your career.
There is greater awareness that employees require hard and soft skills to succeed in today’s workplace. They need knowledge and the capability to work more effectively and efficiently with others. We addressed many examples of essential soft skills, but employees need to understand which ones are most relevant to their professions.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock /David Gyung