In today’s workforce, so-called 'soft skills' have become increasingly valued by employers. While traditionally, workers were hired primarily for their technical or functional skills, organizations are now placing greater emphasis on less tangible qualities, such as good communication skills, cooperativeness, flexibility and a positive attitude.
In fact, “nine in 10 employers believe that graduates with soft skills will become increasingly important,” according to a survey by Talent Q. In this hiring climate, even the best academic transcripts and CV may not be enough to land you the job, if your soft skills aren’t up to scratch.
If you’re keen to move up within your company or get noticed, improving your soft skills is one of the best ways you can set yourself apart from the competition.
When we talk about hard skills, we’re talking about technical or functional skills that are directly related to your job, for example, your engineering, accounting, veterinary or project management skills. With these skills, you have proven your ability and expertise in this area – the skills have been learned in some way, and can be tested or measured.
Soft skills are completely different, in that they relate to intangible qualities and are often an inherent part of your personality. With soft skills, we’re talking about character traits and qualities such as:
Many of these qualities can be seen in people who have high levels of emotional intelligence –the ability to monitor your own and others’ feelings and emotions, and to use this information to guide your thinking and actions. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a very important factor in maintaining successful relationships, both personal and professional.
As you can see, these skills can’t exactly be measured or tested, yet can add so much value to the functioning of your team, or the experience of your customer. And just like emotional intelligence, soft skills can be developed and continually improved upon.
It’s very important for employees to understand the importance of soft skills in determining career success, as it’s often the soft skills that matter when employees are being hired and fired. This can be particularly true for the healthcare and non-profit industries, where qualities like empathy and compassion are vital.
Let’s say you’re a hiring manager or HR professional, faced with two employees with the exact same set of technical skills. Yet these two individuals may be very different when it comes to attitude or the ability to communicate and work as part of a team. Which person will you promote to a higher level – the staff member with the good attitude who is always willing to pitch in, or the uncooperative employee who seems to enjoy making life difficult for their colleagues?
Improving your soft skills can also help you become a better leader, as many traits that are necessary for strong leadership can be linked to high levels of interpersonal skills and EQ. For anyone in a leadership or management position, developing your skills in areas such as problem solving, decision making and motivating people will be very beneficial.
Hiring employees with advanced soft skills can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to function effectively, within its own structure and as part of their industry. For example, with sales-focused companies, employing staff with strong communication and teamwork skills will have a direct impact on customer experience, as well as profits.
If you’re in a management or recruitment position, it’s worth knowing that workers with high-level soft skills can bring a number of benefits to your organization. Being able to handle conflict, perform well under pressure and work as part of a team are all very valuable skills for any employee.
In addition to this, staff who possess soft skills tend to conduct more satisfying relationships, which leads to better workplace outcomes and a more positive work culture for all.
With soft skills often being underrated or neglected in the workplace, it’s important for individuals to recognize the link between these qualities and career success. Generally, organizations won’t provide set training in these areas, so it may be up to you to look at avenues to develop your soft skills.
Online learning is a great way to boost your soft skills and increase your job prospects. Through eLearning, you can improve existing skills or learn something completely new, in a time and place that’s convenient to you. You could even use your daily commute to work on developing your abilities in this area.
While soft skills can’t exactly be assessed, a good measure of your success in developing soft skills is how well you manage the relationships with those around you – so get started today and see if you notice a change in your interactions with others, at work and at home.