Not only is it important and advantageous for a business to have employees with a high level of soft skills but they are also hugely beneficial skills for individuals to foster – they are transferable and keep an individual highly employable.
92% of recruiters claim that soft skills matter just as much—if not more than—hard skills. Hard skills are those technical, measurable skills that applicants learn at university, in certification programs, and in prior work experience.
The problem is that soft skills can seem intangible. In fact, many consider them innate and unteachable. But with the right tools, you can teach and develop the soft skills that will help your employees and in turn your business excel. But what exactly are soft skills? Why do they matter and how do we teach and further develop them?
Read on to learn more about the demand for soft skills in the workforce and how an LMS can help develop soft skills.
What are soft skills?
If you think about a job application or CV – mostly they’ll focus on outlining all the hard skills that are included in the job listing. Both the CV and the job ad are usually more focused on ensuring these types of skills are met.
But what about the personal qualities or the soft skills that are also hugely important? Just like hard skills, there are many different types of soft skills but some of the main ones when it comes to employees are:
- strong communication skills
- an ability to combat adversity
- emotional intelligence
In short, hard skills can be thought of as the knowledge you have (e.g., engineering degree, proficiency with Photoshop, etc) while soft skills are more about the behaviours you display in specific situations (e.g., calmness and proactivity during times of uncertainty).
To better understand soft skills, let’s look at some examples. The following are some of the most in-demand soft skills recruiters are searching for today.
Time management and proactivity
Time management and proactivity are essential and connected skills. An employee with strong time management and proactivity has the skills to stay on top of tasks and meet deadlines with ease thanks to their ability to prioritise and use their time wisely. They won’t need constant reminders that a project is due. They’ll remain proactive in their pursuit of completion.
Emotional intelligence and positivity
Someone with emotional intelligence knows how to regulate their own emotional response while accounting for the emotions of others around them. They can use their emotions in a positive way to alleviate stress and still communicate effectively. Someone with a positive attitude or an optimistic outlook faces challenges and setbacks with a sense that these things can be overcome. They seek solutions rather than solely focusing on the barriers.
An employee with emotional intelligence and a positive outlook can also improve the resilience of their coworkers.
Communication and teamwork
No job is completed in a vacuum and effective communication skills are crucial in the workplace. An effective communicator is someone who can get their ideas across in a clear, concise manner and give any feedback necessary to meet a larger goal. They express concerns and raise any issues in a constructive manner.
An effective communicator is also someone who works well on a team and has respect for co-workers, superiors, and employees. They are more invested in collaboration and conflict resolution with their peers than in competition. They can delegate while holding up their end, ensuring that all elements of a project are completed.
Work ethics, professional integrity
Strong work ethics lead to accountability. Someone with a strong work ethic won’t place the blame for their mistakes on others or disrespect your time. They’ll conduct themselves and their team with confidence while knowing that their success or failure comes down to their own choices, strengths, and weaknesses.
Like positivity, a strong work ethic can also make your organisation a safer and more comfortable place for everyone. Work ethics can also be associated with professional integrity – showing a commitment to being ethical in the workplace. This can mean that employees are respectful, and focused on creating an environment free from discrimination and harassment.
Adaptability and resilience
Most employees will find that their day-to-day responsibilities change with time. This is especially true of employees that are on the track to rise to a leadership position. While they may start out tackling one project, their responsibilities will grow or shift in response to industry changes and company growth. We are also in an environment that is constantly changing – technology advances rapidly and our social and economic conditions are in a state of flux. Being adaptable and resilient means that an employee can rise to new challenges.
They’re willing to learn new procedures and take on new roles – they are more likely to embrace change and opportunities with a positive mindset.
No organisation is without competition in the twenty-first century. The only way to keep your business running and maintain your competitive edge is to find new and better ways to meet your customers’ and clients’ needs.
Someone that can be innovative has new ideas and recognises a value-add opportunity when they see it. They aren’t afraid to test things out and take on new challenges. They’ll think outside the box and use this creative thinking to improve the business.
Why are soft skills in demand?
As we mentioned earlier, the vast majority of recruiters are seeking applicants with high levels of soft skills. In many ways, the importance of these soft skills speaks for itself. But they are becoming increasingly important in our changing economy.
Let’s take a quick look at three of the primary reasons why soft skills are in high demand today.
Soft skills and leadership positions
What do you envision when you think of a strong leader? A strong leader is more than a person who knows how to operate your organisation’s unique software or understands industry trends.
A strong leader is someone that comes up with great ideas and inspires confidence in their team. A strong leader knows when to take charge and when to delegate and always seeks improvement.
Many of today’s leaders are from the baby boomer generation and are nearing retirement age. In the 2024, 41% of the workforce will be over the age of 55, and one third of that group will be over the age of 65. This will lead to a demand in leadership roles as businesses try to secure successors. Nurturing these soft skills in an essential part of strong leadership, which will help sustain your organisation for the long term.
Soft skills and remote or hybrid work
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen remote and hybrid work increase around the globe. This brings its own set of challenges in which certain soft skills are more important than ever. No longer can you rely on the social, verbal and cultural cues you receive when working in person. It also dramatically shifts the way you communicate, placing more emphasis on strong communication skills.
As such, soft skills like time management, communication and emotional intelligence become even more critical.
The growing soft skills gap
For the past several decades, recruiters and employers have noticed a growing soft skills gap. That means that there are plenty of applicants with the necessary hard skills to meet the job’s demands, but not enough applicants with the soft skills to make an excellent employee. What’s causing this growing gap?
One possible source is the lack of face-to-face interaction experienced by the younger generations. Many students completed their education online and entered a remote workforce. This has impacted their development of soft skills like communication.
There has also been a notable shift in training protocols. Many organisations reduced their learning opportunities, expecting employees to come prepared for the job. This growing gap indicates the need to return to on-the-job training.
How your organisation can foster soft skills?
Many assume that soft skills can’t be taught. After all, they can seem like innate qualities that a person either possesses or doesn’t.
While some people have a high level of soft skills naturally, they can be developed with the right training.
With the right tools, you can train your employees to have conflict-resolution skills, improved communication skills and many more. In fact, by including soft skills training in your broader training programs, you can better instil your company’s core values in your existing employees and new hires.
As part of our learning platform Birch, clients have access to a wide range of free off the shelf content which includes topics that cover many soft skills such as emotional intelligence, non-verbal behaviour, influential leadership and business etiquette.
It’s a fast and effective way to get your training underway.
For more information visit our website.