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The Importance of Soft Skills in Business
BY MG MASON - CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR | 14 MAY 2018
The workplace has changed a great deal in the last ten years; consequently, jobs and the requirements of hiring managers for some roles have changed with them. “Hard skills” (technical knowledge, education) are still important, but today “soft skills” that complement hard skills and education are proving just as invaluable. This means that workplaces that lack or do not focus on improving soft skills are not making the most of their human resources.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills can come in many forms. It is defined as a combination of people and social skills, communication and one’s own personal traits such as workplace attitude. They include but are not limited to:
- Coping under pressure
- Empathy and emotional intelligence
- Flexibility, the openness and ability to adapt to change
- A growth mindset
Put simply, soft skills are any skills that are not technical or educational in nature but contribute greatly to workplace harmony, productivity, efficiency and team cohesion.
Why is it Important to Have Soft Skills in Business?
Soft skills have always been important in business but in the last few years, it’s become clear just how much more important they have become to the changing needs of the workplace. Employees today at all levels are required to do more with less than they were even ten years ago. Many professional reports demonstrate how much of a gap exists between the soft skills the modern employee possesses and that which their employers require in the modern workplace.
Communication, the ability to pull together and to overcome difficulties, listening and empathising suddenly became just as important as their qualifications, technical knowledge and other such hard skills. The new situation cannot be ignored and evidence bears out that businesses need these skills to ensure success as much as employees need them to ensure they are able to do their jobs. Even in highly technical roles such as IT, professionals with wide and deep knowledge of their subject are increasingly finding it difficult to get hired because they lack complementary soft skills.
The Challenges to Modern Businesses
Hard skills can be easily taught to most people with the right training methods. However, it’s widely recognised that soft skills are harder to learn and to teach. The reason is that over a lifetime work, habits and attitudes become ingrained. Developing new soft skills involves changing attitudes, work philosophy and overcome personal character flaws. Arguably, it takes much more commitment, awareness of one’s own flaws and openness to overcome a personal trait than a lack of technical knowledge.
Deloitte reported transferable soft skills are becoming so important that by 2030, around 2/3 of all job roles will require soft skill intensive employees. It’s partly a mix of customer demand and the need for innovation and productivity. The potential rewards are limitless with the right tools and effective application.
Essential Soft Skills and the Challenges They Can Overcome
There are dozens of soft skills but, according to a recent Randstad report, these four are basic requirements for most jobs;
Communication is the soft skill that binds teams together. Without communication, the team lacks efficiency, harmony and the ability to pull together in a crisis. Encouraging openness at all levels can help identify problems as they arise and lead to faster action.
Flexibility is the ability and willingness to adapt to a changing situation. Without it, no business can move forward. When your employees understand the need to adapt they can cope with problems when they arise. This, in turn, drives success.
Problem Solving: Considered the most important soft skill in the Randstad survey, thinking outside the box in the age of Google is one of the biggest problem areas today. Employees with the confidence to solve problems are inquisitive and have lots of initiative vital to making a success of tricky situations.
Time Management: The backbone of efficiency, the ability to schedule time for tasks and to present self-discipline reduces instances of fake work, prevents time wasting and helps everyone in the organisation achieve their goals.
(Soft) Skills Gap
If your employee base has all the technical skills they need but poor communication, a lack of flexibility or poor cohesion, it’s likely you have a soft skills gap. Soft skills are just as important as hard skills, complementing their technical expertise, professional experience and qualifications. Soft skills shortages can also exist at management level – many managers with no leaders is not an unsolvable problem. Neither is a lack of communication from the top down or from the bottom up.
Irish Times Training are committed to helping organisations just like yours improve the soft skills of employees. Contact the team today on (01) 472 7101 to talk about the range of solutions available.
About the author
MG Mason is a freelance content writer from England. He writes regularly on a variety of B2B business subjects including training and education information for an environmental site in the US.