We often overlook soft skills in the workplace. Most employers focus on hiring and keeping employees based on their credentials and technical skills. For example, an admin might need to type about 65 words per minute; accountants need certain certifications, and physicians need to complete years of residency training and obtain a medical license.
Beyond having the right technical skills, what goes into choosing your doctor? Do you prefer a doctor who is pleasant and genuinely cares about your health or the one who treats you like a number in a long line? Would you prefer to work with an upbeat assistant who’s always willing to help or the one who comes to work late and trolls on Reddit for the rest of the day?
In these situations, it’s a person’s soft skills that matter.
The Collins English Dictionary defines soft skills as interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate well with other people and work in a team. While we can easily measure hard skills, soft skills refer to a person’s intangible and technical abilities. It can sometimes include enthusiasm, punctuality, loyalty, and a strong work ethic. They’re based on human emotions and the best way to gain them is through real, personal human interactions. Various surveys show that soft skills are sadly lacking amongst recent graduates and new recruits.
With many organizations experiencing a soft skill gap, hiring managers are now more focused on a candidate’s interpersonal skills rather than GPA. Below are the reasons it’s so important to focus as much on soft skills training as you do on traditional hard skills.
- It differentiates model employees from adequate employees. In a competitive job market, there is a need to stand out from the crowd. While your credentials and technical ability may get your foot in the door, your soft skills are what will set you apart and open doors to potential opportunities.
- Your career potential depends on it. Your communication skills, work ethic, attitude, emotional intelligence, and other personal attributes are crucial for career success. By demonstrating your soft skills at work, you’ll be able to exhibit your potential to succeed and progress in your career.
- They’re essential for building and maintaining relationships. Soft skills help us communicate and collaborate with colleagues. It also plays a key role when facing external customers and clients. This is especially true if you work in an industry that requires a lot of networking and relationship-building such as sales, public relations, finance, military, real estate, esthetics, media, or entertainment.
- It creates a productive and healthy work environment. A successful Chinese Singaporean businesswoman who spoke in a conference I attended gave this advice: A harmonious workplace is a prosperous workplace. She’s right. The workplace is an interpersonal space where people build and foster relationships with each other. Employers value soft skills because they enable staff members to thrive in teams and function cooperatively. After all, it’s easier to get work done when everyone gets along well.
- You’ll retain your job when robots take over. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, robots could take over as much as 52 percent of the current job market by 2025. You’re more likely to lose your job to the likes of R2-D2 and C-3PO if your job depends on more repetitive tasks. These unlucky occupations include accountants, administrative assistants, customer service representatives, and electrical or mechanical technicians. However, there are still skills and roles a machine can’t do. Artificial Intelligence is incapable of thinking critically, develop listening skills, and become competent leaders. Organizations still need a human touch- the ability to empathize and deal with people in a kind and friendly manner- and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future