Chris Russell

2 min read

Human Resources

Soft Skills In the Workplace

Soft skills in the workplace have become as important as technical skills, and many employers say they’d hire and promote someone with excellent communication skill over a more technically abled candidate whose soft skills don’t measure up.

“Having the right experience and technical skills for a job is not enough,” says Emmett McGrath, president of the staffing and outsourcing company Yoh. “Job candidates also need to fit in culturally and have non-technical skills in order to success.”

A survey Yoh commissioned found 75% of the 2,000 respondents would hire a candidate with soft skills even if they had less than the desired experience or qualifications.

Importance of Soft Skills

That echoes the importance recruiters place on soft skills in the workplace, according to Linkedin’s Global Talent Trends 2019. 92% of 5,000 talent professionals across 35 countries said soft skills “matter as much or more than hard skills when they hire, and 80% say they’re increasingly important to company success.”

It’s not just white collar workers who benefit from have strong soft skills in the workplace. A research team led by Namrata Kala, MIT Sloan economics professor, conducted a year-long soft skills training program at a garment manufacturing factory. Eight months after it ended, productivity improvement and gains from quicker problem solving and better attendance returned 250% on the investment in training.

Though surveys and employers often use different names or labels for the same types of soft skills, they all agree on the core important soft skills in the workplace:

  • Communication, both listening as well as speaking and often writing
  • Teamwork, collaboration, cooperation all mean the same: the ability to work smoothly with others.
  • Adaptability. Employers want workers who can adjust quickly to changing circumstances and who can figure out how to that.
  • Creativity is the ability to think of better or unique ways to solve problems or improve efficiency; out of the box thinking.
  • Interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence. Both are used to describe the ability to get along with people and understand them on an emotional level. 

Since Covid, employers are placing an even greater emphasis on adaptability and resilience, adding them to the list of the more important skills in the workplace. A Lever report said the pandemic, which forced companies to make changes overnight, made adaptability even more prized than it was in the past.

Communication Skills Most Wanted

Good communication skills, long a recruiting priority, are still one of the top skills employers want. Companies also seek creative thinkers and workers with good emotional intelligence, skills that LinkedIn tells us are in short supply, but high demand.

While all surveys agree on the importance of soft skills in the workplace, as a group, managers are most invested in improving their soft skills and learning new ones. A survey of learning and development professionals and managers discovered that managers spend 30% more time than the average employee learning soft skills.

That survey also found two-thirds of Gen Z workers spent more learning last year than they did in the past and their rate of participation in learning was higher than every other worker age group. Much of their emphasis was on learning hard skills, compared to older workers who were more focused on improving their soft skills.

That may be a consequence of age. Younger workers have simply had less job experience and time to learn technical skills and expand their range. 

Yet, as Tanya Staples, VP of product and content for LinkedIn Learning, says, “Companies today want employees that can solve difficult challenges and dream up creative and innovative ideas that technologies cannot replicate.” 

Contribution by John Zappe

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