Soft skills are the personal attributes, communication abilities, and interpersonal qualities that enable us to work well with others and succeed in our careers. While technical skills are still important, it is often the soft skills that distinguish top performers from average ones.
The ability to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, and adapt to changing circumstances is essential for success in today’s workplace. Employers are increasingly recognising the value of soft skills and seeking out candidates who possess them. In this article, we’ll explore the power of soft skills and how they can employees and organisations thrive in the modern workplace.
What are soft skills?
These skills are often intangible and difficult to measure, still, employers value them tremendously because they are essential to building successful relationships and achieving business objectives. Some examples of soft skills include constructive communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, time management, conflict resolution, creativity, emotional intelligence, and cultural awareness among others.
Soft skills are often contrasted with hard skills, which are technical or job-specific skills that are easier to measure, quantify and teach. While hard skills are essential for our expertise and professional contribution to the business, employers recognise that individuals who possess strong soft skills are more likely to be successful in their roles and influence positively the organisation’s culture and bottom line.
The importance of soft skills cannot be overstated. In today’s fast-paced and dynamic work environments, employers are looking for candidates who possess a combination of technical expertise and soft skills. Soft skills are particularly valuable for roles that involve collaboration and communication, as they can help to build trust, resolve conflicts, and foster a positive work environment.
Moreover, if you possess strong soft skills you are more likely to be considered for leadership positions or promotions.
According to a study conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, having well-developed soft skills and people skills accounts for 85% of an individual’s career success. In contrast, hard skills such as technical skills and knowledge only make up 15% of one’s career success. This research emphasises the importance of soft skills in achieving success in the workplace. While hard skills are undoubtedly essential, developing strong communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills can set individuals apart and help them thrive in their careers.
In some cases, having excellent soft skills can even compensate for a lack of technical expertise, as employers may be more willing to train individuals who demonstrate strong soft skills.
Why are soft skills as important as hard skills?
Soft skills are just as important as hard skills because they complement technical expertise and enable us to apply our knowledge effectively in real-world situations.
Here are some reasons why soft skills are essential in the workplace:
- They enable effective communication
Effective communication is essential in any workplace, and soft skills such as active listening, clarity, and empathy are critical for building trust and understanding among colleagues and clients.
- They foster teamwork
Most workplaces require us to work with others on projects or tasks, and soft skills such as collaboration, conflict resolution, and leadership are essential for building strong and productive teams.
- They enhance problem-solving abilities
Soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and adaptability are essential for solving complex problems and navigating uncertainty in the workplace.
- They promote employee engagement
Employees who possess strong soft skills are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work, which can lead to higher productivity and lower turnover rates.
- They support career advancement
While hard skills may get individuals in the door for an interview, soft skills are often what separate successful candidates from those who are not. Possessing strong soft skills can lead to career advancement opportunities, promotions, and increased job satisfaction, ultimately contributing to a more fulfilling and successful professional life.
Additionally, employers who value and prioritise soft skills often cultivate positive work environments that foster collaboration, innovation, and growth for both employees and the organisation as a whole.
By recognising the value of soft skills and investing in their development, you can position yourself for long-term success in your career.
How to Assess Soft Skills in Candidates?
Assessing soft skills in candidates can be challenging since these skills are often intangible and difficult to measure. However, there are several methods that HR experts can use to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills during the recruitment process.
One of the most effective ways to assess soft skills is through behavioural interviewing. This approach involves asking candidates to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain soft skills in the past. For example, you could ask a candidate to describe a time when they had to work collaboratively with a team to achieve a common goal. That way, you can gain insights into their communication style, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
A recent paper (the class of 2030) by Microsoft and McKinsey highlights that social-emotional skills will be a crucial component of future jobs, accounting for 30 to 40% of required skills. There are also several assessment tests available that can help measure a candidate’s soft skills. These tests are designed to evaluate specific traits, such as emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills. However, it’s important to use these tests in combination with other evaluation methods, as they can be limited in their accuracy and scope.
Checking a candidate’s references can also provide valuable insights into their soft skills. You can ask former managers or colleagues to describe the candidate’s communication style, their ability to work collaboratively, or their leadership skills.
Another approach that recruiters may use is role-playing exercises. They can help evaluate a candidate’s soft skills in action. For example, you could simulate a customer service scenario and observe how the candidate responds to difficult customers. This can provide insights into their problem-solving, communication, and conflict-resolution skills.
Overall, assessing the soft skills of candidates requires a multifaceted approach. Using a combination of techniques, you can gain a better understanding of a candidate’s personal qualities and abilities.
6 Benefits of Hiring Candidates with Strong Soft Skills
Did you know that in reality, only 31% of employers conduct soft skill development training for their employees?
Hiring candidates with strong soft skills can bring numerous benefits to an organisation, including:
- Better teamwork and collaboration
Candidates with strong soft skills, such as communication, interpersonal skills, and teamwork, can work more effectively with others, fostering a positive and collaborative work environment.
- Increased productivity
Candidates with strong time management and problem-solving skills can help to increase productivity by working efficiently and resolving issues quickly.
- Improved customer service
Candidates with strong communication skills and emotional intelligence can provide better customer service and can understand and respond to customer needs more effectively.
- Enhanced leadership
Candidates with strong leadership skills can motivate and guide their teams, leading to better decision-making, higher productivity, and increased employee satisfaction.
- Greater adaptability
Candidates with strong adaptability skills can adjust to new situations and challenges, helping the organisation to respond more effectively to changes in the market and meet industry demands.
- Reduced employee turnover
Hiring candidates with strong soft skills can lead to increased job satisfaction and better employee retention, reducing the cost and disruption of employee turnover.
Overall, hiring candidates with strong soft skills can help build a positive and productive work culture, improve client satisfaction, increase productivity, and drive business success.
To sum it up
Soft skills are critical for success in today’s workplace. As the job market evolves and becomes more competitive, we can stay competitive not only with strong technical abilities but also through strong communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills.
To improve their soft skills, job seekers can take a variety of steps, such as seeking out opportunities to practice their communication and teamwork skills, taking courses or workshops on problem-solving and leadership, and practising active listening.
Employers are recognising the importance of soft skills and seeking out candidates who can collaborate effectively, build relationships, and navigate complex workplace dynamics. While assessing soft skills in candidates can be challenging, using effective strategies such as behavioural interview questions and skills assessments can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s abilities.
By prioritising the development of soft skills, both people and organisations can thrive in the modern workplace and achieve greater levels of success.