The growing importance of Soft Skills
30 August 2019
Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to complement hard skills.
For decades the focus of management was on the so-called "hard" skills. That is, on the technical skills necessary to effectively perform within the organization. These skills tended to be more job-specific or more closely related to the actual task being performed. Today, employers need managers with the critical soft skills. These skills tend to be more generic in nature. In other words, these are skills key to effective performance across all job categories. And these soft skills have come to play an even more crucial role in management positions in today's environment. As the world has changed and the nature of work has changed, the skill set required of managers has changed.
Soft skills have always been important, and they’re increasingly vital today. The rise of automation and artificial intelligence means that hard skills alone are no longer enough to be successful.
In the last few years, many surveys have been conducted in UK businesses. Employers have been asked the skills they want to see in their employees. Time after time the results remain consistent. The soft skills are in demand. Unfortunately, these are the skills that are in short supply. Topping the list for most UK businesses are a need for communication skills, interpersonal skills, team player skills, ethics, creativity, an ability to value diversity, responsiveness and a willingness to change.
Lydia Liu, Head of HR, Home Credit Consumer Finance Co. Ltd said ‘While hard skills may get a candidate’s foot in the door, it’s soft skills that ultimately open it’.
With the constant increase in technology many hard skills are shrinking, however soft skills stay relevant: a particular programming language may go out of fashion, but creativity, adaptability, and collaboration skills will always be valuable.
Many companies still struggle to accurately assess soft skills, despite their growing value. If companies want a hiring strategy for the future, they need to change how they identify and hire for soft skills. Therefore identifying poor soft skills is much harder, which is why they’re often discovered too late, after a hire has been made. Bad hires are almost never a matter of hard skills alone. Talent professionals know this, which is why they prioritize soft skills alongside hard skills during the hiring process.
Let’s be clear: hard skills matter but soft skills are important and are often approached less directly. In fact, 68% of talent professionals say the main way they assess soft skills is by picking up on social cues in interviews. She seemed upbeat, so she’s probably a good collaborator; he seemed nervous, so he’s probably not a good leader.
The problem is that these perceptions aren’t predictive, and worse, they’re often unconsciously biased. Unfortunately, this unstructured approach is extremely common—which is probably why so many struggle to assess soft skills accurately
Do you know what your soft skill strengths are? Self-awareness is critical. Today all employees are responsible for their own career development. This means every employee must know what they can and cannot do. If you would like a chat about your career or your CV and to ensure that potential employers see both your hard and soft skills then please do give me a call.
Companies also need a complete inventory of knowledge, skills and abilities (referred to as KSAs) which should be performed on a regular basis. This should then be compared with the KSAs considered critical to success in the workplace. If you are involved with recruiting in Healthcare Communications and want to discuss ways to help determine potential employees soft skills then please do contact me.