Soft skills are gradually becoming more and more the hard skills of today’s workforce requirements. It’s just not enough to be well educated or trained in technical skills without developing the interpersonal and relationship building skills that help people to communicate and collaborate effectively.
Soft skills have more to do with who we are than what we know; this covers the character qualities that decide how well one interacts with others, and when these soft skills are left undeveloped they usually reflect part of one’s personality.
Technical skills can easily be acquired through education and training whereas soft skills are more difficult to change and develop.
Let’s look at some real life examples to shed more light on the importance of soft skills. You have two doctors of equal ability to choose between – which one would you choose go to? The one who is pleasant and takes time to answer your questions or the one who treats you like a number in a long line of people? A doctor with diplomas and years of studies under his belt in understanding and diagnosing illnesses means nothing without empathy, understanding, active listening and a good bedside manner.
Another example – which secretary do you retain when times are tough? The one with the positive, upbeat attitude, who is always willing to help or the one who is inflexible and has a hard time admitting mistakes?
In these situations and other similar situations, knowing how to get along with people and displaying a positive attitude are crucial for success. Ultimately it’s the soft skills that matter.
The dilemma is, the importance of these soft skills are often overlooked, undervalued, and there is far less training provided for them than hard/technical skills. For some reason, organizations seem to expect people to know how to behave on the job. They tend to assume that everyone knows and understands the importance of being on time, taking initiative, being friendly and producing high quality work.
Assuming that soft skills are universal leads to much frustration. That’s why it is so important to focus as much on soft skills training and development as you do on traditional hard skills.
Some of the most valuable soft skills one can look at developing for life and your career include:
Communication skills: It’s more than just speaking the language. Communication skills involve active listening, presentation and excellent writing capabilities.
Interpersonal skills: The ability to work in teams, relate to people and manage conflict goes a long way in showing that you can work well with others.
Adaptability: We live in an ever changing world, therefore having the ability to adapt to changes, manage multiple tasks and adjust to changing surroundings is important.
Problem-solving skills: The ability to use creativity, reasoning, past experience, information and available resources to resolve issues is attractive because it saves everyone’s valuable time.
Strong work ethic: Employers are looking for people who can take initiative, are reliable and can do the job right the first time. Managers don’t have the time or resources to hold someone by the hand.
Emotional Intelligence: Although most likely this will never be seen in a job description. EI is a highly sought after skill that relates to one’s social skills, social awareness and self-management abilities.
While technical skills may get your foot in the door for a new job, role or position, its the people skills which open most of the doors to come. Work ethic, attitude, communication skills, emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes are the soft skills that are crucial for life and career success. Since each is an essential element for organizational and personal accomplishment, developing these skills is very important and does matter… a lot!