Filling Workplace Gaps with Soft Skills
By Margaret Hansen
In today's rapidly changing world of technology, tech skills used today could be obsolete tomorrow.
Studies show that job candidates with a high level of "soft skills" are more valuable to a company than those with just technical, professional, or other traditional skill sets. The argument is that soft skills help a person to work with others to get their job done, and they can learn whatever "hard" skills are necessary to perform specific tasks, growing and learning accordingly as the business changes.
According to Peggy Klaus, author of the book "The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smar People Wish They'd Learned Sooner," soft skills can actually make or break one's career.
What Are Soft Skills?
So what exactly are soft skills versus hard skills? Hard skills are specific and can be technical (i.e. software applications) or professional (i.e. widely used project management best practices). Soft skills, on the other hand, tend to relate to one's personality. They come naturally to some, but they can also be learned and developed. Here is a lengthy, but probably incomplete list of what "soft skills" could be.
- Ability to make emotional connections with others
- Team spirit
- Willingness/interest to learn and be trained/educated
- Good with grammar/spelling
- Able to follow rules/regulations/instructions
- Problem solving
- Time management
- Political astuteness
- Communication - listening, eye contact, clear annunciation, etc.
- Ability to set realistic expectations
- Ability to listen and document what's heard
- Relationship building
- Work ethic
- Personal energy
- Motivational skills
- Common sense
- Critical thinking skills
- Ability to use personal influence
- Environmentally conscious ("green")
- Safety conscious
- Meeting facilitation
In her book, Klaus offers 54 workplace lessons learned from soft skill shortcomings, collected over the years from her thousands of hours coaching, training and interviewing people at every corporate level. Here are some of her favorites:
- Knowing yourself is as important as knowing how to do the job
- Your procrastination is trying to tell you something
- When it comes to gossip, learn the art of deflection
- Don't take it personally
- Get out of your own way
Recruiting for and Developing Soft Skills
Whether you are looking to hire someone with the appropriate soft skills or looking to develop an existing employee, here are two options to consider:
- Once you have determined which soft skills are most important to your company, you can then incorporate those priority skills into your recruiting and screening process. One way to do this is by using a skills assessment that can measure such things as a candidate's trustworthiness, cooperation, adaptability and competitive drive.
- Enhancing and developing your staff's soft skills doesn't have to break your budget. Lynda.com offers soft skill courses in negotiation, sales skills fundamentals, acheiving your goals, and and many more at a reasonable price.