Every organization needs workplace superstars today who sail with sales and marketing, know the nuances of hiring well, and have a global perspective. Technology has made inroads in every aspect of management and even meanders seamlessly through what most know as personal ‘soft skills’. Employers value technical or functional skills and place greater emphasis on less tangible qualities such as good communication skills, cooperativeness, flexibility and a positive attitude. This is because the need of the hour is to prepare future workers for an employment market that is far more volatile than we’ve seen in the last 50 years.
“Soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s ‘EQ’ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, behavior and optimism that characterize relationships with other people”
Today’s corporate world looks for attributes like effective communication, adaptability, ability to embrace change, quick learning, proactive initiative, an open and positive mind-set, computer literacy and presentation skills, well-rounded general awareness, an insight into proper dress sense, and lots of business etiquette.
Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude, leadership trainer and CEO of Leadership IQ, has trained employees in companies like Microsoft and IBM discovered in one of his research where he tracked 20,000 new hires that 46% of employees failed within 18 months. Even more shocking was that 89% of the time it happened for attitudinal problems towards work and colleagues, and only 11% for lack of expertise. The attitudinal deficits included low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament. Obviously then, today’s fluid and interpersonal workplaces need skills such listening and learning from criticism, collaborating with others, working under pressure, presenting ideas effectively, and a having a positive, flexible attitude become all vital qualities for career success. One recent survey of recruiters found that 94 percent believe “an employee with stronger soft skills has a better chance of being promoted to a leadership position than an employee with more years of experience but weaker soft skills.”
Hard skills, once learned, can be strengthened and maintained but soft skills, on the other hand, do not change unless one continues to refine and develop them. Thus your hard /technical skills will get you a job but a lack of soft skills might lead you to lose that job.
As a manager, you’ll probably also find yourself more often in the position of giving presentations and speaking in public. You’ll probably spend more time interviewing job candidates, too. Successful managers tend to be outstanding communicators who know what to say (or what not to say) and how to say it.
Technology is reshaping pretty much everyone’s job these days and automation is replacing humans in performing certain tasks, if not entire occupations. In such an environment, successful employees will be those who excel in areas where robots and algorithms cannot. So far, computers are no match for people when it comes to critical thinking, creativity, judgment and the like. Then there are the professional skills that form the foundation of every successful career, the strengths that can take an employee from satisfactory to outstanding. For instance, there are few positions where being good at managing your time and maintaining focus wouldn’t be appreciated. Both of these skills boost productivity. To your co-workers, someone with these skills is someone they can count on to meet important deadlines and deliver what’s expected. Communication, both written and verbal, is another soft skill most of us could improve.
It is time, therefore, to learn strategies for finding a healthy balance in your workday, so stress doesn’t undermine your performance. Some aspects of soft skills that most of those at the start of their career need to know well, are:
Why you need them: Both written and verbal communication skills are of utmost importance in the workplace because they set the tone for how people perceive you. They also improve your chances of building relationships with co-workers. Communication skills boost your performance because they help you to extract clear expectations from your manager so that you can deliver excellent work.
Why employers look for them: Workers are more productive when they know how to communicate with their peers. If you can clearly express the – who, what, when, where, why, and how of a project, you’ll be a hot ticket.
How to gain them: One way to hone your communication and presentation skills is to practice the art of public speaking & becoming a good patient listener.
Why you need them: A company’s success is rarely dependent on one person doing something all by him/herself. Success is the result of many people working toward a common goal. When employees can synthesize their varied talents, everyone wins. (Bonus: Having friends at work can also boost your job satisfaction)
Why employers look for them: Employers look to team players to help build a friendly office culture, which helps retain employees and, in turn attracts top talent. Furthermore, being able to collaborate well with your co-workers strengthens the quality of your work.
How to gain them: To generate goodwill, lend a hand when you see a co-worker in need. (“Hey, I know you have a ton on your plate. How can I help?”)
Why you need them: Things don’t always go as planned, and instead of digging in your heels, you need to be able to pivot and find alternate solutions.
Why employers look for them: “The speed of change in any given workplace is so rapid,” says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Consequently, employers need workers who can adapt to industry shifts and keep the company current.
How to gain them: Push yourself to be an early adopter of change. “For example, adapting to technology without mourning what used to be true yesterday is crucial for people to be seen as someone who is capable of meeting new challenges,” says Garfinkle.
Problem solving skills
Why you need them: When something goes wrong, you can either complain or take action. Tip: It’s the latter that will get you noticed. Knowing how to think on your feet can make you indispensable to an employer.
Why employers look for them: Companies rely on problem solvers— their top performers—to navigate unexpected challenges & look for feasible solutions.
How to gain it: “Always approach your boss with a solution, not a problem”. So when an issue crops up, sit down and think through how you’re going to address it before bringing it to your boss’ attention.
Critical observation skills
Why you need them: Data doesn’t mean much if you don’t know how to interpret it. Is there a pattern emerging? What else should you be looking for ? Being a critical observer can help you perform better.
Why employers look for them: Companies need critical thinkers—people who bring a fresh perspective and offer intuitive solutions and ideas to help the company get a leg up on the competition or improve internal processes.
How to gain them: To be a critical observer, you need to be able to analyze information and put it to use. One tactic is to try to identify patterns of behavior at work. For example, does your boss actually read the weekly sales reports? What was her reaction to bad news in the staff meeting? What’s the best time of day to approach your manager with a question? By observing how people respond to the constant flow of information you can better understand the critical aspects of improving business operations.
Conflict resolution skills
Why you need them: “Any time you put more than one person into an organization, there is going to be conflict,” “It’s human nature.” Therefore, being able to resolve issues with co-workers will help you maintain relationships with peers and work more effectively.
Why employers want them: Being able to constructively work through disagreements with people is a sure indicator of maturity—as well as leadership potential. Someone like this helps to promote a healthy, collaborative workplace.
How to gain them: The best way to resolve disagreements between co-workers is to address issues directly but delicately. So, when stepping in as a mediator, let both parties air their grievances in a judgment-free environment and then work together to find a solution.
Why you need them: Having confidence and a clear vision can help influence your co-workers and get them on board with your ideas now and in the future. Displaying such leadership skills helps you gain visibility within an organization, which can lead to more opportunities for promotions or salary bumps.
Why employers want them: Bosses and managers are always looking for employees with leadership potential because those workers will one day be taking over the reins and building on the company’s legacy.
How to gain them: Being a leader isn’t merely about getting people to do what you want. Leadership means inspiring and helping others reach their full potential. One way to do that is to become the internship supervisor, which gives you the opportunity to manage people, learn how to motivate a team, and take on more responsibility.
“Never stop learning because life never stops Teaching”