What Are Soft Skills & How To Improve Them At Work
Soft skills are non-technical skills that can improve various aspects of your career by making you a better team member, communicator or manager. Ezra discusses how you can work to improve these soft skills within the parameters of your current job.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see people moving from one job or role to another at a fairly rapid pace. Staying with a single employer or in the same role isn’t as common as it used to be, especially as more unique opportunities open up and are offered to individuals. Climbing up the career ladder like this is extremely common, hence why it’s common for people to develop soft skills that can apply to many different roles and workplaces.
In this post, we’ll be explaining what soft skills are, their importance, and also how one can develop soft skills that can easily be transferred to multiple different roles or workplaces.
What exactly are soft skills?
The term soft skill is used to describe a non-technical skill. In comparison, a hard skill is something that is learned and used exclusively in a particular workplace.
An example of a soft skill could be communication; this is an essential skill that is used in a variety of different businesses and can carry over from one workplace to another.
An example of a hard skill would be the use of a particular machine within a production line. That particular machine might be used in various industries, but the skill can’t be applied to multiple different roles or workplaces. It’s unique to that specific role, hence why it’s known as a technical skill and thus a hard skill.
Why are soft skills important in the workplace?
In 2016, a study was carried out by the assessment company Wonderlic. In the study, they discovered that 93% of employers said that soft skills are either essential or very important when it comes to hiring new employees. In fact, many companies have reported that they look for proof of soft skills more than they search for tech skill credentials. The ability to work in a team and effectively solve problems is extremely important and often comes out ahead of hard skills as a priority when hiring.
However, a 2015 study by LinkedIn showed that 59% of U.S. hiring managers believe that finding a candidate with soft skills is incredibly difficult. This may be due to a lack of quantifiable measures to determine one’s soft skills, or it could be due to a lack of focus from employees to build their soft skills.
What are the most important soft skills?
While there are dozens of important soft skills that you can acquire and transfer from one workplace to another, there are some which are arguably a lot more important to focus on developing. Here are the seven top soft skills that we believe are the most important if you want to be successful in a modern workplace.
Collaborating with team members is incredibly important for larger companies with lots of active processes and moving parts. In order for these processes to line up and be as effective and productive as possible, one must possess excellent teamwork skills that make it easy for them to work in multiple different teams and environments.
Communication skills are all about speaking clearly and understanding others. Whether it’s in your ability to compose coherent emails or how good you are at actively listening to others, communication is a skill that can easily be learned and transferred to multiple industries.
Strong work ethic
Micromanagement is one of the worst ways to manage a team of staff. It creates bottlenecks and doesn’t establish a sense of trust before workers and their managers. By having a strong work ethic, you can build trust with your employer and senior members of staff while showing that you’re committed to producing high-quality work.
Solving problems sounds like a simple task, but creating and deploying effective solutions to a problem is more difficult than it seems. By showing that you can apply your knowledge and skills to find innovative answers to a problem, you’ll be able to excel in your job.
Being adaptable may sound like an old employment cliché, but it’s actually extremely important for employees to understand how to quickly adapt to new situations and remain productive. Companies want workers that are able to quickly switch from one role to another because it makes for a cost-effective employee that is able to handle any task that is thrown at them.
Interpersonal skills are closely related to communication skills as it focuses on interactions between people and maintaining relationships. An important component of interpersonal skills is learning how to be tolerant and respectful of others. This includes understanding their opinions, empathizing with their problems, and also picking the right words to use in order to offer constructive criticism and build a strong level of trust.
While not everyone wants to land themselves a leadership position, it’s actually fairly important to show that you’re capable of leading others even if it’s in a small team capacity. Showing that you can supervise others and take the lead will set you apart from other employees while also cultivating positive relationships both up and down the organizational chain.
Leadership skills also show that you’re able to assess your team and play to their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. It can also show that you’re willing to resolve conflicts and uphold workplace ethics. Being able to nurture this by acting as a leadership coach to others is even more valuable, whatever your current role or position.
Encouraging the development of soft skills
Developing soft skills is often based on changing the mentality of employees within the workplace. Individuals should be encouraged to reflect on their own performance at work, and it’s also important to develop a mindset that is always open to learning new skills and accepting criticism.
Of course, one of the most effective ways to develop soft skills is with access to support such as coaching. Coaches are experts at analyzing the way you work and they can build effective plans to help you overcome your weaknesses when it comes to soft skills. By providing plenty of effective feedback, you can reflect on the way you perform and behave in the workplace and gradually make changes to encourage the development of soft skills in a way that will help you grow into your desired long term career position.
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