From critical thinking to leadership, here are soft skills all employees need
As companies continue to build diverse and engaging workplaces, recruiters are increasingly on the lookout for employees with strong people skills – otherwise known as “soft skills.”
But what are these soft skills and how can employers identify them in candidates and in their workforce?
Soft skills and its importance
Soft skills are interpersonal behavioral and personality traits that shape how employees work and interact with coworkers, managers, and customers. These skills revolve around a person’s personality, manners, and attitude – some examples include empathy, integrity, adaptability, time management, and creativity.
Soft skills are also known as personal, interpersonal, essential, and non-technical skills – but whatever the name, the definition and concept are the same.
Smart employers desire and value these skills because they are integral for team cohesion and productivity. Employees with good soft skills can also play a role in ensuring a high level of customer service.
"Though harder to quantify, soft skills can be what sets a jobseeker apart from the competition. Soft skills have evolved in recent years from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘need-to-have’ competencies," David Jones, senior managing director at Robert Half Asia Pacific, told HRD. “As our workplaces become more collaborative, employers need an employee who can not only perform the job well, but who also demonstrates sound communication, leadership and team-building qualities.”
Soft skills vs hard skills
On the other hand, hard skills – also known as technical skills – revolve around the technical knowledge needed to perform a job.
Hard skills are more quantifiable and measurable. They are also comparatively easier to learn than soft skills.
So, while hard skills are also more specific for certain jobs and roles, soft skills fit a wider range of jobs and work environments.
Employers should aim to balance the two skill sets, as one set cannot achieve success without the other.
Essential soft skills in the workplace
There are many soft skills employees can possess – and each one just as important as the other. Below, we list the more well-known soft skills that every leader and employee needs:
All roles can make use of good communication skills, whether done through written media, spoken words, or visual aids like graphs, slides, and charts. And all employees use communication skills daily, whether talking to managers, team members, customers, colleagues, and vendors.
However, a good communicator is also a good listener. Leaders and employees need to be able to listen and understand each other. Good communicators also have above-average social skills, writing abilities, and public speaking skills. If there is poor communication within the workplace, it could lead to frequent misunderstand and frustration.
Critical thinkers are able to identify, analyze, and solve problems systematically instead of relying on intuition and instinct. Some skills related to critical thinking are creativity, innovation, resourcefulness, flexibility, and adaptability.
No matter the position, everyone in a workplace should be able to analyze situations to make informed decisions.
Employers value employees who possess the traits of a good leader. Good leaders can quickly make sound decisions, manage different situations, and speak to people calmly and reasonably. Even when they aren’t in leadership roles, good leaders will not hesitate to help whenever challenging situations arise.
Other skills related to leadership include the ability to inspire people, manage conflicts, give clear feedback, mentor subordinates, and lead projects.
It is not enough to have a good leader. For a workplace to be successful, employees need be able to work together and use their strengths towards a shared goal.
Good teamwork helps improve productivity rates and minimizes conflicts between individuals. To encourage teamwork, companies should ensure clear communication lines and foster mutual respect among their employees. When employees respect each other, they’ll be better able to share ideas, solve problems, and work together.
Some skills related to teamwork are empathy, group decision-making, active listening, and accountability.
As early as the hiring process, employers should already seek potential employees who have a positive attitude and demeanor. Employees who are friendly, eager to work, and have uplifting enthusiasm can increase the overall happiness of their colleagues and help boost morale in the workplace. Cultivating a positive attitude can also help build respect, trust, and equality in a diverse workplace.
Employees and leaders who work with a positive attitude can also possess other skills like respectfulness, honesty, enthusiasm, confidence, team player, and patience.
Work ethic is something companies need to be mindful of. Each organization has its own unique company culture that works for them, and employers need to know whether a candidate’s work ethic fits well with the company. Someone with a strong work ethic is dedicated, motivated, and committed to their roles and takes pleasure from achieving success.
Employees who have a strong work ethic usually possess other skills like attentiveness, independence, dependability, perseverance, multitasking, and good organizational skills.
Read more: How to bridge the soft skills gap
Benefits of soft skills
A combination of soft skills in the workplace is important to the success of organizations. Nearly every job role requires employees to engage with each other in some way. Soft skills are called transferable skills as those skills can be used in any field and workplace, regardless of the individual’s job – which is why hiring managers and leaders constantly look for candidates who possess soft skills.
Soft skills also help employees maximize their hard skills which ultimately increases the quality of their work. A workplace that prioritizes soft skills sees constant career progression and promotion, improved retention rates, and high employee satisfaction.
According to a World Economic Forum report, soft skills will be among the most important skills in the workplace. It is easy to underestimate the importance of soft skills, but companies would be wise to invest in growing soft skills in their employees to remain competitive and successful as a business.