What are Soft Skills?

Happy woman and man at work

They are human qualities we all have – character traits and interpersonal skills. They influence how we think and interact with others in the workplace and in our personal life. Many organisations rate soft skills as the most important skills they want in future employees. Technical or practical skills can be learnt whilst soft skills are inherent.

The four most important soft skills employers are looking for in the modern workplace are:
  • Communication – in all its forms
  • Interaction/Teamwork – how you work in teams, relate with colleagues’ and peers, how you manage relationships up and down
  • Creativity – how you approach challenges, how you ideate, propose ideas and improvements
  • Innovation – the ability to see what’s not there and make it happen

As the world, society and the workplace evolve, it is easy to understand why soft skills are becoming a vital and central factor in the decision making process when hiring a new employee. Businesses demand more of their talent therefore hiring managers typically look for candidates with certain soft skills because they make an employee more successful in the workplace.

The world has evolved and the work place has become more accepting of differences in people, in lifestyles, in communication styles and in approaches. At the same time, society has become less tolerant to perceived poor communication or behaviour in the workplace. An example of this change can be seen in what we consider to be a strong leader. In the past, strong leadership could be defined by forging a top down, (and often very directive) approach. This idea has almost been flipped on its head in modern times. Strong leaders today are often seen as being collaborative leaders with transparent communication styles and inclusive work practices – that is – someone with highly developed soft skills.

Both at work and in life, soft skills are expected and required. Bad communication and bad behaviour are called out, addressed and expected to be corrected, often with coaching and mentoring. In work environments this is more prevalent, with organisational policy ensuring that employees have a clear understanding of acceptable verbal and physical behaviour and communication in the workplace.

What can you do if you feel your soft skills aren’t quite where they need to be?

With so many employers expecting well developed and inherent soft skills what can you do if you feel yours aren’t quite where they need to be? The first step is to understand what soft skills are and then to objectively assess your own soft skills – the ones you have and the ones you need to learn and develop. Deciding to take action to improve your interpersonal skills and master the soft skills employers are looking for is a significant first step in improving and defining the value you offer to current and future employers.

Do you want to assess your soft skills? We invite you to use our Soft Skills assessment tool below.

About Olga Rankin

Olga Rankin has had a lifelong fascination with humans and the way they communicate and behave. Her career, spanning over 20 years, has focused on Organizational Culture and Employee Experience and has expanded her knowledge and passion for effective soft skills.

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