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What are Soft Skills & Why Are They So Important?
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Recruiting & Hiring

What are Soft Skills & Why Are They So Important?

One Minute Takeaway

  • In the evolving workplace, soft skills such as empathy, resilience, communication, and creative thinking have become increasingly crucial.
  • Rather than being a “nice-to-have,” these skills significantly boost productivity and retention, delivering a substantial return on investment.
  • Developing these soft skills among employees is achievable through continuous learning and practice, with managerial involvement boosting the chances of engagement.

As the workplace continues to evolve and the world undergoes constant upheaval, soft skills have become even more important. While more traditional technical “hard skills” such as managing a budget, coding, data analysis, and writing are still needed for day-to-day success, soft skills training has proven time and again to result in stronger leadership and long-term success within a company.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are ways of thinking and being that allow us to manage our own mental health as well as interact with and navigate through social situations with others.

Some examples of soft skills include:

Where hard skills require doing, soft skills are often more focused on ways of being or thinking.

Why are soft skills so important?

Soft skills were previously considered a “nice to have” in business when, in fact, studies have shown that strong soft skills boost productivity and retention by 12% and can deliver a 250% return on investment.

A 2021 study found that employees who had highly empathic senior leadership reported greater creativity levels (61%) and higher engagement (76%) than those who had less empathic senior leadership—13% and 32% respectively (Catalyst).

This research makes it clear that soft skills training creates effective employees and leaders. By creating an environment where soft skills are celebrated, we remove the assumption that they’re not a must-have for top-performing employees and reiterate their importance in the workplace.

Which soft skills are most wanted by employers?

According to an aggregate compiled list of industry articles, the top power skills employers look for are:

  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Teamwork
  • Research
  • Goal setting
  • Leadership
  • Creative thinking
  • Positive mindset
  • Assessment skills
  • Good work ethic and resilience

While these skills seem like basic expectations of people in the workforce, one study showed that 59% of U.S. hiring managers say it’s difficult to find candidates with these particular soft skills (LinkedIn). While not all employees come into a role with these skills perfected, the good news is that they can be developed over time with the right learning and development program.

How do I help my team build soft skills?

The best way to build soft skills is through continuous learning in the flow of work. Soft skills don’t come naturally to everyone, especially as some of them are closely related to societal norms, which may be challenging for neurodivergent individuals. But with ongoing reflection, learning, and practice employees can develop these skills.

Trying to hone numerous soft skills at once can be overwhelming for anyone, so decide on a set of skills that align with your organization’s values and start there. Consider investing in an L&D platform that enables you to curate for learning outcomes that are important to your business.

It’s also been proven that manager involvement increases the likelihood that employees engage with skills development opportunities, so get your leadership team involved in the conversation.

Focusing on soft skills in today’s workplace

Many companies are working more asynchronously than ever before, experiencing retention and hiring challenges, and trying to deal with taxing world events affecting mental health.

While it’s exceptionally important for leadership to develop their soft skills to deal with these difficulties, making sure every employee is sharpening these skills is key. Developing soft skills company-wide will influence and shift the culture to make even the biggest obstacles manageable as a human-centered organization.