January 6, 2020

The importance of soft skills

Technical skills can be taught and learned, but being able to ‘read’ people is an art

Beyond those who are clever and possess innate knowledge, who do you turn to when you need to be understood? While your technical skills may take you far in your life and career, your people skills or “soft” skills will open up other opportunities that might not be immediately visible.

The most successful leaders are those with a great work ethic who are able to encourage the same values in their workforce, not only for the benefit of the organisation but also to help each individual move along the path to excellence. Such leaders also recognise the value of soft skills, which is rare in a world where so much importance these days seems to be placed on hard skills.

Organisations tend to expect people to naturally know how to behave in their jobs. They assume that everyone is aware and acknowledges the importance of taking initiative, being on time, speaking with respect and producing quality work. However, in reality, the majority don’t appreciate the value of soft skills.

When an organisation evaluates its people, it should be obvious that they have the competence required to do the work at hand, or else they wouldn’t have been hired in the first place. Thus, rather than focusing on people’s technical qualifications, leaders should focus on what might be lacking within the organisation.

 

According to Mindtools, soft skills complement hard skills, helping the organisation utilise its technical expertise to its utmost potential. For example, if you are really good at getting clients but not good at retaining them, chances are that you have a soft-skills gap.

The same goes for companies that have lots of managers but no real leaders. The latter are the ones who really understand what matters in a workforce. In fact, if anyone who is responsible for a team is unable to recognise the wealth of knowledge, proficiency and experience its members possess, the organisation should immediately assess the quality of interpersonal skills and communication present in the company.

A good manager or leader needs to be attuned to the way in which individuals listen, present their ideas and resolve conflicts, in order to foster an open and honest work environment where people have positive relationships with one another. Such an approach encourages development, not only of individuals but in the growth of the organisation as well.

When you put it into context, hard skills can easily be taught and learned over a period of time, but developing soft skills requires considerable personal discipline, as they are linked with one’s character traits.

Consequently, conscious effort, practice and commitment to self-development will result in improvement of soft skills. Hard skills may look good on your CV but what will set you apart from the rest of the candidates is the way you project yourself and convey your message across the table.

 

Keys to Collaboration

In fact, soft skills are becoming the “new” hard skills of today’s workforce. It is no longer sufficient to be highly trained in technical fields without also developing your interpersonal and relationship-building abilities. These are the skills that will encourage people to collaborate effectively and succeed in the increasingly competitive world we are experiencing today.

At my company, under the YourNextU model, we offer courses based on the fundamentals of being able to “read” others, together with advice on how to understand your own style and preferences and apply them.

When you are able to read others, it can be a magical gift that will help provide them with the means to navigate challenges; a few well-chosen words from you could have a lasting impact. Not only are they influenced, but you will be transformed in terms of how you see yourself and others, fostering your own growth and deepening interpersonal relationships on a professional and personal basis.

If you haven’t given a lot of thought to whether your soft skills are effective, consider this: According to a study in Deloitte Access Economics, it is predicted that two-thirds of all jobs in Australia will lean toward soft skills by 2030. That’s only a decade away.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, as automation and artificial intelligence make bigger inroads into our workplaces, a greater proportion of the remaining jobs available for humans will rely heavily on soft skills. Even though hard skills are still needed to accomplish tasks, soft skills will be the key differentiators in the workplace.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com