Soft skills are the personal attributes that are needed to succeed in the workplace. They’re often related to how employees work with others (otherwise known as ‘people skills’), and are different to ‘hard skills’ (such as quantifiable qualifications or discipline expertise) in that they’re much harder to learn. They’re often developed innately and will come more easily to some people than others, due to natural instinct.
It’s so important to nurture and guide the people within your organisation to ensure they are consistently developing their repertoire of ‘soft skills’, which will equip them with the right skills and knowledge to deal with any workplace situation. Whether the employee is customer-facing or someone who works behind the scenes, it’s vital that their soft skills are being further developed so that they can have positive, meaningful interactions with both clients and colleagues.
What are some examples of soft skills?
Communication skills are vital for almost every job, whether you’re communicating with colleagues, clients, customers or employers. Your organisation’s employees need to be able to articulate themselves clearly, as well as listen effectively and empathically to others.
Employees also need to be able to think critically, analyse situations and make informed decisions based on their own knowledge and expertise. Skills related to critical thinking include creativity, flexibility, and curiosity.
Other examples of soft skills include:
- public speaking and presenting
- reading body language
- cultural engagement
- emotional judgement
- digital literacy
- dispute resolution
- managing in-office and virtual teams
- talent management
- establishing interpersonal relationships
- service orientation
How are soft skills applicable to your business?
The modern workplace is highly interpersonal
Even though many of us are stuck to our computers for most of the day, interpersonal skills are actually more important in the workplace than ever before. Listening, collaborating with others, presenting ideas and communicating with team members all lead to improved productivity, enhanced client communication and, ultimately, better business.
Ensuring your employees have high levels of soft skills means your workplace will remain collaborative and healthy, which are vital attributes for organisations in a fast-paced and highly competitive world.
Soft skills mean you can really connect with your customers
In the modern market, consumers are offered an infinite number of choices for any business, service or product they want to engage with, through technologies like the internet and smartphones. For the savvy consumer, product convenience and low prices are fairly easy to come by with a little bit of research, so having amazing customer service can really make your organisation stand out from the rest.
In a saturated world, having authentic, polite and lasting relationships with clients will always make the difference between them coming back for repeat business or not. Making sure your employees have the ability to communicate effectively, solve problems and utilise their creativity will put your business in great stead with both your potential and current clients.
Automation and artificial intelligence decreasing the need for hard skills
Thanks to increased levels of automation in the workplace and the rise of artificial intelligence dominating the way we do things, a great proportion of jobs in the near future will rely on soft skills. The number of tasks that require hard skills (such as writing and accounting) is continuing to decline due to cutting-edge technology, so soft skills are often key differentiators for any workplace. This study by Deloitte Access Economics actually predicted that by 2030, two-thirds of all jobs in Australia will rely on soft skills roles.
The importance of micro-credentials to measure the capability of your workforce
Being able to identify and assess the capabilities of your workforce can be a major challenge for organisations. How can you be absolutely sure that your employees have the communication, creative and critical thinking skills to be able to drive your business forward?
This is where micro-credentials can be the answer.
Micro-credentials are skill-specific certifications that allow organisations to have their employees’ capabilities independently verified. They’re a new way to ensure that your workforce stays up-to-date with their soft skills, which will give your business a competitive cutting edge in the long term.
Traditionally, longer-form learning (such as university degrees) are generalised, expensive and time-consuming, taking up much of your employee’s valued time and furthermore recognises the skills they have.
Micro-credentials, on the other hand, allow you to pinpoint specific areas that you’d like your employees to be trained in, whether it’s for general improvement and knowledge building or they’re a first-time learner with the concept. They’re a more personalised, efficient and cost-effective way to ensure that your workforce has all the soft skills they need to actively improve your business.
For example, if you have an employee that you’d like to promote into a management position, however they’re lacking a few of the required skills (such as talent management) and their team management skills could do with a brush-up, you can register them into a leadership micro-credential course.
Luke Fitzpatrick covers fintech trends on Forbes, a guest lecturer at Sydney University, enjoys writing about tech and coding.