“While hard skills may get a candidate’s foot in the door, it’s soft skills that ultimately open it”.Lydia Lui – LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 Report
When it comes to hard and soft skills, there is a big debate about which of these skillsets bring a greater value or a higher premium to the workplace. This debate usually raises questions about whether employers should hire more for hard or soft skills? And which one of these skills (hard or soft) makes for the most effective employees?
When recruiters and hiring managers post new positions or write job descriptions, they usually outline the preferred qualifications, skills and experience they want in the ideal candidate for the job. For a longtime, the typical position description and recruiting process were skewed towards prioritizing candidates’ hard skills rather than soft skills. Afterall, the successful candidate selected for any job needs technical skills to perform effectively. While hard skills still remain important, this dynamic is changing. The last few years has seen an increasing recognition and strong demand from hiring managers and companies who are looking for employees who have both strong soft and hard skills. This shift signals that now, more than ever, soft skills matter for your success.
According to the LinkedIn Global Trends Report 2019, “80% of companies say that soft skills are increasingly important to company success.” The report also stated that while “Soft skills have always been important, they’re increasingly vital today. Hard skills alone are no longer enough to be successful.” Moreover, “Most hiring and firing decisions come down to soft skills”. This trend toward prioritizing both hard and soft skills is also reflected in the increasing use of behavioral interview questions to assess candidates hard and soft skills in job interviews. So, what are hard and soft skills?
Soft Skills vs Hard Skills
Balance Careers define soft skills as the “interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. They are how you work with and relate to others. Soft skills enable you to fit in at the workplace.” No matter what you call them (interpersonal skills/people skills or transferable skills), this set of skills are of huge importance to employers trying to find people with the right attitude and character traits needed to do the job well. Hiring managers are also using situational interviews to assess candidates people skills to determine whether they might be a good fit for their teams. Your soft skills include and are not limited to your personality, attitude & mindset, your communication style, your flexibility, ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively with others in a team, how you lead, adapt and deal with change.
On the other hand, GCF Global defines hard skills as “Concrete skills that are specific to your job and are required for you to actually do your work. For example, if you’re a chef, cooking would be a hard skill. Or if you’re a computer programmer, coding would be a hard skill.” These technical skills are usually developed as a part of your formal education, training, and experience.
Making the Case for Both Soft & Hard Skills
Since the start of the pandemic, people across the world have had to deal with more change, stress, uncertainty, and loss than ever before. Both employees and employers have been forced to constantly pivot and adapt to respond and cope with the challenges in the environment. And mental health, stress and burnout have now become hot button issues for organization to tackle to support their staff. Consequently, the need for employee to have and utilize soft skills such as communication, empathy, interpersonal skills, teamwork, critical thinking has never been greater or more urgent. As such, companies have had to become more intentional about equipping leaders and managers with the soft skills to care for their teams and to create a culture that supports their mental, physical, and emotional well-being
So, what are the soft skills that are in high demand?
Based on the Monster’s The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook report, the most important skills that employers want are: Teamwork/collaboration, Communication and Problem solving/critical thinking. Meanwhile, the LinkedIn 2019 Global Talent Trends report, suggested that the top five soft skills that are organizations need, but they have a difficult time finding are:
- Time Management
So, how do you measure up with these skills? Where might you have a soft skills gap or an opportunity to develop.
Addressing Your Soft Skills Gaps
While soft skills are not as easy to measure as hard skills, they are easy to observe and spot when lacking. In today’s world of hybrid work, poor communication, and problem-solving skills, coupled with an unwillingness to change and work collaboratively in a team, will undermine your success. So how can you develop or strengthen your soft skills to improve your chances for success and promotion at work?
- Do a Self-Assessment: Start by reviewing your job description to identify the soft skills needed for your role. Then conduct a personal SWOT analysis or some other form of self-assessment to identify the key soft skills needed to be successful in your role. These could be social, emotional, or cognitive. You could also ask your coworkers, supervisor and those closest to you for feedback on one area you can improve. Use the insights gained to make efforts to address your soft skill weak spots.
- Find a Coach or Mentor: We all have blind -spots and depending on your level of self-awareness, you might be operating in yours. By working with a coach, you will be able to share your challenges and benefit from having a trusted person ask you deep questions that can help you work through your issues and come up with better ways to handle difficult situations. Similarly, your mentor might be an expert in an area you are trying to improve. Take advantage or their knowledge and experience to help you learn how to tackle your growth and development.
- Utilize Soft Skills Building Training/Learning Resources: There are no limits to the variety of resources and personal development opportunities available to you online. Depending on how you like to learn, choose between trainings that are self-paced, live on-line or an in-person workshop (if available). Alternatively, you can also use other informal tools such as books, videos, and podcast (see previous post) to provide you with insights and advice to level up your soft skills.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: For some people, soft skills might be harder to develop and could require a considerable investment of time and effort. Even so, the only way to get better at active listening or being empathetic is to intentionally put these skills into practice in your everyday interactions. The more frequently you flex your soft skills muscles, the stronger they will become.
Finally, when it comes to hard and soft skills, you do not get to choose. If you are talented or highly skilled and cannot get along with others, you will not be successful in the long term. And if you are a super nice person but are lacking the core hard skills required for your role, your overall performance will suffer. To be hirable and successful, you need both hard and soft skills. Therefore, you need to continually assess your hard and soft -skills and find opportunities that will enable you to develop and improve both!
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!