Why soft skills have solid implications

Just this morning I was chatting with a friend. We were discussing some stresses in her workplace brought on by her colleagues. One was a micro-manager. Another was always looking at things from a negative angle. Whilst we brainstormed some ways she could handle this, I thought how both our own and other people’s soft skills have a big impact on our workplace happiness and effectiveness.

What are soft skills?

Within a workplace, there’s an interplay of three different types of ability. The first is technical. That’s the skill someone has, specific to the task needing to be done. So, computer coding or design ability are technical qualities. You often prove technical abilities by presenting a piece of paper – a qualification.

The second type of ability relates to your ability to manage yourself. And the third is the skills you use in interactions with others. Combined, we call these last two abilities ‘soft skills’. According to Wikipedia,

“Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, social and emotional intelligence … that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals”

Why do soft skills matter to bosses?

Historically, employers looked primarily for technical skills in their workers. Does the builder make walls that are straight? Can the nurse accurately measure a pulse? However, increasingly employers recognise that the real value of an employee is in the intersection of all three abilities. The best employees not only add their numbers correctly (if they’re an accountant), they also handle themselves with integrity, and interact with staff and customers well.

Good employees are easier to work with, create better environments and make their employers more money. In fact, in May last year, Deloitte Access Economics produced a paper stating that soft skills in employees can increase revenue by up to $90 000. Employees with soft skills are a much better investment for a company.

Why should soft skills matter to you?

The same Deloitte paper also predicted that by 2030, two out of every three jobs in Australia will be soft skill intensive. In other words, your ability to manage your time and resolve conflicts well will matter more than your ability to do the technical aspects of your job. Also, the growth rate of such positions will be 2.5 times greater than other types of work. If you’re wanting to do well in your work environment, soft skills will become increasingly important to you.

Exactly what skills will I need?

A 2015 TAFE NSW publication claims that the three highest value skills are team work, time management and communication business ones. Each of these are sought by 95+% of businesses putting on staff. Problem solving and conflict resolution skills also rank highly. Knowing how to learn and adapt is almost a given!

The Insta image problem

Many soft skill requirement lists put personal integrity and high ethical standards right up there with communication skills. This contrasts with our private worlds, where we’re so driven to look good that almost anything goes behind the scenes. For all that we want to be allowed to live on our own terms and get away with it, businesses recognise that a staff’s pretty Instagram image doesn’t necessarily equal value for them. It’s hard to constantly fake likability and social skills with the staff you rub shoulders with daily!

A secondary problem is that most of us tend to drastically over-estimate our personal soft skill abilities. Whilst we think we’re pretty good and have nothing to learn, others don’t necessarily agree! Do yourself a favour: check your abilities against someone else’s opinion of your skills. Also,  remember that even if you’re good, you can always get better! Get yourself ahead of the game by constantly upgrading how you do things.

From a parenting angle

If you’re wanting your child to grow up and have a good job, take a long range look into their future now. Which soft skills do they currently struggle with? Next,  ask how can you help them develop better ability in those areas. It won’t necessarily be fun to bring improvements round, but it you want their long term success, you’ll see it’s worthwhile.

The logical conclusion to all this is that soft skills are highly valuable for all areas of life. That makes them worth you spending some time and attention building. Improving how you communicate, work with others or take responsibility for things will pay off over the long term with better job prospects, health and family dynamics. What can you start improving today?